Our national parent organization, ACTFL (the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) says on their website that “the ability to communicate with respect and cultural understanding in more than one language is an essential element of global competence.”
It may be true – global competence may be a worthy goal, but doesn’t such a statement aim a bit high for what most of our students in their young and difficult lives can practically accomplish right now, based on their experience in school?
Let’s define the term. The following definition is from the Asia Society:
“Global competence is the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance. Collectively, global competence represents the knowledge, attitudes, skills, and behaviors necessary to thrive in today’s interconnected world.”
Doesn’t a child need to feel comfortable and happy in a classroom, actively interacting with those around them in order to learn the knowledge, attitudes, skills and behaviors described above? Doesn’t that have to happen first?
In my view developing those skills and capacities can only be done in a classroom where comprehensible input is used, where the curriculum is the language and not cryptic pieces of it, where meaning is constantly being negotiated and where worksheets and memorization don’t exist.
This point shines a whole new light on what it means for a child to even be in a language classroom. Forget the language gains – let’s show our kids how to behave in an interpersonal, human, reciprocal and back and forth civil way with each other.
Shouldn’t the realistic expectations of our language instruction be to teach some language to our students, yes, within the very limited time frame have, but to put our real focus on teaching them, through modeling them ourselves, the global competencies described above?
Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg describes global skills in this way:
Some examples of global skill at the level I teach [elementary] include:
- Closing the Circle of Communication – answering when asked a question, however simple: “How are you today?” “Fine, and you?”
- Orienting your stance/glance to the speaker and or looking her in the eye.
- Waiting for the asker to finish the question before responding.
- Not interrupting or blurting.
- Not showing boredom or impatience while someone is speaking (not looking a the clock, either).
- Laughing with and not at.
- Listening, engaging and taking part in the group conversation.
…these are global skills that seem to be especially at risk in our ever-increasing screen-time society….in which many grown ups aren’t prioritizing or modeling common courtesy. How to meet, greet, eat courteously, these continue to be, to my mind, as important as ever. It’s not just the messages contained in the sum of the words, but also all the tone, attitude, nuance, good will….
What Alisa says here reflects the Jane Austen quote:
“Manners are what hold a society together .. that and a reliable postal system. Propriety is concern for other people. When that goes out the window the gates of hell are surely opened and ignorance is king.”
[I can’t find which novel that is from so if anyone knows please inform in a comment field below.]
If I can make my classroom into a happy place to be in every day and if my students can look forward to spending time with me each day and it’s mainly in French, then they will probably be better equipped with global competence as defined by ACTFL and the Asia Society than if they are isolated from each other filling out worksheets while sitting right next to each other in our language classrooms.