Introducing Steven Sacco (Episode 71)

Episode 71 Breaking Silos Changing Lanes with Norah Jones

“My father has been the major influence in my life. My father taught me how to love languages because he spoke a modicum of language with every one of his customers. He had Cantonese launderers and restaurants, Greek restaurants, Hispanic restaurants. All the little monologues, soliloquies that he was giving to his customers always made them laugh. I memorized all these. My mother then, on the other hand, taught me to value cultures because she constantly had people of different cultures at our home.”

Steven Sacco’s Bio

Steven J. Sacco is Professor Emeritus of French & Italian in the Department of European Studies and Co-Director Emeritus of San Diego State’s Center for International Business and Research (CIBER). He is also President of Sacco Global Consulting which serves clients on five continents. Throughout his career, Steve was a nontraditional academic who collaborated across campus with colleagues in business and engineering and off-campus with business organizations. His goal was to partner with these constituent groups to prepare globally ready students and business practitioners.

Steve’s professional philosophy was influenced by his father who made him work in the family business in Chicago as a child and teenager. His father’s business philosophy, which Steve adopted, was three-fold: (1) customize products and services for your customers and clients, (2) monitor your customers’ needs, and (3) make necessary adjustments for customers when needed. Consequently, Steve specialized in the teaching and research of languages for specific purposes (LSP) in his work both on and off-campus.

As a researcher, Steve trained in both quantitative and qualitative research which he uses in studying language learning in academic, business, and military settings. Despite retiring from academia in 2014, he continues to conduct research, specifically on workplace language use within multinational corporations operating in the U.S. and Francophone Africa. As a consultant, his clients have included 70 business schools and language departments, the Defense Language Institute, The U.S. Navy SEALs, The United Nations World Food Programme, Archer Daniels Midland, and Hewlett-Packard.

Two research studies are worthy of note:

His first study “More than Meets the Eye: An Ethnography of an Elementary French Class” (The Canadian Modern Language Review) was a finalist for the 1992 ACTFL Paul Pimsleur Award for Research in Foreign Language Education. In this year-long study, Sacco and his team conducted 300 hours of student and instructor interviews, 120 50-minute classroom observations, and an analysis of a volume of student written work. The study yielded key recommendations for teaching languages to engineering students. The study has been cited dozens of times in research by leading second-language-acquisition theorist Stephen D. Krashen.

In 2015, he examined the impact of Spanish-language usage on employee safety among immigrant rice mill workers in Northern California. After mastering OSHA requirements, data collection at this multinational corporation included observations on the rice mill floor and interviews with mill workers and English-speaking managers. Despite the corporation’s drive to mandate English usage in all mills worldwide, Sacco recommended that workers be allowed to speak Spanish on the mill floor given the noise levels (130 decibels) and the efficiency of worker communication. Steve recently turned 70 and to celebrate he ran the La Jolla Half Marathon.


To learn more about previous guests on It’s About Language or access other episodes of the podcast, visit It’s About Language or click on the Podcast tab above.


Episode 71 Breaking Silos, Changing Lanes

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