Thoughts on the Standards

I have always thought that the door to all aspects of the culture we teach remains locked to those who don’t have its language, at least some degree of ability to communicate.
But on the ACTFL site the famous “Five C’s” – the official national standards – are depicted in the image of a kind of Olympic ring thing – each standard is represented by a ring interlaced with the four others, implying that they are equal.
This is unfortunate because a teacher who doesn’t wish to teach for communication can justify her class making little flags to hang up in the room and say that they are addressing the Culture standard. And so on with the other C’s.
I never liked that. To me, the standard of Communication is the key to unlocking the other C’s, and the key to teaching it lies in teaching the language in terms of the Three Modes of Communication.
So maybe the Communication standard should be a big ring and the others small ring attached to it. That’s how I think of it, anyway.
So when Nathaniel in his usual succinct writing style addressed this point today, I felt better. Feast your eyes on this:

Communication is the standard. The rest of the C’s are by-products, benefits, and desired ends of The Standard.
Communities. Using the language outside of school (5.1) for the rest of one’s life (5.2) is what most people expect to be the result of learning the language. This is impossible without the language.
Comparisons. Learning to communicate in the language allows students to “Develop Insight into the Nature of Language (4.1) and Culture (4.2). When comparisons are made apart from the language they are more properly referred to as linguistics and anthropology.
Connections. Using the language to “reinforce and further one’s knowledge of” an academic discipline “through the foreign language” (3.1) or to acquire information and gain “the distinctive viewpoints that are only available through the foreign language and its cultures” (3.2) are by-products of attaining the communication standard. This might be a purpose one has in learning the language. The qualifying words “through the foreign language” seem to point to either a a prior knowledge of the language, or conversely, to the use of the language learn a discipline, in the course of which both the language and the discipline are learned or increased.
Cultures. Standard 2 expects students to demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the L2 cultural perspectives and the L2 cultural practices ( 2.1) or cultural products (2.2), in order to “Gain Knowledge and Understanding of Other Cultures.” It does not clearly state that the purpose of a FL course is to use L1 to learn the culture of L2. I believe that it is safe to assume that L2 is intended to be the vehicle for learning the culture of L2. And we would add, when there is sufficient L2 to do so. With sufficient L2, any culture learned by means of L2 is an increase in L2 input and acquisition.
[We must] remind ourselves to keep the horse in front of the cart.



7 thoughts on “Thoughts on the Standards”

  1. YES! It seems so obvious. Not that I could have stated with such exquisite clarity as Nathaniel, so maybe reading his words made it super obvious. I have always had issues with the 5 c’s for the same reason as Ben states. Of course they are all threaded into communication, but somehow they are presented as separate chunks / lists to check off, and this is where it feels inauthentic to me. And it’s also been a huge source of me feeling inadequate as a teacher, especially in the early years, because I was never one of those piñata-making teachers. Of course, nothing against piñatas or teachers who make them…I just always felt less than because I never did that stuff 🙂

    1. I have never felt more frustrated and out of my element as when I tried to do cute cultural projects.
      My best years teaching have been when I gleefully abandoned projects.

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