What the Three Modes Mean to Me

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5 thoughts on “What the Three Modes Mean to Me”

  1. Ben, I’ve been reflecting a bit on your comments above.
    I think what you are suggesting is probably a functional distinction for the lower levels. It certainly makes grading easier.
    For upper levels, especially 4 and AP, I think you have to include writing in the interpersonal communication and oral in the interpretive communication. The latter is probably easier to do: play a song without a printed text, do a podcast, watch a scene from a film. For the former, I have introduced an Internet component. Currently it is a short period of time in which I create a Facebook page and open it to class members only. (I’m also looking at other possible venues for doing this so as to avoid Facebook.) I don’t (and don’t plan to) do this activity with the lower levels.
    For everyone, here is part of the difference between where Ben is coming from and where I am coming from. Ben concentrates on level 1 (and 2?) because that’s what he teaches. I have to think about how everything looks at all levels. This was very clear to me in the post about “Culture can wait” – the cultural elements in levels 1 and 2 are the ones that come in naturally, like using the thumb to show “one”. In levels 3 and 4/AP we can talk about the culture in the target language; I have my students “move” to either Berlin or Vienna and learn about the culture of those cities as we do our class activities. For my medieval unit we look at ways that the language still reflects the time, e.g. “on his high horse”.
    And as long as I’m rambling . . .
    . . . while I find the changes to the AP test for German and French very positive, we still need to remember that AP is intended for a level of language acquisition that most of our students cannot reach in four years. (According to the State of California, students who have been in language classes for 13 years should be ready for AP.) I’ll send Ben a comparison I did of the CEFR, ACTFL and ILR levels, plus AP. Maybe he can post it somewhere.
    CEFR – Common European Frame of Reference
    ACTFL – American Council on Teaching Foreign Language
    ILR – Interagency Language Roundtable (used by Foreign Service Institute)

  2. Thank you so much, Ben and Robert, for your hard work on this important matter. I teach Levels 1-5, grades 8-12, and was torn by the intuitively contradictory requirement of output in the early levels with the interpersonal and presentational modes. Your thoughts, Ben, help me to clarify in my mind what these standards look like for the lower levels (and get rid of the guilt of not requiring much output at all in levels 1 and 2). Invaluable.

  3. Hey, Kelly. Yes it is an amazing thing that we can allow ourselves to be guilted by people who haven’t even thought the input/output thing through. There is this cavalier Tarot fool kind of assumption in the minds of many that output can happen right away.
    Is it only Krashen who talks about input in the form of reading and listening as a crucial prerequisite for writing and speaing later? He can’t be the only one, and yet where in the Standards – if they are to be based on current research – do we see this key fact reflected?
    The part about language acquisition being an unconscious process, also, so key to everything we do, gets little if any mention.
    I wrote about a month ago here that what allows me to even grasp those illusive – they are very slippery – terms is a simple formula using hand gestures (I always need to simplify everything):
    Mode 1: When I think of interpersonal I put my hands out in front of me, kind of to my sides, and then I move them across the front of my body so the line thus described is back and forth in front of me. That is two people negotiating meaning. In the lower levels, since I am the only one in the classroom who speaks the language, this takes the form of the kids actively listening for a few years before they start speaking spontaneously (in the spring of level 2 in my experience) because of all the hard wired input they have experience for almost two years. Without those initial two years of listening, in my view, true interpersonal speech, true negotiation of meaning using speech, cannot happen. Interpersonal is when the students listen to input early and produce output later, but are all along negotiating meaning.
    Mode 2: When I think of the interpretive mode of communication I put my hands out in front of me like those people who bring planes to a stop at the airport – they wave the plane in with those orange things in their hands. I put my hands out and wave in the information. That is interpretive to me. It is input as listening and reading. Interpretive is input.
    Mode 3: When I think of the presentational mode I think of my hands going in the opposite direction from the interpretive mode. They go out away from my body like I would want to put the plane in reverse and go away from me. This is output in the forms of writing and speaking in which, as the Standards say, there is “little opportunity for feedback”. Interesting to note that it is impossible for planes to back up on their own, they have to be pulled out from where they park in those huge parking lots for planes. So also, it is impossible for our students to do any authentic speaking or writing before they have had, in my opinion, hundreds if not thousands of hours of input in the forms of listening and reading. Presentational is output.

  4. My nephew-in-law is getting a doctorate in communication. He has never heard of the 3 modes. I think they were invented by ACTFL. Am I wrong?
    I saw online 3 types of communication: verbal, non-verbal and written. The non-verbal is interesting because it is included in the interpersonal mode and the body language standard on the rubric that Robert has.

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