Communication and Communities (part 1 of 2) - Learning Languages Other than English (2001)

Uploaded by sedl on 11.03.2011

[Student speaking Spanish to a native Spanish speaker] Using a second language to communicate
with others in the real world is an important goal for all language learners. As we continue
the adventure of learning a language other than English you'll see students taking their
language skills out into the community. You'll see how communities welcome input from, and
interaction with, language students, and you'll see how some of the most successful teachers
in Texas implement the program goal of communities into their daily lesson plans. Any examination
of how language is taught in Texas begins with a mention of the Texas Essential Knowledge
and Skills (TEKS) for Languages Other Than English (LOTE). The TEKS for LOTE are the
standards which describe what all students should know and be able to do at various stages
within the LOTE discipline. These standards are organized around five program goals, often
referred to by educators as the five Cs. First and foremost is Communication. In LOTE classrooms,
students are striving to use a second language, and communication is the vehicle language
learners use to become proficient. The other four goals stem from the use of the target
language in and out of the classroom. Students learn about the cultures associated with their
second language and gain valuable insights into the perspectives of the people of that
country or region. Learning a second language, students make connections with other subject
areas and connect to gain information in the target language. Students who make the comparisons
between their second language and culture and their first language and culture develop
insights into the nature of all languages and cultures. Finally, students are encouraged
to take their second language out into the community, to use it with neighbors here at
home, or in communities abroad. It is the acceptance of and implementation of these
five program goals into daily lesson plans that Texas educators believe is a key to obtaining
advanced proficiency for all language learners. [Students speaking Spanish] Clearly, communication
skills are the primary focus of language study. Through the communication goal, students develop
the skills necessary to master the content of the other four program goals. These skills
include listening, speaking, reading and writing, as well as viewing and showing. Communicated
proficiency derives from control of three modes of communication: interpersonal, interpretive,
and presentational. Students need practice in all three types of communication in order
to satisfy their most commonly expressed reason for taking any language class: to learn to
communicate. The first thing that I do when I do my lesson plans is think about the communication
that's going to take place between the students. At this level, interpersonal communication
is the most important--that they be able to give the information that they want to give,
and more importantly that they receive the information that they want to receive. So,
that's where I start. From that point, I want to bring in culture. I want to bring in new
vocabulary. I want to bring in a connection with students that they don't have already--that
being with students who don't speak the target language, in this case Spanish. So, everything
revolves around that interpersonal communication. If at some point then we can get to other
kinds of communication--interpretive communication, communication of presentation type--that's
good, too, but at this point, it's the interpersonal communication that's most important. It's
what they want to do; they want to learn how to speak Spanish. The primary mode of communication
is the interpersonal mode, where there is a direct exchange of communication between
individuals, either listeners and speakers, or readers and writers. [Student speaking
a foreign language] At Churchill High School in San Antonio, these students are involved
in a mock job fair. They're demonstrating proficiency in the interpersonal mode of communication:
speaking and listening. This mode of communication requires active negotiation of meaning between
the individuals and calls for a natural pattern of adjustment and clarification in order to
be successful. Another form of interpersonal communication occurs between writers and readers
when both writer and reader have access to one another. In Heidi Kirby's German II class
at Cinco Ranch High School near Houston, her students are e-mailing students in Germany.
The two groups of students are thousands of miles apart but utilizing the technology available
in today's language classroom, they are able to be e-pals in their target language. Using
their computers the students are communicating in the interpersonal mode. They're developing
the skills of reading at the same time developing the skills of writing. Another mode of communication
is the interpretive mode. In this form of communication the communicative source, the
speaker or writer, is not present. The listeners or readers must determine for themselves the
meaning of what is being communicated, using the skills of listening and reading. At Cambridge
Elementary in the Alamo Heights School District, these first-grade immersion students receive
a full dose of all three modes of communication in the target language, right from the first
day. The interpretive mode occurs not only as students listen to their teacher, but also
during reading time. For these youngsters, full comprehension of what they're reading
is still a ways down the road, but their interpretive skills are already being enhanced, and they're
developing viewing skills using pictures to help interpret what they see and read. In
today's LOTE classroom, more advanced students can take their interpretive skills to the
Internet. In Vince McGee's Latin I class at Lake Highlands High School in the Richardson
Independent School District, students research a project in their target language on the
computer. The teacher is available to help students navigate the Internet, but the students
themselves must apply what they've already learned, in order to interpret the messages
provided by the Internet author. The third mode of communication to be mastered by language
learners is the presentational mode, which calls for the creation of formal messages,
public speaking, or and editorial, for example, to be interpreted by listeners or readers
where there is no opportunity for active negotiation of meaning between listeners and speakers
or readers and writers. At Rayburn High School in Pasadena these French III, pre-AP students
are making presentations to their classmates that compare cultural similarities between
young people in the U.S. and France. [Student speaking French] Current fashion trends for
teenagers is a popular theme, and the presenters use the skills of speaking and showing. In
this example, as is often the case, more than one mode of communication is occurring in
the LOTE classroom. Here, as presenters communicate in the presentational mode, the rest of the
class, or audience, uses the interpretive mode to view and listen to the presentation.
