This post is from a course that I took. I had to make blog posts for the course and I decided to move the posts over here when the course finished.
1. Goal: Bilingual Competence, Not Native-Level Competence
I realized that the goal for second language learning should be bilingualism (and biculturalism), and not native-level fluency. The idea that non-native speakers need to be as fluent as native speakers is old-fashioned and doesn’t bear up to scrutiny in the real world.
2. Using Research to Back up Pedagogy
The idea of using research to back up my pedagogy is not new, but I learned about some new ways to research language learning through this subject. The Storch (1998) article that compared how students engaged with multiple choice, rational deletion (cloze), text reconstruction, and composition tasks in a collaborative setting was a good example of this. The Crawford (1999) article also did a good job of outlining how teacher expectations and beliefs can have an impact on learning.
3. Action Research
The idea of doing action research was not overly discussed in this subject, but as I went through the course content, I started to think more and more about ways that I could design my own research in my language classroom. There are many things that I (think I) already know about language learning, but the Read (1999) article reminded me that without research to back up my beliefs, I am really just teaching blind. The Read article discusses a case where two groups of students learned from the same teacher, but in one class the teacher used only the target language (Indonesian) and in the other, he predominantly used English. The article concluded that the immersion class “didn’t harm the students”, which I thought was an completely unbelievable outcome. That made me think that my assumptions about language learning might be completely wrong, and that I should be doing action research to gain a better understanding of what actually works, and what doesn’t.
4. Intercultural Understanding and Language Learning
Finally, I really have changed the way I think about teaching culture in language classes. Before I started this class, I thought that it was fine to toss in a few cultural references into the lessons, but I now see that learning about culture (one’s own, or a foreign one) fulfills all of the highest goals of education (learning how to learn, broadening one’s horizons, learning to tolerate difference, etc.) and therefore must play a part in the language learning classroom. I now believe strongly in the idea of teaching intercultural understanding explicitly in the context of language learning and not just hoping that it will happen spontaneously.
This subject has been very valuable for me, both in terms of aiding my understanding of the pedagogy of language learning, and inspiring me to new investigations.
Crawford, J. (1999). Should we be talking languages up or talking them down? Australian Language Matters, 7(4), 9-10.
Read, J. (1999). Immersion Indonesian at Rowvill Secondary College. Babel, 34(2), 4-9, 37.
Storch, N. (1998). Comparing second language learners’ attention to form across tasks. Language Awareness, 7(4), 176-91.