ACTFL Position Statement of 7/30/12

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19 thoughts on “ACTFL Position Statement of 7/30/12”

  1. As for the exemption, it’s the same as it was a decade ago. The president of ACTFL is a traditional Latin teacher. She is protecting her kind. They’ll hold onto that “Latin is different” defense as long as their pursed lips can utter it. The up-side is that, while the exemption can be used as an excuse not to teach with CI, it cannot be used to prevent teachers from following the recomendations of the main text. Any department that wants to squash a CI Latin teacher (and it is happening at some schools), will have to find (=make up) other reasons.

    1. The exemption can also not be used to prevent class size from increasing – as we have seen in some of our own Latin teachers’ classes. And it therefore can’t be used in defense of one’s job.

      Kids gravitate toward what they like, and Bob Patrick’s and David Maust’s and others’ classes are just packed with probably way too many people. But there ya go. It’s probably a safe bet to say that the kids aren’t in there for the teeth clenching, I mean the declensions.

      I think a teacher of Latin would be let go a lot sooner for numbers than for being boring, and it is interesting that the current ACTFL president is a traditional Latin teacher. I think that is fascinating. This is great John:

      ..they’ll hold onto that “Latin is different” defense as long as their pursed lips can utter it….

      They must not like y’all very much.

      It just seems to me that the Latin accent, at least for Americans, is (or doesn’t sound like to me) to be very difficult to say. It doesn’t appear to be something like French to learn in terms of weirdness of sound. I’m in an area here that I know nothing here about so correct me.

      But does it not make sense that since we now know that people learn languages based on sound and in an unconscious way, since we know that, then could we not perhaps at least explore Krashen’s future impact on speaking Latin and what that means just a teeny bit more before we make such an incredibly strong blanket rejection of a very plausible idea?

      After all, it is an idea that is working big time in classrooms in Atlanta and Los Angeles and San Francisco and elsewhere right now. Do we really want to put a sentence that strong into a national position statement? I know a Greek word* for that. Hubris.

      Now I know that that is a very badass word in the original Greek sense but I don’t mean it that way. I mean it as “lack of humility”. How did I know what the original Greek meaning of hubris was, by the way? Did I memorize a bunch of shit in a classroom in college like, apparently, the current president of ACTFL would have her students do? Hades no, I just looked at Wikipedia.

      That is another thing we might want to consider in this discussion – the role of instant knowledge in a world where, up until Al Gore invented the internet, scholarship meant memorization. Here are our handful of Latin teachers saying to the world, “Let’s not memorize all that shit, it’s boring. Let’s learn it via speech – it’s a lot more fun” and then getting largely ignored for their efforts.

      Who gets to say that? What are her credentials? With whom did she make the decision? What’s their deal? I think that the answer to all these questions is that they don’t really believe that some dude grinding his grain on a Roman campaign in the north of what is now Germany ever actually said anything to the dude with the weird helmet next to him who was sharpening his sword.

      Of course he did, and all those people who lived then in that whole big ass empire did too. And so it morphed into new languages and is no longer used but that doesn’t mean that it is dead – like Kate Taluga told me about her language Myskoke – it is merely sleeping.

      So our Latin teachers here can be likened to a good strong cup of coffee to the language. And guess what? If it is a language, then the auditory part is the most important, as per current research. Right?

      I mean, have we learned ANYTHING from Krashen (when I say Krashen I say all those guys so don’t be offended, and it is mainly Krashen anyway) but that people learning languages by hearing them first, then reading them, then coming out with the the output later?

      I can see that really pissing John and them off. They know what comes first, they are willing to put their asses on the line and speak it with reservations whilel fully owning their merely nascent capacity to do so (duh! – they’ve never heard it before), yet they know the importance of doing so so they do it anyway, and then they have to read this shit by ACTFL, which tells them that they need to keep it in ghost form, locked up in the head in the world of analytical wonder (read bullshit).

