- Is it that they are grammatically correct?
- Is it that they can read a book or watch a video in that language and understand the message?
- Is it that they can communicate with others when in a country where this language is the primary language?
- Is it that they can solve problems that arise while in a country where this language is the primary language?
While being grammatically correct and reading are both very important, I’m pretty sure that we would agree that being able to communicate with others and solve problems in another language would be more important. If I’m sick, I need to find a doctor or the hospital. Right?
I made several new friends at T³ last week. Culturally, we are very different. For example this came across my Twitter timeline from @mvanast:
“Laatste ontbijtje hier. Gek dat ze deken dat je ijsthee wilt, als je thee bestelt.”
Roughly translated it says “Last breakfast here. Crazy that they bring you iced tea when you order tea.” It is shocking to expect hot tea and be served iced tea. Michel speaks (and tweets) in English as well as Dutch. I, on the other hand, speak (and tweet) in English only. I can use the Live Search translator to read Michel’s messages. He does not need a translator to read my tweets.
Our colleagues, the teachers of foreign languages, want their learners to be prepared when they visit another country. We want our learners to understand the culture, the climate, the traditions and the customs as well as the language itself. Is this true for me, a teacher of mathematics, the language of science? I dare to say that most, if not all of my colleagues teaching foreign language have been to a country where the language they instruct is spoken. Have we, the teachers of mathematics?
Are we teaching a language when
we have never visited the lands where the language is spoken?
Has it been so long since we have visited these lands that
we have forgotten about the culture and the traditions that are important?
Photo by @fnoshese, 2010 (Cross River, NY)
What are the components of the culture, climate, traditions and customs? What are the conventions and must-knows for the lands our learners use our language to survive, function, and thrive? What serves as the Live Search translator for our learners when they are immersed in one of these lands? How can we, teacher-learners, develop opportunities for “foreign exchange programs” and visit these lands to experience the culture and practice our language?
“If we teach today as we taught yesterday,
we rob our children of tomorrow”
~ John Dewey