Manifesto

I do not think of myself as a teacher of foreign languages or have a great interest in this but I am a zealot if required. This is my manifesto.

1. The custom of presenting all grammar in the first year, and reviewing it in the second, is incoherent and must be revised.

2. The idea that one must “master” the language before acquiring any cultural knowledge is nonsensical and must be dropped.

3. The conceptualization of “learning culture” as memorizing a series of soundbytes and stereotyped characterizations is not only misguided, but ignorant; it is downright embarrassing to hear educated people and academics in field say there is nothing more to “culture.”

4. A reason for a department to have a coherent language program, not just a bunch of faculty each doing their thing, is so that class time does not go to explaining the learning goals of this particular section, which may be very different from those of the other sections or the courses the student has taken previously in the same sequence.

I further note that I have basically dropped the practice of speaking in the target language. Why is this so?

a) Because students come to me not having been taught in it, and because I am bound to teach certain topics. I must train students who cannot have a basic conversation on the weather to complete complete workbook and common test exercises using the imperfect subjunctive and compound tenses.

b) Because I must spend an inordinate amount of time explaining to students that I insist on some level of performance beyond rote recitation, and giving instruction on how to achieve this. (Simply insisting on doing the work FAILS — the students require more cluing in than this, and I have been directed by those above me to spend class time on explanation of rationale behind activities and justification of SLOs.)

#OccupyHE.

Axé.

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1 Comment

Filed under Banes, Da Whiteman, Movement, News, What Is A Scholar?

One response to “Manifesto

  1. Z

    Newer version:

    I am not primarily a teacher of foreign languages and my main teaching interests lie elsewhere, but I am a zealot if required. This is my manifesto.

    1. The custom of presenting all grammar in the first year, and reviewing it in the second, is incoherent and must be revised.

    2. The idea that one must “master” the language before acquiring any cultural knowledge is nonsensical and must be dropped.

    3. The conceptualization of “learning culture” as memorizing a series of soundbytes and stereotyped characterizations (e.g. ‘”Hispanics” are very family oriented people’, tortillas are important in Mexico, etc.) is not only misguided, but ignorant; it is downright embarrassing to hear educated people and academics in field say we should teach such things as “culture” just because we are teaching grammar at a basic level.

    4. A reason for a department to have a coherent language program, not just a bunch of faculty each doing their thing, is so that class time does not go to explaining the learning goals of this particular section, which may be very different from those of the other sections or the courses the student has taken previously in the same sequence.

    5. The idea that literary readings are “too difficult” is the figment of somebody’s imagination. If you want to teach an authentic text, a well written piece of literature is actually EASIER, not harder to understand than an authentic news article (I am not talking about CNN translated to Spanish, of course). [I am also one of those who believes literature is good for English composition, too ... so I am not in fashion, I know. But still, this is my considered opinion, and I do teach all kinds of texts, not just literary ones.]

    I further note that I have basically dropped the practice of speaking in the target language. That is very bad. Why have I done it?

    a) Because students come to me not having been taught in it, and because I am bound to teach certain topics. I must train students who cannot have a basic conversation on the weather to complete workbook and common test exercises using the imperfect subjunctive and compound tenses.

    b) Because I must spend an inordinate amount of time explaining to students that I insist on some level of performance beyond rote recitation, and giving instruction on how to achieve this. (Simply insisting on doing the work FAILS — the students require more cluing in than this, and I have been directed by those above me to spend class time on explanation of rationale behind activities and justification of SLOs.)

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