The Social Situatedness of Language Learning

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8 thoughts on “The Social Situatedness of Language Learning”

  1. I can relate to that article. The same thing happened to me in my 2nd year teaching English in Germany… I used songs frequently for a talking point in class and for singing of course until one student reacted the same way as in the article, lined up some others behind her and around went the rumour ” We’re not learning anything in Mrs. Thoma’s class BUT songs”. I felt unsure of how to deal with it being the new teacher on the blog and knowing the German’s idea of language learning being a structured approach of ” THIS IS HOW LANGUAGE WORKS”…. I gave in, taught more grammar classes …. and the students were unfortunately happy about it because they felt like ” yeah, I learnt a list by heart! Yeah, I filled in the right blank!” However, I wasn’t. I gave in because I was scared of more parents and more teachers resounding that argument towards me and I wasn’t strong enough YET to repulse it. New ways of teaching still clash with old ideas of learning… It is about the teacher’s personality to buff away old patterns of learning and to stand in for what he/she believes in. Becoming a teacher is about standing strongly for what you believe in, despite heavy storms of criticism (sometimes)… I learnt my lesson!

  2. Sabrina Sebban-Janczak

    “It is also possible that the teacher “housed her oppressor” and felt that strong-willed American children with cash always trumped the transnational underclass, should that underclass be composed of maids, convenience store workers, teachers, or heart surgeons.”

    Teachers ARE the transnational underclass!

    And cash will always trump anything in this beautiful land of USA, quality education included.

    Look at politics in this country, it’s not about ideas, but about who’s got more cash to promote their agendas.

    It’s not about eradicating poverty and provide equity in education for all children, it’s about making sure the class in power remains there, coûte que coûte (at any cost). My strong suspicion is that the teacher in this story caved in not because of a lack of conviction that grammar is not that almighty, but because of fear that it would come back to haunt her.

    Yeah! Vive le capitalisme!

  3. Mark and Jenny – you make very good points! After reading this, I went back and read Ben’s article from the other day: “The Fear Goes Away”
    That article is going to be my go-to article regularly!! 🙂

  4. There was a discussion about something like this a while back– 4%ers wanting their grammar fix– and the advice given (not by me, but I agree) was “give them their worksheets to shut them up” or something to that effect (they would have to grade them on their own).

  5. Bernard Rizzotto

    Upon my high school graduation in France, after several years of English grammar instruction, I couldn’t put two sentences together. The ONLY memorable lesson, and the one that made me “yearn for the vast and endless sea,” was when a teacher asked us to bring a British song we liked and play it for the class.

  6. Well, I sympathize with the teacher’s predicament even though I would not do the same. Perhaps she was afraid of losing students and therefore threatening her position at the school. Hindi is not a commonly-taught language in the US, and perhaps she found herself, like me with Chinese, disliking the threatened feeling of being very much an elective that is not well understood.

    I say this because I learned yesterday that my upcoming new classes are very small. In one grade, it’s not extreme compared to the size of the class, but in the other grade, it is by far my lowest percentage of students choosing Chinese in the 7 years I’ve been teaching. I was not expecting that. At my school now, 4th graders choose what language to take for several years through middle school. This is after a quarter of French, Chinese, and Spanish in 4th grade.

    There are doubtless a number of factors going into my small enrollment, but it is not fun for me and makes me all the more glad that I will have state certification as of January, 2014.

  7. Bring on as many kinds of clever strategies suggested as possible (such as giving them their worksheets and shutting them up) in order to free us and the rest of our students for the vast and endless seas (thank you, Bernard)! We also need to become friends with the vulnerable teachers in our midst, those who might unconsciously lean towards tradition and never consciously adopt CI but who will remember our support in their darkest hours (can we imagine how that willful brat story might have ended if the department that housed Hindi had included a sprinkling of CI advocates?). There are no doubt those teachers who are futile causes and we can all name one or ten of them. But between them and the true believers of CI, there are many who will be sympathetic to us when we show ourselves to be mensches. This is what I mean in part by the social-situatedness of language teaching. There are indeed those with power over and above us. But there are social strategies we can build upon to get a little more eye to eye with the power elite. I know Krashen would like as many experimental studies as possible to demonstrate the rightness of CI, and that is all fine and good. But, I think with some forms of power, all the empiricism in the world will not dislodge them. But action research in actual power toppling may.

  8. Attention Northwesterners, et al.:

    Will anyone be at the Blaine Ray TPRS workshop the next three days in Newark, NJ? I’ll be there tomorrow (Tuesday) -would love to meet any of ya’ll who might be there. Respond on here, or feel free to call: (908) 894-2059 (my phone doesn’t receive texts).

    Looks like things have been busy on here -I have a lot to catch up on!

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