“I’m the granddaughter of Swiss immigrants,” Dahl notes. “Some of my relatives back in Switzerland are still a bit befuddled over my career choice: Why Spanish and not German!”
The foundation for that choice was laid when Dahl spent her junior year of college in Barcelona. “I was doing a double major in English and Spanish, but the Spanish part was less important to me until that year, which changed my life.”
After graduating from Liberty University in Virginia, Dahl returned to the Iberian Peninsula—this time to a suburb of Lisbon, Portugal to teach English at a language school. “I stayed five years, became fluent in Portuguese as well, and wound up directing the school! After five years I realized I needed to choose between coming back to the United States and making a life in Portugal. So in fall of 1999 I moved to Madison.”
While teaching Spanish and English as a Second Language at Madison College, Dahl enrolled as a graduate student at UW-Madison, focusing on Spanish literature with a minor in Portuguese. Two years ago she completed her PhD.
“My dissertation examines some of the most common stereotypes the Spanish people have of the Portuguese people. My post-graduate research involves a Spanish television series, Cuentame Como Paso (Tell Me How It Happened), which was inspired by the American series The Wonder Years. Cuentame Como Paso sparked a revolution in Spanish television and is now in its 12th season. My research focuses on the Portuguese adaptation, Conta-me Como Foi.”
Dahl’s husband, Jon, works with graduate students and faculty with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Their older son, Erik, is a freshman at West High School, and their younger, Hans, is in kindergarten at Franklin Elementary—in fact, the boys began high school and kindergarten on the same day last September.
“Our family has spent a lot of time in Spain, including a sabbatical year in 2007, which of course was an unforgettable experience for all of us. Whenever we say we’re going to visit a new place, Hans asks, ‘Is it in Spain?’ ”
Around the time that Dahl and her husband were deciding to settle permanently in Madison, Continuing Studies was actively searching for a successor to Dr. Noguera. Dahl says she felt drawn to Continuing Studies for many reasons, “especially the practicality of teaching nontraditional students. It’s exciting to explore what our students’ greatest needs are and to find better ways of meeting those needs.
“And I love teaching a language in a way that’s designed to help students use the language in the real world rather than get a good grade on an exam.
“Another reason I’m glad to be here is the atmosphere of excitement: we’re getting to take part in a revolution in adult learning!”