I want the kids to be able to go to a foreign country, check into a hotel, ask for a clean
towel, get tickets to the opera--maybe not the opera but get tickets to something that
they are interested in--to be able to use the language, and I think that's where the
TEKs have driven us, to make it useful to them. As we will see, learning languages other
than English occurs not only within the LOTE classroom, but also beyond the walls of the
school: out in the community. Learning a second language increases opportunities for students
to interact with communities in Texas and in other parts of the world. In George Trauth's
classroom at MacArthur High School in Irving, the teacher has created an environment where
even beginning students are required to remain grounded in the target language. The atmosphere,
en francais, prepares students to connect with French-speaking communities. My theory
is that language acquisition begins when the students begin to hear the language, not when
they begin to speak it, but when they begin to hear it, because a child growing up hears
the language first before he or she begins to speak, so they hear it first from me, and
then gradually they begin to speak. Another way teachers implement the communities program
goal is by reaching out to the world community through the use of technology. Of course,
I think technology has been such a wonderful opportunity for students in the schools that
we're building now, and working with the principles of the schools and they're asking, "Do we
want traditional language labs?", and we've all decided, "No," that we want multimedia
labs or opportunities for teachers to have computer access with Internet access for the
students. Some of these activities are so wonderful because it's the old concept of
Pen Pals, but now they're e-pals, so statements have immediate feedback from friends in all
parts of the world. They really establish a friendship, and one such situation at one
of our newer high schools, the connection was so strong that the teachers became very
close friends as well, and the teacher in Sugar Land in our area actually traveled to
France this past summer to meet the teacher in her sister school in France. So they took
a lot of pictures that then they were able to e-mail back and forth to the students,
so it was wonderful. [Teacher speaking German] In Heidi Kirby's German II class at Cinco
Ranch High School in Katy, students use the Internet and their second language skills
to e-mail students in German-speaking communities thousands of miles from Texas. [Teacher and
students speaking German] Well, when I
start a lesson or theme or take whatever we're covering at the time, I sit down and plan
accordingly, if it takes seven to ten days, and I look at when I'm gonna cover. Then I
make sure I'm never going to cover all five Cs in one day, but I try to pick selected
activities for each of the five Cs. Like today, we happen to be reviewing communities because
we're reviewing in our German II book, about, or the theme is school systems, nd so what
I did is, I mean we talked about it and communicated about it yesterday in class, but as you saw
today, I also elaborated and we went into e-mailing the e-pal in Germany, and that is
extension of community. As students and teachers go beyond the walls of the classroom, they
have the opportunity to not only learn from native speaking members of the community,
but also to use their skills in real-world situations. In terms of the community, we've
really had some spectacular things happen with our teachers and our students. One year,
one of our partners is KVDA, which is the Telemundo Television, and one year, our students
translated the news into Spanish for the Internet for KVDA. Another year, one of our Spanish
classes translated a huge book that gave all the policies for a particular health care
organization into Spanish. So we've had wonderful support for the community, because our students
our teachers are so willing to use what they're learning in the real world. Well, I mean like,
when you see people at like different places, like at stores and stuff, and like they don't
understand, like I've tried before to like, speak Spanish, and like, they kind of laugh,
because the accent is off, and like, but I mean like they're thankful at the end 'cause
we like, finally communicated. I mean I might not say it perfectly, but at least we get
the gist of it. Out in the community, knowing a second language can be an invaluable skill.
This girl is at the store, and she is a cashier at Walmart, or K-Mart, whatever, and this
lady, and this family obviously is French or Belgian, and this lady said [speaking French]
"I wonder if this girl speaks French," because obviously maybe they were not comfortable
with their English. And the girl turns around and says, "Oui, Madam" and the woman just
about, you know, fell over. And she said, "Ca fait combien?" So this girl tells her,
"How much does that cost?" This girl says, "Ca fait blah blah," and she came the next
day, she was so excited, she was about jumping through the roof of the school, telling me
about, she had met this French family and how she had to used her French. So, I encourage
them to use their French. Communication is the basis of a language, and I have this little
story that I tell them. Of all the years I've been to, I'm from Quebec--my home town--of
all the years I've been to Quebec, been to France, I have never seen a person down the
Chans de Lise, or anywhere that come up to me and say, "Hey, I want the passe compose
of this verb," you know, and I keep telling the kids accuracy is very important, but communication
comes first.