World Language Students’ Perceptions about Class

While world language teachers may have a certain perception of their courses such as that their students are learning to communicate in the language, students may have a very different perception. College students who were in a beginning level Spanish class that did about fifteen percent of each class in student-to-student conversation were asked at the end of the semester for their suggestions on how to redesign the class in any way they wanted.

Their comments reveal their perceptions of the class:
– At the start of each unit, give the students a packet of all the vocabulary and grammar.
– Instead of having students talk with partners, spend more time covering the textbook information.
– Go over the Spanish words and translations at the end of each class.

Even though the students were in a class that devoted much time to conversations, they still perceived the class as a basic vocabulary, grammar and textbook language class. They did not seem to value conversation in the world language.

What perception do your students have about your world language class?

An activity that can help your students move toward focusing more on communicating in the language is Spanish Friend /Family Member Detailed Description – Partner Talk    Describe a person using guided supplied vocabulary . A packet of 13 beginning student Spanish activities speaking activities about family and friends http://bit.ly/ssfamilysp

 

 

World Language Teachers Still Ingrained in Grammar Translation

Burke’s “Rituals and Beliefs Ingrained in World Language Pedagogoy: Defining Deep Structure and Conventional Wisdom” explains how grammar-translation is part of the deep structure and conventional wisdom of modern day world language teachers (2011, http://ojs.academypublisher.com/index.php/jltr/article/view/02010112/2479).

Grammar-translation teachers divided language into listening, speaking, reading, and writing; they do not see language as integrated. Culture, if included, is an add-on. Furthermore, English is the predominant language of instruction. The purpose of language instruction is the learning of vocabulary and grammar.

1. Translation

– When teachers introduce a new unit, they distribute word lists or refer students to a textbook page with the words translated.

– Teachers review vocabulary through drill practices and games. The games focus on the discrete meaning of the words. The only context is that they are from the same list.

– Students are to learn a set number of words each unit, Their teachers have the students pratice with the words so that the students can cover the unit, not so the students will be able to communicate with the words.

2. Grammar Practice

– Most teacher assign activities out of textbook or make up grammar activities.

– Teachers ask questions to see if the students know the correct forms; they correct the students.

– Students study the language through translation and verb conjugations.

– Teachers emphasize a sentence-level structure with explicit attention to forms.

– The grammar activities have no personal meaning to the students.

– Attempts to produce communication are absent

3. Non-contextual explicit grammar teaching

– Teachers give explicit instruction on forms and the teacher frequently test the forms through quizzes, online and paper exercises, and tests.

– Teachers usually use English during grammar lessons and students usually ask questions in English.

– Numerous explanations of grammar rules with many exceptions and irregularities are explained in grammatical terms. Students learn many different tenses.

– Teachers have the goal of grammatical mastery for their students. One of the teachers’ primary goals is for the students to use grammar correctly

– Comparisons are made to the structure of English sentences.

Are you a grammar-translation teacher? Or a communicative teacher?

http://bit.ly/mlcomcult  contains many communication activities for beginning to advanced students; they have high structure to help students. These activities are for all world languages and specifically for Spanish.

Polyglot Benny Lewis’ advice on learning languages

Bennie Lewis, the Irish polygot,  speaks over 12 languages. He did not start his language learning until he was 21.

When he was in Spain, he took a language courese and it did not work. He tried Spansih language books and that did not work;he  tried software and DVDs and that did not work; he tried to read a book in Spanish and that did not work. After 6 months living in Spain, he could not speak Spanish. He began to speak it and use it all the time and he became fluent.

He states several reasons for not learning a language and why these are not true

—  Don’t have the words- if learning a Romance language, then 10,000 words from English are similar; figure out how to say things. Think of a word that has a cognate: country to nation (nación) and come in to enter (entrar in Spanish). Use Cognates.  Even in a non Romance language use brand name or technology – coca cola,  ipad.

— Can’t learn the vocabulary. Learn  vocabularythrough association- make it more fun – playa = beach in Spanish ( think of a player walking down a beach).

— Don’t know the grammar. Most of language learning in school is grammar, Grammar is a list of rules, it is not language, Language is a means of communication,  More effective is to embrace speaking and speaking wrongly. Speak with many mistakes a day, 100. Start with Tarzan like speak.People will understand you in broken language. After you can speak, then go back and learn the grammar.

— Will make mistakes. People feel like they’re not allowed to use the language, to speak it, unless every conjugation is perfect, every pronunciation is right, they know a thousand words, or whatever it is. They feel they need to know it perfect, and that is a mistake because a language is not like geography or history, a list of facts that you need to cram into your brain. It’s a means of communication, so you can’t study it for five years and then suddenly be able to speak it. You have to be speaking it throughout the entire process. It is a mistake to not be okay with making mistakes.

