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Julie Bruch


Faculty profile: Julie Bruch

English professor Julie Bruch is good at a lot of things. At home, she speaks Japanese, Spanish and English; she’s collected a wealth of phrases in other languages (ask her the Bushmen term for schoolboy sometime) and she’s led campus committees. The one thing she isn’t as good at? Taking a break.

Bruch returned from a year-long sabbatical in January, but that doesn’t mean she was resting. In that time, she and her husband moved to Japan for eight months, where she wrote a 600-page beginning Japanese textbook, complete with recorded listening exercises. Then they spent time in Croatia, where she sat by the Adriatic Sea and translated more than 100 Japanese haiku into English.

“I worked so hard!” Bruch laughed. “The sabbatical was wonderful and inspirational and refreshing. But I worked so hard that I can also say it was frustrating and full of desperation, painful, exhausting. It was a nice balance, actually. If it’s all joy, maybe you don’t appreciate it fully?”

As she revises the second half of her textbook, she’s piloting the first part this semester in the two mods of Japanese that she’s teaching. Previous classes used a textbook that included a workbook and CD set and cost $300. Bruch is supplying her text and audio exercises to students for $25, the cost of printing. “My goal was to make a book that would be better in some ways because it matched my teaching style and provide it at-cost to my students,” she said. She was surprised to find that writing it helped her, too.

“Even though it’s a beginning level, I really found myself asking, ‘Well, why is it this way?’ I wanted to explain it the best I could, so I researched things I hadn’t thought about before,” Bruch said. “Thinking about how to present things in new ways that might be more effective was a really fun puzzle for me for the year.”

When the book was mostly complete and she had finished recording native Japanese speakers for the exercises, she and her husband decided to go somewhere they knew nothing about — Croatia. Before they left, Bruch read up on the history of the region and taught herself some of the language. They moved into an apartment on the island of Hvar, where they lived for two months while she worked on her poetry translation.

“We were looking for some place that was off the tourist route,” she said. “The people who owned the apartment treated us like family. It was so wonderful! They spoke a form of pidgin German but no English, and I had a German minor, so between my horrible Croatian and both of our pidgin German, we managed to do a lot of nice communicating. We felt like we had stepped into a different time and a totally different culture.”

On their way back to the US, the couple stopped in Germany for two weeks for a Bach festival they attend every two years. (“You might not want to put that in because it sounds like we were having too much fun,” she said, holding both her translation and textbook in her lap.)

Now that she’s back at Colorado Mesa University, Bruch said it’s taken a little time to adjust but that it’s been good to return to the classroom. “Before I left, I felt like maybe I was losing touch with my students a little because of the generation gap, technology gap and social literacy gap. But when I came back, I realized how much I had missed them and how much I still have in common with them despite those gaps,” she said.

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