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?
Global competence? Even if we could bring our students to mastery of the language in the short time that we have them, which we can’t, if students don’t even know what it is like to be a member of a classroom community, how can they can hope to communicate with respect and cultural understanding on a global level in the target language? Doesn’t sound very possible to the vast majority of our real world students on a practical level.
How can our students master and use the language while appreciating other cultures and functioning as global citizens when many of them, all but the few privileged ones, because of what they experience in their language classrooms, never really feel comfortable learning the language in the first place let alone know what it means to be in community? ACTFL may be putting the cart before the horse with their flowery words!
My reasoning about curriculum design is as follows: 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 be better equipped for global competence than if they are isolated from the learning community while preparing for their global competence experience.