— Will frustrate the listener. It does not work like that. Frustration over not speaking language is the greater frustration. All over the world people are over joyed that you are speaking their language, they encourage you even though your grammar is bad.

Live the language, it is not locking yourself away with a dusty old grammar book, It is about getting out there and using the language..

Summarized from the following sites:

TEDxSanAntonio – Benny Lewis – Fluent in Three Months – Rapid Language Hacking  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZqUeWshwMs

Benny encouraging language learners on RTE’s The Saturday Night Show  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQFb9_FPPBM

5-brilliant-language-learning-tips-from-benny-lewis-the-irish-polyglot  http://blog.vocapp.com/5-brilliant-language-learning-tips-from-benny-lewis-the-irish-polyglot,140/

Benny Lewis’website  https://fi3mplus.com/premium-3/?_ga=1.261621704.438442521.1440099707

How does your class encourage language learners to communicate in their world language?

Many activities to get your students actively using the language in beginning levels at http://bit.ly/mlcomcult and a list of mobile speaking activities at http://bit.ly/90mlact

Create a modern language final using Can-Do Statements

At this time of the year many college  modern language teachers are preparing their students for finals. Some finals test the textbook while others test certain language skills.

Many modern language finals reveal very little about the actual proficiency of the students. The final in one school district or college probably differs in content from the final in another school district and from state to state. Such finals may not represent language proficiency but represent translation skills, discrete vocabulary learning, discrete non-contextual grammar learning at a low level and random cultural facts. Modern language teachers benefit from a national standard to use so they can truly evaluate their students’ proficiency against other students’ proficiencies.The NCSSFL-ACTFLCan-Do statements serve such a purpose.

When teachers compare their finals to the Can-Do statements for their level, they may discover that they are testing on items that ACTFL says students should not be proficient in. For example, a beginning college class may have a  past tense, the preterite, questions on the final. Students in a beginning level may only reach Novice High and talking in various time frames does not show up until Intermediate High; therefore, students cannot be tested on the preterite. On the other hand, students may be tested at a lower level than ACTFL states. When students read in the target language, they are expected to respond in the target language. ACTFL does not include “translate into English” in any of the reading Can-Do statements.

Also, teachers may find that their final does not focus on language functions as NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements do.  A Can-Do based final represents real-life language use, not isolated discrete statements. The final reflects the various language functions for that proficiency level. For example, at the Novice Mid level, can students describe their family and friends? At the Novice High, can students complete map directions based on an actual map?

Does your modern language final show what your students Can-Do according to NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do statements?  Or is it a grammar-vocabulary tests of discrete items?

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle,  I have 30+ ready-to-use activities (about 24 for Spanish and 6 for all Modern Language) to develop student’s spontaneous speaking starting with highly structured or scaffolded speaking for beginning students. Students work in pairs to communicate and they usually assess each other in a formative assessment manner.

My ebook, Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do Strategies is available at  http://bit.ly/tsmash.  It contain many activities to help students advance through the Can-Do statements with half the activities focusing on interpersonal communication/ speaking.

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle, there are four modern language culture inquiry activities and one Spanish culture inquiry activity.  My ebook, 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities ebook contains many communicative and cultural activities for students to don on their smartphone or tablet, http://bit.ly/tsmash

 

 

Unrealistic Expectation for Students’ Grammatical Perfection in Modern Language

In addition to teaching college Spanish, I also teach a college English course, Writing Essays Through Literature.  My literature is all Hispanic-translated literature. My English students are native USA citizens.  They have lived in an English-speaking environment all their lives.  They have gone through twelve years of school in which all their classes were conducted in English. They have had twelve years of English classes. My students are at least 18 years old.  However, they still make many English grammar mistakes in their writing such  as subject -verb agreement,  sentences without verbs, incorrect past tense forms, pronoun errors, etc.

Based on my English teaching experience with native English speakers and their mistakes in their native language, I realize that  we modern language teachers cannot expect our students in the modern language to be grammatically perfect no matter what their level.  Even four years of a language course is not equivalent to eighteen years in the native language!

We can change our focus from grammar perfection to communicating various language functions. Knowing how much something costs is much more important to daily communication  than knowing the present progressive irregulars verbs. Being able to ask directions is more essential language skill than knowing each stem changing verb. Let’s ask ourselves “What are the most critical language communication functions to survive and communicate in the language?” and then change our class time from a major focus on grammar  perfection to a major focus on  language functions as indicated in the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle,  I have 30+ ready-to-use activities (about 24 for Spanish and 6 for all Modern Language) to develop student’s spontaneous speaking starting with highly structured or scaffolded speaking for beginning students. Students work in pairs to communicate and they usually assess each other in a formative assessment manner.

