Unmet Students’ Expectation of World Language Class

Beginning language students come to their world language class with an expectation. The vast majority of these students believe that the purpose of the language course is to speak the language. However, they soon find out that the class really focuses on “vocabulary and verbs” as a former high school French student wrote as he thought what his college Spanish class would be based on his former language experience. Students want to be able to speak the language and, yet, many teachers spend so much time preparing them to speak by learning vocabulary and learning verbs that the students do not get to speak. Students want to communicate in the language. How do we change our world language courses so that we met the students’ expectations and their parents’ expectations?

Some activities to help you develop communication in your  Spanish classroom:

Spanish Describing School Classes Spontaneous Speaking – Pairs    Speak about class with structured choices – two levels, 49 terms

Spanish Friend /Family Member Detailed Description – Partner Talk   Say 9 sentences about a friend using 36 choices.

Spanish Tell Me About Yourself Substitution Sentences   Talk about yourself by substituting your information in given sentences.

Spanish Family Indepth Speed Interviews- Partner Talk   Do 4 Family Interviews of 10 questions each


Formulaic Language for Better Communication

 My Syracuse University’s LLL and LECNY presentation

Why use?

Formulaic language – prefabricated language chunks memorized and retrieved as a whole -Wray, 2008

– Used often by native speakers
– Mentally processed faster
– Many components
– Closed and open
– Part of ACTFL 2012 guidelines

Note: Learned as a whole, no grammatical knowledge

– Focus on communication
– Use high frequency real life use questions and answers (Check WL TV shows/ movies)
– Give a purpose to each class (asking and answering the question)
– Do variations on a question word
– Use for common topics
– Make sure students can answer the question
– Practice many, many. many times each class so students can ask and answer
– Create cumulative conversation

Practicality: Use ACTFL Interpersonal Can- Do Statements as guidelines for creating questions.

Communication value: If students learn  1 question and answer(s) per day x 150 days = 150 different questions and answers. WOW!

How do your students use formulaic language in your classroom?

40+Spanish & WL spontaneous speaking activities and some cultural activities http://bit.ly/wlspt


A collection of 13 beginning student activities Spanish speaking activities about school and classes http://bit.ly/ssclassessp



Are your world language students conversing now?

A critical question for world language teachers is “Are my students having a conversation in the target language now?” If students are not conversing in the language, then teachers have to ask themselves, “How can I modify what I am doing so that they can converse in the language?” Vocabulary study is not an end to itself and grammar study is not an end to itself. The sooner that teachers move their students from isolated words and isolated grammar into communication, the soon their students will converse. For example, in terms of verbs, as soon as students learn the first person and the second person of a verb they can begin to converse with a question such as “Do you smoke?” and a response such as “No, I do not smoke.” or a question of “Do you cook?” and a response of “Yes I cook.” When world language teachers teach high frequency verbs that students want to ask questions about and answer, then students will want to communicate. Likewise, vocabulary can be incorporated into questions. For example, for location vocabulary, a student might ask, “Which ice cream store is your favorite?” and the partner can respond. When students ask each other meaningful questions about their world, they communicate in the language. Little mini-conversations can build into big conversations. Are your students conversing in the language now?

Some Spanish activities to help your students move are
Spanish Tell Me About Yourself Substitution Sentences    Talk about yourself by substituting your information in given sentences.
Spanish Family Indepth Speed Interviews- Partner Talk    Do 4 Family Interviews of 10 questions each Spanish Answering Oral Questions Review 1 – Partner Talk   Answer 10 questions with a time period
Spanish Describing School Classes Spontaneous Speaking – Pairs   Speak about class with structured choices – two levels, 49 terms
Spanish AR Verbs Modified Speed Dating Whole Class Speaking   Answer Oral Questions Review 1 – Partner Talk

A Sentence a Day For Improved World Language Communication

Every class world language teachers can teach their students at least one different sentence or question that the students will need to carry on a meaningful conversation. The teachers move the students beyond learning vocabulary lists to learning a critical statement or question. The teachers select sentences for the meaning that they convey, not for the grammar or for the specific vocabulary. The world language teachers select sentences that have high frequency in the language. and are of high interest to the students. These sentences or questions will be ones that can be easily modified such as “Where is the restaurant?”; students can easily substitute any location word for the word “restaurant”. If the teachers teach a question, then they will also teach at least one typical answer such as “The restaurant is on Main Street.”

The critical sentence may or may not be in the present textbook unit. For example, during a food unit, teachers may teach the statement of “I like hamburgers.” or the question of “What do you want to eat?” and a typical response of “I want to eat pizza.” Even if the food unit does not involve prices, the teachers may include “How much does the sandwich cost?” since it is a common question associated with eating out. Likewise, the teachers may teach “Do you cook much?” and “Yes, I do cook much.”

Over the school year, their students will have learned one hundred and eighty critical different sentences or questions. Their students can have an in-depth conversation about many topics with another person.

Do your students learn at least one new and different sentence or question each day?

http://bit.ly/mlcomcult has many activities that allow beginning and advanced students to say sentences and ask questions. There are activities for all world languages and specifically for Spanish.