It’s a myth: Equipping students to communicate with… themselves
In world language teaching, somehow we’ve come to believe that communication among learners is really going to equip them to communicate with native speakers.
For sure, it’s a start. It’s a necessary, good start. But it’s a myth.
Now, I’m all about collaborative learning in the classroom. I languish in a world where education is supposed to be quiet. “Students, quiet, be quiet, no talking” and so on is not something you hear a lot in my classroom (well, not in the target language anyway!). And it’s great, I don’t want to sound like our students actually communicating information to each other is a bad thing. Goodness knows it’s so much better than them sitting there counting to fifty like robots. But language learners and language teachers develop skills in interpreting other language learners. So when my students start a sentence with pozo I know what they mean is pues. But any native speaker is going to be pretty puzzled by it.
Think about the first time you had to communicate with a native speaker. For some of us we still get a bit of a cold sweat. What if I make a mistake? What if I mispronounce something? What will they think about me trying to speak their language? Beginners feel these same things on a grand scale. But we need to push them to make connections with the target language community anyway. They’ll be brave. They’ll make friends. They’ll learn for life instead of for class.
Last week three of my students went to an international festival and recorded themselves introducing themselves to a random Guatemalan. Such a low proficiency target – an introduction – particularly for AP students. But I was pleased. They didn’t have to do it; it was one of many options they could have done to fulfill their weekly language interaction requirement. But they chose to go downtown to a rowdy festival and find someone to talk to. I couldn’t have been prouder.
How are your students connecting to real target language communities?