My ebook, Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do Strategies is available at  http://bit.ly/tsmash.  It contain many activities to help students advance through the Can-Do statements with half the activities focusing on interpersonal communication/ speaking.

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle, there are four modern language culture inquiry activities and one Spanish culture inquiry activity.  My ebook, 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities ebook contains many communicative and cultural activities for students to don on their smartphone or tablet, http://bit.ly/tsmash

 

Communicative or Grammar Textbook Focus: Look at the Grammar

A test of a modern language textbook’s communicative ability is to look at what the book has students do with the grammar after the textbook presentation of the grammar point. For example a Spanish textbook may supply the forms of the verb ser and then give the rules for using ser. The book may give one or two examples of origin such as “I am from Argentina.” Or they make have a sentence or two example to show that ser is used with occupations such as “Sr. Ríos es dentista”. The book may explain ser being used for identification with a sentence such as “It is a backpack.

Does the book provide the modern language students with enough vocabulary to be able to talk about themselves, family or friends using the verb? Does the textbook provide the critical questions that students might ask using that verb? For example, does it provide the students with “Where are you from?” for origin? Do it provide the question “What is this?” so students can ask the question of identifying something? Furthermore, does the book give numerous countries so students can tell what country they, their parents or grandparents are from so they can realistically answer the question? For occupations, does the book provide numerous occupations so the students can say the actual occupation of family and friends? For identification, do the students have a list of classroom objects so when someone says “What is this?” they can respond, “It is a book”? with things they do see in the classroom?

If the textbook does not supply essential questions or realistic answers for the modern language students to apply the grammar to talk about their own lives or the lives of family and friends, then the book’s focus is grammar, not communication.

Does your textbook have a communicative or grammatical focus?

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle,  I have 30+ ready-to-use activities (about 24 for Spanish and 6 for all Modern Language) to develop student speaking through highly structured or scaffolded, speaking. Students work in pairs to communicate.

My ebook ,Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do Strategies is available at  http://bit.ly/tsmash.  It contain many activities to help students advance through the Can-Do statements with half the activities focusing on interpersonal communication/ speaking.

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle, there are four modern language culture inquiry activities and one Spanish culture inquiry activity.  My ebook, 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities ebook contains many cultural activities, http://bit.ly/tsmash

My Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment and a general Formative Assessment book are available at http://www.routledge.com/books/search/author/harry_grover_tuttle/

Beginning of Year Modern Language Review for Upper Levels

Many modern language teachers start off the school year with a review for their Level 2, 3, 4 and 5 students . Usually, these teachers have the students review grammar or vocabulary. Often, the  teachers focus on the subgoal of learning vocabulary and grammar but not on the big goal of improving oral communication;  the teachers can begin the year with a review of oral communication. ACTFL Proficiencies and, particularly, the Can-Do Proficiency Statements focus on communication, not discrete grammar or vocabulary.   For example, modern language teachers can have their students work in pairs. One student in the group asks a common topic from a communication card. such as home, school, leisure time activities, food, etc. The partner answers the question and the asking student verifies that the answer is close to the written most likely answer.  When the teacher has the students review the communication cards, the students are also reviewing vocabulary and grammar but they are reviewing vocabulary and grammar in context of meaningful communication.

Another activity involves the students looking at a picture for a common topic such as home, school, leisure time activities, food, etc . The students either ask questions about the picture that their partners answer or they  role play two people in the picture.

In addition, as students who are involved in the communication activities mark down how many sentences their partner says or asks and their partners write the same thing for them. In this way the students are also reviewing their fluency to see if they’re at the same high level of fluency that they were at the end of the last year. They set their base line for improvement for this year.

Students want to find out about each other and they like to ask questions about interesting target language pictures; such communication activities allow them to do that. Students like to compete against their own fluency scores.  Students often become bored by doing  isolated non-contextual grammar or vocabulary review activities.

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle, I have 30+ activities (about 24 for Spanish and 6 for all Modern Language) to develop student speaking through highly structured or scaffolded, speaking. Students work in pairs.  Also, there are four modern language culture inquiry activities and one Spanish culture inquiry activity at  the same location.

Two ebooks, 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities and Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do Strategies, are available at http://bit.ly/tsmash

My Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment and a general Formative Assessment book are available at http://www.routledge.com/books/search/author/harry_grover_tuttle/