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Keynote and Plenary Speakers
Speaker: Heidi Byrnes, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. (United States)
Keynote Title: Reconsidering Crosscultural Abilities: The Link to Language Learning and Assessment
Developing cross-cultural abilities has traditionally been associated with learning a non-native language. At the same time, the language profession has not been entirely successful at making a principled case for how language as a meaning-making system in and of itself is deeply implicated in ways of cultural knowing. By extension, it has also not considered the activity of learning a second language, including learning it in an instructed setting, as developing new forms of cross-cultural knowing.
Dr. Byrnes will pursue these issues from three perspectives: First, from the standpoint of language as a semiotic system, she will explore how language is ‘naturally’ functional, that is, how the resources of a language itself, including its grammar, are meaningful.
Second, because learning a second language in educational settings is about learning content, including cultural content, Byrnes will propose that a language-based approach to knowing presents ‘critical thinking’ as a form of multivoicedness and will argue that such an approach is particularly well suited to an increasingly globalized world.
Finally, because educational contexts are inherently charged with assessing students’ learning, Byrnes will consider how the construct of multivoicedness, as theorized in systemic functional linguistics, can make cultural knowing in and through and with a second language visible. In that fashion such learning not only becomes amenable to being assessed but also to being appropriately valued in educational contexts.
Speaker: Celeste Kinginger, Pennsylvania State University (United States)
Plenary Title: Exploring the Intercultural Dimensions of Cross-Border Language Learning
Many applied linguists and language educators accept the notion that language and culture learning are inextricably linked. Neologisms such as 'languaculture' (Agar, 1994) represent the profession's resolve to overcome the dual legacy of structuralist emphasis on language as a system abstracted from use and of utilitarianism's strict focus on the instrumental in language education. Yet, in research on study abroad, relatively little attention is given to the intercultural in relation to language learning. In this talk Dr. Kinginger will first trace several lines of inquiry leading to the intercultural aspects of cross-border language learning. These include research on the development of pragmatic competencies, studies of language socialization in specific interactive contexts, and ethnographic or other qualitative investigations analyzing students' own accounts of their experiences. Kinginger will then outline some limitations of this research in terms of its ability to enhance our understanding of language learning as an intercultural phenomenon. Finally, she will offer a wish list of design features for the future of research on language learning abroad, emphasizing the need to reframe both the topic of the research and the research itself as collaborative, dialogic, and truly intercultural activities.
Agar, M. (1994). Language shock: Understanding the culture of conversation. New York: William Morrow & Co.
Speaker: Olga Kagan, University of California, Los Angeles (United States)
Plenary Title: Intercultural Competence of Heritage Language Learners: Motivation, Identity, Language Attitudes and the Curriculum
Heritage language learners differ from typical L2 students in a variety of ways, including:
- their language proficiencies;
- reasons for studying their home language in the formal setting of a foreign language classroom; and
- perception of themselves as Americans and, at the same time, the “other.”
Dr. Kagan will discuss the results of a national survey that demonstrates heritage language learners' intrinsically intercultural attitude toward their heritage language. She will also focus on specific pedagogical implications of the learners' identities, motivations, and language perceptions for the heritage language curriculum.
Speaker: David Fenner, World Learning (United States)
Plenary Title: Targeting the Target Language: Strategies in a Multilingual Environment
Of the many challenges along the path to achieving intercultural competence in a foreign language is the necessity for untangling the target language from a potentially frustrating “they’re speaking in tongues!” language learning environment. Foreign language students around the world seldom live and study in monolingual environments.
World Learning’s experience in Oman - where an American student of Arabic might live with a Swahili-speaking host family and buy all her groceries from an Urdu speaker while “friending” someone back home in English - presented them with an at-times vexing range of pedagogical and programmatic decision-points. These revolved around the question of how to zero in on the target language amid what students sometimes felt to be a cacophonous – or even unfair – learning environment. Add to this the “diglossic” nature of spoken and Modern Standard Arabic, and you can quickly see how some students came to feel the language acquisition deck was stacked against them.
This plenary will explore which of these decisions led to strategies that improved results, and which ones were quickly (or should have been!) abandoned. Among these are language pledges, peer tutors, news media, educational technologies, exclusive use of the target language in the classroom, and variations in “exposure” time to activate (using the good term of Brustad, et al.) new skills. Lastly, the talk will advocate for intentional partnerships between and among students, teachers, administrators and the larger community to create the kind of environment and policies that allow students to hit their target and their stride in learning a second language.
Speaker: Jun Liu, Georgia State University (United States)
Plenary Title: Intercultural In/competence: The Top Challenge for Guest Chinese Teachers in US Schools
Due to the high demand for Chinese language classes in K-12 schools in the US, every year the Office of Chinese Language Council International (known as Hanban) sends more than 100 guest teachers to the US. Most of these guest teachers go through a training program prior to their departure.
As chief designer for Standards for Teachers of Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages as well as Chinese Language Teacher Training Programs, Liu recently conducted an ethnographic study to understand the challenges and difficulties these guest teachers encounter and also strategies they use to deal with the challenges. An on-line survey coupled with on-site visits and interviews with guest teachers, school principals, and host families reveal that the No. 1 challenge these teachers face is intercultural incompetence while being immersed in the US environment.
Implications will be discussed with regards to curriculum development and course design for the training programs, methodology of teacher training, and selection criteria for guest teachers. Liu will further point out that intercultural competence cannot be learned, but acquired and experienced in immersive environments which can be designed through simulation, sharing, observing, and reflection.
Speaker: Judith M. Maxwell, Tulane University (United States)
Plenary Title: Pulsating Galactic Classrooms, Immersion Environments, Individual vs. Group Language Learning at Home and Abroad
Some constants of language learning are “cultural immersion and relevance”, “creating safe environments for learning”, and “full involvement of the student in the language acquisition process”. Oxlajuj Aj, the Tulane summer intensive Language and Culture class, has been running now for 24 years. Over this time these principles have held, while the “classroom” experience “pulsated” around them. The course as instantiated in Guatemala has a near one-to-one native speaker teacher to student ratio. New material can be presented in dramatizations with multiple “actors”, while other teachers remain among the student viewers and can elucidate. At each stage in the five-step process of moving from passive reception to active production teachers are literally at the students’ sides, encouraging, whispering, supporting, modelling the language. Practice sessions expand and contract from tutorials to dyads to small groups and back. Regular interaction with the host community keeps the language relevant in the students’ daily rounds.
Yet this luxurious model of multiple teachers in a classroom is often rendered infeasible by salary considerations. Nonetheless, master teachers from Oxlajuj Aj are “colonizing” more traditional classroom settings in Guatemala. One teacher using the methodology solo successfully ran a week-end course for 45 students; another has transferred the techniques to teaching 8-12 graders. At Tulane this Fall semester we have scaled down to two teachers in the classroom, with the participation of veteran students adding to the dynamism.
Learning outcomes from these enriched language learning environments confirm that students who take risks and speak learn; students who opt out by giving minimal responses (no response being disallowed) consistently score lower on both oral and written evaluations. Movement, laughter, games, and application hold the key to fostering the confidence to speak. Interaction with host communities provides both re-enforcement and reward for the effort at learning the language.