Christopher Jacobs

Assistant Professor of French, Italian, Spanish & Linguistics

Office: THMH 205a   |    Phone: (308) 865-8536   |    Email:

Christopher Jacobs


Ph.D. in Spanish (Applied Linguistics), Temple University, Philadelphia, PA (2020)

M.A. in French (Linguistics and Pedagogy), Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT (2018)

M.A. in Spanish (Linguistics and Literature), Temple University, Philadelphia, PA (2017)

Master of International Affairs, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA (2014)

Research Interests

  • Second (L2), L3, and heritage language (HL) acquisition and maintenance
  • Enjoyment, anxiety, and flow in learning
  • Motivation and investment
  • Task-based language teaching (TBLT)
  • Authenticity in teaching and assessment
  • Individual differences
  • Language for specific purposes (LSP)
  • Language program recruitment strategies


A native of Pennsylvania, Chris (aka C.J.) is currently an Assistant Professor of French, Italian, Spanish & Linguistics at the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK). Since 2011, he has taught Spanish, French, Italian, ESL, and linguistics in many contexts ranging from primary school to university. Chris has studied Spanish, French, Italian, German, Catalan, Portuguese, and Mandarin Chinese, and in doing so, he has discovered that one must connect with the language, and practice it in real-world ways, to develop proficiency. In his experience, this is most likely to occur through authentic interactions with, and in, the target language—such as through communication-focused classroom activities and through study abroad.

At UNK, Chris teaches a variety of language, linguistics, and pedagogy courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels. In his teaching—no matter the language, level, or content area—Chris seeks to create meaningful, student-centered learning experiences that bridge disciplines and make connections to students’ non-academic lives. He describes his approach as task- and project-based. Chris’s communication-focused lessons are built around concrete, real-world objectives and make plentiful use of current non-learner centered materials (NLC) produced by and for various target language communities. In pedagogy classes, Chris aims to help teachers and teachers-to-be to promote real-world readiness through their own pedagogical styles, to apply theory to practice, and to model effective teaching strategies. Chris has organized and led immersive summer study abroad programs to Lyon, France, and Milan, Italy. Both programs include rigorous coursework, plentiful afterschool programming, and weekend field trips to other target language communities. Recent French study abroad excursions have included Paris, Marseille, Geneva (Switzerland), Annecy, and rural Provence (with historic towns and beaches), while recent Italian study abroad excursions have included Rome and Florence.

Chris’s research, which is in direct dialogue with his teaching, seeks to determine how motivation and other emotions (i.e., flow, anxiety, enjoyment, self-efficacy) impact learners’ decisions to take language classes, and how these emotions impact learners’ experiences once enrolled in language classes. He is currently working on projects exploring the optimization of learning through flow, a state of deep focus on an enjoyable activity that is at once challenging and accessible; improving motivation in distance learning through task design; and increasing motivation (and learning) through contact with target language speakers.

Additionally, Chris is collaborating with his colleague, Dr. Janet Eckerson, on a project that explores how the recognition of existing language skills, through the Seal of Biliteracy and subsequent retroactive credit, can be used as a language program recruitment tool. The project considers heritage (or multilingual) and L2 learners of all non-English languages known to be locally present—including languages rarely if ever taught in Nebraska schools—seeking not only to help learners maintain and advance the languages they already know but to try others, too. Research has shown that those who already speak more than one language possess a significant advantage in learning additional languages, especially when they seek to learn one that is related to a language they already know (i.e., French or Italian for Spanish speakers).

Outside the classroom yet still on campus, Chris coordinates weekly World Language Conversation Tables (formerly called the Non-English Conversation Tables), as well as French and Italian conversation partner programs. He has served as the faculty advisor of the French and Spanish Clubs, and with the help of UNK Global (formerly called the Office of International Education) and many student and faculty volunteers, he organizes a variety of language and cultural events, including World Languages Week and the International Food and Cultural Festival. Chris is also vice-president of the state ACTFL-affiliated language teacher organization, NILA, and a board member of the state translator and interpreter professional association, NATI. In these capacities, he helps organize a variety of professional development and networking activities for Nebraska’s language professionals.