Do We Teach Modern Language Survival Skills?

For modern language teachers, an essential question is “What would your students do if they were suddenly transported to the target language area?” This question leads to other questions: “Would they be willing to talk to native speakers?… Would they be able to communicate their basic needs for survival?…Would they be able to communicate personal things to the native speaker and ask the native speaker about personal things?”

A follow up question is “How well do we prepare our students to communicate in the target language?” Do we truly teach them survival skills? An exchange student emailed his mother that he had not learned how to say “Where is the bathroom?” so that was the first thing he looked up on his computer when he got to the target language country.  Another student commented that she wished her teacher had spent more than two minutes on “turn right.. turn left..go straight..two blocks” so that she could follow map directions.

How well can your students communicate their basic survival needs?

My e-book, 90 Mobile Learning Mobile Learning Activities, promotes language communication through fourteen different categories of easy-to-implement  mobile activities.

My Spanish spontaneous speaking activities (24+) includes Structured Speaking (Students substitute in or select words to communicate in pairs), Speaking Mats ( Student can talk using a wide variety of nouns, verbs and adjectives to express their ideas in pairs or small group), Modified Speed Dating (Students ask their  partners one question from a card-whole class), Role Playing (Students talk as people in pictures or drawings from 2-4 people), Spontaneous Speaking (based on visuals or topics in pairs), and Grammar speaking games (pairs or small group). Available for a nominal fee at Teacherspayteachers:

At the same site, I have a series of modern language visual stories with no words (the beach, the city, school, etc.) for two students to role play; the restaurant role play involves four students.  These can be used in any language since there are just visuals, no words.

My book, Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment, and my book, Formative Assessment, Responding to Students, are available at