"One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way."
The above is a wonderful example of how we use language to synthesize and communicate complex ideas in a succinct and effective way. What Frank Smith teaches us here is that language is so muchmore than a set of rules and words pieced together to form the sentences we use to communicate with one another. To paraphrase Smith, a language is used not only to communicate, but presents a multitude of opportunities to explore different avenues, other cultures and ways of life. Throughout the second language learning process, students in my classroom will not only continue to build on their communication skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing) but will also learn about other ethnicities and cultures, debunk myths, as well as broadening their employment opportunities as they continue to advance toward entering the workforce.
Working toward building skills that will enable an individual in acquiring gainful employment is something that's regularly on the mind of many students and guardians. Shea (2008) comments in French, “Toute la population Canadienne devrait avoid le droit et la possibilite d’acquerir les competences linquistiques necessaire pour participer et contribuer pleinement, dans les deux langues officielles a la crossance economiques et a la gouvernance du Canada.” I agree with Shea's statement that all students should have the opportunity to explore their right as Canadian citizens to gain the competences necessary to participate and contribute to the growth of our society in both official languages.
It’s my belief that the key to students’ success in learning any language is established through interest and practical application. If the teacher does a good job of accessing students and identifying where they’re interests lie, they’ll have that much more success in helping them to learn by exploring how second language acquisition will benefit them both inside and outside the walls of the classroom.
To access students interests, I do so through inclusion of technology, media and popular culture as well as allowing students to be creative in their approach to learning language and exploring culture by giving them options, and license to build on experiences that are relevant not only to the learning exercise, but most importantly, to their lives.
Past are the days when second language learning focused on the memorization of grammar rules by means of constant note copying and verbal repetition. Morales (2008) says, “…Core French now aims to expose students to more spoken French; Core French curricula now requires students to use their linguistic and cultural knowledge to communicate in real-life situations.” Today's students demand real-life situations and that their interest be captured by means of learning and applying second language skills using a hands-on and active approach. As such, I incorporate biography writing, penpalship, pamplet creation, virtual cafes, films reviews, role playing, webquests, dramatic presentations and cultural days, coupled with a variety of media, in order to capture students interests and cater to their varrying learning styles.
I also establish a learning environment where students are always encouraged to make use of the language they’ve learned and practice it in an interactive setting where students are encouraged through games and activities to work on their skills in a relaxed and fun way. By establishing this kind of feel, students quickly lose the fear of making mistakes (an inevitability in second language learning) and are more likely to put their acquired skills to practice in a classroom where they’re reguarly soaring and crashing along with their peers.
Whether its allowing students to develop their listening and speaking skills through class discussion or games, or helping them to learn on their own, through reading, by means of theatrical presentation and role playing, or simply guiding them to discovery of grammatical rules in research and writing exercises, the beauty of the process is an understanding that we function and grow as a classroom, as the year progresses, and that we have fun, not only in, but also with, the process.
Morales, D. (Sept. 21, 2008) What is Core French? Retrieved July 7, 2010, from http://www.cpf.bc.ca/site3/index.php/faq/what-is-core-french
Canadian Parents for French. (2008) The State of French-Second-Language Education in Canada 2008: Agenda For Change. Retrieved July 7, 2010, from http://www.cpf.ca/eng/pdf/resources/reports/fsl/2008/FSL2008.pdf