A lifelong love of teaching and learning

"...every aspect of life, you can find in Linguistics."

By Laura Kenworthy 2min read

Dr. Roberto B. Sileo, who was sworn in as a Fellow at Homerton on Friday 1 October, had no shortage of ambition as a child. In fact, he had difficulty narrowing down his options.

“I wanted to be a teacher, I wanted to be a lawyer, I wanted to be a pilot,” he laughs.

As an undergraduate in Buenos Aires, he worked towards two separate degrees, simultaneously, studying Law during the day and English Language Teaching at night. He then taught English as a foreign language while completing his six-year Law degree.

“I then worked for several years as a lawyer in Argentina specialising in capital markets. Most transactions were governed by either UK or New York law, so I applied to complete my Magister Juris at Oxford.”

After studying at Oxford, Roberto spent the next 12 years as a capital markets lawyer in London and  Hong Kong. But his fascination with language hadn’t diminished, and eventually he returned to university.

An MPhil in Theoretical and Applied Linguistics at Cambridge was followed by a PhD. Since 2014 he has taught students from almost all Cambridge colleges and is now Director of Studies in Linguistics at Homerton and Acting Director of Studies at King’s. He is also the Academic Director of a new MSt. in English Language Assessment, a blended learning programme starting in January.

“I love meeting people from different colleges, but I’m grateful to have been asked to be a Fellow at Homerton and be part of this friendly community, particularly now that we’re all able to meet face to face a bit more.”

Despite the apparent contrast between his two careers, Roberto feels there are parallels.

“I see a lot of connections between law and language. They both operate through compositional systems and rules, and both allow you to look into moral as well as social issues.”

As he recalls that his favourite game as a child was pretending to be a teacher, Roberto has the visible delight of someone who, having lived several alternative lives along the way, has found himself exactly where he wants to be.

“I love seeing students’ eyes shine as they become absorbed by the subject. The ‘language faculty’ is unique to human beings. Once you recognise that, the possibilities are endless. Semantics, pragmatics, syntax…every aspect of life, you can find in Linguistics.”