As a college freshman at Bob Jones University, a young Jeremy Patterson never would have imagined himself becoming the chair of the Division of Modern Language and Literature in the College of Arts and Science. But he would soon discover that God had very different plans for his future.
Patterson was born in the United States in Barge, the former campus hospital. At the age of five months, his family left the U.S. and moved to Japan as missionaries. Patterson grew up surrounded by Japanese language and culture. Japan was his home, and Patterson had no doubt that he would live in Japan for the rest of his life.
After Patterson’s father was asked to come back to BJU as a director for the Gospel Fellowship Association, Patterson found himself studying print journalism with a minor in history as a freshman at BJU. He planned to move back to Japan after earning his bachelor’s degree and become a bilingual journalist.
Patterson’s love of language and grammar had always been present; however, he really discovered his passion for French after choosing it as his required language elective. He previously studied French in high school and decided to continue that learning in college. Patterson’s love for French grew to the extent that he changed his minor from history to French during his sophomore year.
His French teacher, Rob Loach, who still teaches French classes at BJU, urged Patterson to consider doing graduate studies in French and to eventually replace Loach in the department. Patterson declined, since he was positive God wanted him to return to Japan after undergrad.
Little did Patterson know that an international student from Mexico was in a situation almost identical to his, and she would later become his wife. Miriam Avalos Lara had been asked to become a Spanish teacher at BJU, but she planned to go back to Mexico to teach.
“But what God did to immediately change our minds was have us meet,” Patterson said. Patterson determined to learn the language of his future wife. In addition to speaking English, Japanese, and French, Patterson learned Spanish. The two began seriously dating when Patterson was a senior and Lara was a grad student. They talked and came to the realization that living in Japan and Mexico would be an impossibility, but if they each stayed at BJU, they would be able to teach the languages and cultures they loved.
The couple married the summer after Patterson earned his B.A. in print journalism from BJU, and then they both continued their graduate studies. They lived in Paris for a year while Jeremy attended a university and earned credits toward his doctoral degree while Miriam, who was on a leave of absence from BJU, finished her dissertation and mothered their two sons. Patterson calls living in Paris one of the greatest experiences of their lives. They attended a French church and were able to live, breathe, eat and talk French on a daily basis.
Dr. Patterson just began his first year teaching fulltime at BJU this fall. He is also the new chair of the Division of Modern Language and Literature in the College of Arts and Science. He stays busy teaching four classes both semesters as a professor. And as the chair, his responsibilities include supervising and helping the other language professors, heading division meetings and handling issues with students such as enrollment. Dr. Patterson enjoys spending his free time researching and working on articles for publication and going to conferences where he presents his work.
Dr. Patterson and his wife have two sons, Jeremy, 5; Etienne, 4; and a daughter, McKia, 10 months. Dr. Patterson and his children enjoy watching European soccer matches, French movies, and playing with Legos together. Language is not only the Patterson’s professions, but also a major part of their household. Their sons are trilingual, speaking only French to Jeremy, Spanish to Miriam, and English at school. Speaking multiple languages and immersing in various cultures comes natural in the Pattersons’ home.
Language learning does not always come as naturally for students as it does for Dr. Patterson. He advises students learning an additional language to “embrace your accent, embrace your errors” because it is okay if you do not sound like a native or if you make mistakes. “Try to immerse yourself in the language, try to live and breathe the language.” A good way to challenge yourself while learning another language is to switch your phone or laptop to the language you are learning and watch news or movies in that language. Expose yourself to the language outside of the classroom as much as possible.