The Search for Meaning as the Goal of the World Language Class

Viktor Frankl’s logotheraphy asserts that the striving to find a meaning in one’s life is the primary, most powerful motivating and driving force in humans (http://www.viktorfrankl.org/e/logotherapy.html). A Times Article reports a study in which 50% of the workers lacked meaning in their work. Of those who found meaning they were three times more likely to stay in that job, had 1.7 times more job satisfaction, and 1.4 times more engaged than others (http://www.fastcompany.com/3032126/how-to-find-meaning-during-your-pursuit-of-happiness-at-work). Likewise, Van Patten (1996) asserts that learners process input for meaning before form; they process the “what” before the “how said” (http://www.tesl-ej.org/ej35/r5.pdf). ACTFL in its 2015 World Readiness Standards for Modern Languages for Interpersonal Communication states “Learners interact and negotiate meaning in spoken, signed, or written conversations to share information, reactions, feelings, and opinions” (http://www.actfl.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/World-ReadinessStandardsforLearningLanguages.pdf)

How do we help our students focus on meaning in the world language classroom? Do our students share personal information? Can they tell about their relationship with others? Can they react when other students or the teacher share personal information? Can our students express their feelings and opinions about a situation? Can they supply reasons for their opinions? Can they express their future aspirations?

This search for meaning runs contrary to the students reading about some fictional Bob and Jane characters in their textbook or in an oral story. Students search for meaning in their own lives. Students want to find meaning about who they are, how they fit into their lives, and what they want to do. The more we help them talk about their their own lives, families, preferences, and situations, the more they can establish their own meaning in life.

Since logotheraphy emphasizes the drive for personal meaning, how do world language teachers provide situations to help their students find meaning?

There are many pair language activities at http://bit.ly/mlcomcult for beginning to advanced students to express their opinons and preferences. These activities are for all world languages and specifically for Spanish.

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