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Theoretical Stances

Theoretical Stances

It's a complicated thing, teaching foreign languages.  I guess that every discipline is difficult to teach, but it seems like foreign languages, literature and cultures have a set of challenges that are not present in, say, math.  First and foremost, you need to have access to "the other" that you are studying... and oftentimes, this "other" is located thousands of miles away.  This is why people who teach foreign languages, literatures and cultures use modern media.  It's a way for us to bring "the other" home, to the classroom.  It's a well proven fact that the more access you have to the second language culture, the more quickly you acquire the language.  Hence, the great utility found in transnational/transcultural/translingual media.

Over the next few months, I am going to look at how modern language classroom practices relate to three domains:  media, theory and pedagogy.  Better yet, I'm going to look at how these three domains do not exist as isolated entities.  

Specifically, I will be exploring the domains in the light of the theories outlined in Double Talk:  Deconstructing Monolingualism in Classroom Second Language Learning by my Vanderbilt colleague, Virginia M. Scott.  I work with her closely at our Center for Second Language Studies.  In Double Talk, Scott looks at different topics related to foreign language teaching practices, such as:  attitudes towards monolingualism/bilingualism; code-switching; language loss/gain; the function of words; the function of grammar; and cross-cultural literacy.  She does this through the lens of two theoretical stances:  dynamic systems theory (DST) and multicompetence.  How does the mix of theory, pedagogical concerns and transnational/transcultural media come together in the classroom?  I will explore this during the coming months.

But, I have a question for you... how do you choose the media that you use in your classes?  Do you undergo a reflective process?  Do you choose it because you like it personally?  Do you choose it because it's funny/cool?  Do you carefully look at it in terms of content and evaluate it to a set of established criteria.... your criteria or those of others?  I'm curious as to this process.  Let's start here.


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