      This ACTFL position on Latin is about power and control and pride and ignorance – let’s just say it. It may be ignorance born of not having the reseach clear (how many people want to make a bet on that? – I say it’s true), but how does that fact justify such a statement at the level of a national parent organization?

      I know what we need – we need a rapper to do some songs in Latin and get them out there in Buckhead and South Central LA and over there in Oakland. Something simple but with a catchy base concept that people could glom onto and relate to and maybe dance to. Then the people could see that it is actually a spoken thing and get their order of acquisition in order. Sounds like a plan to me.


      1. Amen Ben!

        It’s a matter of wanting to be superior and unwilling to change. Among many Latinist at all levels, they study lofty important ideas, not mundane, everyday BS. We are so important! Insert turned up nose and high brow. I’ve been there. What was I thinking. It’s all BS. That statement by ACTFL was put in there because Latin teachers would revolt if you told them to change. How can we ask them to change. They are usually teaching four or more preps, mixed classes/levels, travelling between schools, going to two different districts–in essence trying to hang on. One year my school district sent me to three schools. That year I taught four preps, six classes and I traveled to all those buildings. I could barely get to work I was so depressed with my situation.

        I have made the change, but it is a huge mountain to climb. Unfortunately, we have to start from the ground and go up. Those at the top, ie professors and their ilk will not make any change. We have to bring it to them. This is not easy task. We need to learn Latin as a spoken language so that our teachers feel confident. They are scared, terrified in fact. They can’t imagine learning to speak something which they have never uttered.

        You are right! We need some modernity to our Latin. We need rappers, rock stars, writers, poets, like the renaissance. We need to say that Latin isn’t different. It was spoken and can still be spoken. It has value, like learning any language. It isn’t just some high brow, pompous, ivory tower subject that the elite choose to share with unwashed masses. We can’t sustain this approach. Who do we think we are? As if the Romans never dropped their F bomb or other vulgarity. C’mon, the people who decorated their houses with sex scenes and statues of a Satyr having sex with a goat. These people had some really interesting conversation. They just don’t talk about heroism and epic topics. They were a people. Why not treat them that way?

        This kinds of thing often makes me grow weary of teaching Latin.

        1. …this kinds of thing often makes me grow weary of teaching Latin…..

          This is the Great Topic. How weary we are. Because, in a very real way, we all teach Latin, those in the profession who still teach the grammar piece and have not yet made the change to this century.

          It is easy for ACTFL to write the new stuff above for language teachers in the 21st century, but I would like to see some of them at the national level, those ACTFL folks, actually do it. Their national conference is a joke.

          Bryce and I preferred to run around in the hallways racing segways than go to sessions, it was so pathetic. And all the exhibitors were selling computer software except for Carol Gaab with her fine new and growing line of books.

          ACTFL talks a big ball game but don’t deliver.

          But back to what you said. This is the most honest sentence ever because it comes from so deep. We all are weary, those of us who teach Latin and those of us who teach modern languages.

          But we suddenly have hope. But I talk about the hope all the time. And I suppose it’s not a great topic to say how depressed we are and have been. I spent my entire career professionally depressed (it carries over, of course) and I think just to say it is healing.

          I don’t think it is possible to work in an American school at this time and not be depressed.

          We are in a truly fucked up profession. The people in charge don’t know what they are talking about. I am 50 minutes away from a meeting at Columbine High School about my 9th grade son, who has been missing classes. (I wonder why?)

          That is one strange, fake place. The cult of the athlete is still there – it hasn’t changed a bit. Same principal. Everybody walking around in navy and silver shirts. Jefferson County. The one I left like a bullet upon Diana’s invitation to come to DPS.

          It’s ALL depressing. Maybe in some of the private schools it’s o.k. But who wants to teach in a private school and be a part of dividing America along racial and economic lines? That’s not very patriotic.

          And, as Susan Gross points out so often with such passion, we must work for our country in this work. Our work has the potential to help a lot with national security.

          So what do we do? We fricking keep going to work every day and getting better at this stuff! Or we could just let the kids suck air on verbs all day.

