Tuesday, January 8, 2013 - 9:42am

Terrific story in this week's Columns about one of our romance language faculty members, her research and its impact. What is research in language studies? You might be surprised:

the average American's knowledge of Spain's imperial expansion probably ranges from a few names of conquistadors to practically nothing.

For Elizabeth Wright, an associate professor of Spanish in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, developing a broader understanding of Spanish imperialism as it played out both in Europe and the Americas through literature is a way to better understand America's rich history.

Wright's research and teaching focus on the writing of the early modern Spanish period (1492-1800).

"It's important that we not limit our perspective to (Hernán) Cortés, Columbus, Ferdinand and Isabella-though they are fascinating and important-but also consider others," said Wright, an Illinois native whose mother was born in Mexico.

As a Spanish literature professor, Wright teaches students to read, speak and think in the Spanish language at a deeper level, in part through their own research projects, or as she puts it, "to get them to think about how different people lived in earlier periods, to bring together voices that might not be talked about in the more famous literary texts you would study."

There's a broken record aspect to some of this but, the study of languages has perhaps never been more important. The breadth of language offerings presently at UGA is stunning - everything from Korean and Japanese to Swahili and everything in between. And like involvement with the arts, if students somehow leave the university without some second language facility, they are leaving something very rewarding and useful on the table. Not just in terms of their future career, but definitely that as well. A great deal of resources and energy go into the language programs we have; it's one of the elements that separate some universities from others. There many ways we should cross-integrate more of our degree programs, even across colleges and school, to further the skills of our students and the value of our degrees.

Alors, on y va.