          David, we don’t have to say HOW we are depressed. You finally said THAT you are depressed. Good. I respect that honesty more than you know.

          We have to have honesty.

  2. “But who wants to teach in a private school and be a part of dividing America along racial and economic lines? That’s not very patriotic. ”

    Ben, I have to take issue with your hyperbole here. I tried for the good part of 6 years to find a Latin job in a public school in the SF area–there are none, and there is no money.

    I disagree with the culture of martyrdom among public school teachers–as if teachers should put up with all the crap dumped on them simply for the warm feeling that they are doing their public service. You can’t have a family and be in a job where you’re getting pink slipped every year (which is what happens in my area if you don’t have seniority). Ben, I applaud your honesty with the teachers on this list about the need to go easy on ourselves to avoid burnout. An extension of this is teachers’ choice of a workplace.

    I don’t have to burn myself out in underfunded schools in order to be helping kids and helping our nation. I will not put my children in public schools, and that does not make me a pedagogical hypocrite: I will put them where the best practices are being implemented, and where teachers are not prevented from doing so. Making sure my own kids get the best education possible is completely consistent with the work I do with Bob in trying to reform the way ALL Latin teachers in ALL schools teach. My mom has trained hundreds if not thousands great public school teachers over the course of her career, and her colleagues gave her crap constantly for putting me in hippie schools, while they chose schools for their children based on making a political statement. They were wrong, their kids suffered, and they admitted it to her years later.

    I see a lot of guilt on the part of great teachers who have been driven out of public schools because of all the things that are broken in those schools, and these teachers are now in a place of employment where they are respected, honored and given the resources to teach effectively. They should be proud of the work they are doing, and of the places of employment which honor their work. We are all working for better teaching, and the improvement of kids’ lives, wherever they are.

    1. I love it when we can agree to disagree. I did work in a private school for 11 years, my first 11, but it was back when they treated teachers like their kids’ private tutors at very low wages. So times have changed. There is a private school in Denver that now easily beats the big 5A schools in football.

      So there was no honor for private school teachers back then but there seems to be now. Good. I’m not sure mine is a political statement although I won’t back down from my statement that private schools do in fact divide communities along those lines and I don’t like that.

      Are they hurting America? I think so. Are we in the public schools more patriotic? Probably not, although we are often painted as lazy and overpaid. Do we burnout more? Yes. Does any of it matter? I don’t know.

      I do know that public schools are necessary in our country. Support whom you like, that’s what I do. In the end, I heard Laurie sum it up perfectly one time – we go where we are called. This is another reason I shouldn’t bring up politics on this site.

  3. Is this part of the ACTFL statement too?
    1. provide comprehensible input that is directed toward communicative goals;

    2. make meaning clear through body language, gestures, and visual support;

    3. conduct comprehension checks to ensure understanding;

    4. negotiate meaning with students and encourage negotiation among students;

    5. elicit talk that increases in fluency, accuracy, and complexity over time;

    6. encourage self-expression and spontaneous use of language;

    7. teach students strategies for requesting clarification and assistance when faced with comprehension difficulties; and

    8. offer feedback to assist and improve students’ ability to interact orally in the target language.

    If so, where did they get the language????

    1. Haha Skip — yes that IS what their position statement says, and that is just what *I* thought! “Were they quoting Krashen?” or “Blaine?” I found this last night on their website. (Ben posted the link above)
      The only glitch I have with it is when it is pointed out to me that ACTFL “doesn’t endorse translation”. Well, by not including the word “translate” in the above statement, that person is technically correct; however, I see it as what Blaine says, “make it all comprehensible, and if you have to translate for the sake of time constraints, then so be it.”

      1. I would not call this translation. Translation is a different field. Technically, giving the L1 equivalent of an L2 word is glossing. It is used when reading to save time looking up obscure words. I am currently using “The Reader’s Hebrew Bible” and “The Reader’s Greek New Testament.” All Hebrew words that appear over 100 x are in a glossary at the end (that’s the left side of the book for Hebrew); likewise with all Greek words that occur over 30x. Any words that appear fewer than 100 (Hb) / 30 (Gk) are glossed using footnotes at the bottom. The other option is to spend all of one’s reading time in the lexicon, which can be very interesting but it is no substitute for reading.

        This is my second step in my reading process. Step one was reading the same texts with an interlinear version. The Hebrew or Greek text appears on one line. A very literal English equivalent appears below each translatable word.

        The other approach for self-study is to spend a lot of time in grammars and lexicons. However, this is analysis and disconnection which leaves one with having missed the communicated message. In addition to staying focused on the message, there are all of the benefits of the Net.

        Then (at least, this is the way I experience is) as my mind acquires the more frequently occurring (or maybe more meaningful) structures, phrases, and vocabulary, it is free to attend to the slightly less meaningful/less frequently occurring.

        So, we don’t translate; we gloss.

        (And we don’t ask our students to translate; we assess who accurately the understand an utterance with the most accurate assessment tool devised: L1.

        1. Well stated, Nathaniel. We do indeed gloss rather than translate, and using L1 is really the only way to be 100% certain about whether or not students have comprehended; as you put it, it is by far the most accurate comprehension check we have.

          OT, I had a professor in seminary who had bound a Hebrew Tenach and a Greek New Testament together. No matter which end he started with, he started at the beginning of the book.

          1. That’s hilarious. Of course, he would have to have placed the Testament at our beginning and the Tenach at our end. Were they reversed, he would always end up starting in the middle. And it does take some adjustment time to know which end is up. I remember when, after having let go of the Greek to focus on the Hebrew, that it took some adjustment to start on the left side of the page to try read the Greek. I guess it was all Hebrew to me.

            Small things like those serve to remind me of how difficult it can be for my students.

        2. Nathaniel this is a profound point for us. The reason I know that is that I don’t fully understand the term “gloss”. Could you make it a bit clearer? I then can turn it into an article so that we can all understand this important, and for many of us new, word. And Robert any clarification from you as well would be most welcome for this planned article.

          1. We are, I believe, acquainted with the word “glossary”. A glossary is merely a collection of glosses. We tend to call them translations, but when you think about it, a translation is taking an extended text from its idiomatic expression in one language to its idiomatic expression in the other language, accounting for context, nuances, etc. A gloss is simply a quick clarification of a word. I can gloss a word in the same language (i.e., give a definition) or I can gloss in a different language (i.e. give a “translation”).

            – Have you ever tried biltong, dried meat similar to jerky?
            – What is your Weltanschauung, the way you look at the world and interpret it?
            – The patient is suffering from a subdural hematoma, a small blood clot below the skin

            I just glossed three terms, one borrowed from South Africa, one borrowed from German (used in psychology and philosophy), and one used in English medical terminology. Did I “translate” them, or did I clarify meaning?

          2. Let me think about that and see what I can do. But I am not sure that I can make it clearer than what Robert stated above.

          3. Nathaniel you would be a wizard if you could. Go back and read some of Robert’s stuff here. The dude gives new meaning to the term “erudite”. I once started a book, “Sayings of Chairman Robert”, but just didn’t have the time to get more than a few pages started. But all the stuff is here and some day when I am old and gray I want to just slowly go over everything he has said on this site and finish that book. It would be a primer for language teachers of unique value. I think Robert is used to us speaking like this about him here so I won’t even apologize. Robert serves the function on this site of a kind of mechanic. If anything is not quite in alignment with what comprehensible input is, he writes a few words and boom it’s clear, as in this case. The dude is a force.

  4. They don’t endorse translation. So when we are teaching the structure for the story, we could do it via translation in mere seconds, or we could act out “talks too much” and waste the entire class period. Since our time is so limited in schools, I endorse translation. Plus who wants to become a charadist and act out “talks too much” in front of a bunch of hormone cases? The ACTFL position on that particlar point is just silly.

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