PRINCIPLES OF INTERACTIVE LANGUAGE TEACHING , WILGA M. RIVERS
Principle 10: The real world extends beyond the classroom walls; language learning takes place in and out of the classroom
"Language is a natural function of human association," according to Dewey. The more opportunities we have for human association with speakers of our new language, the more potential for growth in control of language for normal uses and spontaneous expression. In second language and bilingual situations, teachers with interactive aims have many possibilities available for strengthening language learning outside of the classroom through facilitating contacts between second-language learners and the native-speaker community surrounding them. They arrange for host families who invite students from other countries to share in holiday and family festivities. They set up structured interview assignments, which help their students overcome their diffidence and nervousness as they talk with native speakers in a purposeful way. They send their students out to discuss prices and quality of goods in shops or to use the telephone to enquire about a local sports club or the availability of videocassettes for rental. They take them to local restaurants, to the bank or the post office. They request reports on current films, television shows, or radio broadcasts, ranging from commercials or newshours to talk shows, sitcoms, or soap operas. They encourage students to give talks to local service clubs or schools. This kind of immersion in the "real world" has generally been considered difficult to arrange for foreign -language learners, who have remained inside their classrooms behind closed doors. This need not be the situation. More and more, as the world opens up through travel, student exchanges, the World Wide Web, and shared projects across cultures, the advantages second-language learners enjoy are being taken more seriously as options for all language learners.
In most communities, a little searching will lead to the discovery of some native speakers in the environs: expatriates, spouses, exchange students, visiting business executives, and experts of all kinds, often with their families, or newly arrived immigrants. Where there has been long established immigration, another source of native speakers is the retirement community or the senior citizens center. Sometimes older speakers of the language are isolated and lonely and are reverting to monolingualism. The "Adopt a Grannie" idea, which has proved so successful in social work, might be adopted here, as well as the fostering of phone friendships with elderly speakers of the language, many of whom are housebound. Sometimes it is possible for students to help monolingual speakers of the language with filling in forms or information on taxes and the availability of services; at other times, students collect data on their early lives in their native land.
Kipp, who worked in German classes in schools in Victoria, Australia, reports that motivation to speak the language being learned was dampened among students by the lack of a "sizeable native speaking peer group either inside or outside the school environment." Where there was a local community of German speakers, the students, she found, enjoyed any contacts that were readily available to them, but they did not engage in active searching for further language speech partners. This pinpoints the need for teacher leadership in assigning projects that will be integrated into classwork, so that students enjoy a sense of achievement after all their effort. Students whose motivation to seek out contacts is stimulated by the incentive of a language-related assignment or a group project will often ferret out further opportunities to use the language that the teacher did not dream were available. The project, whether to research the early experiences in this country of an elderly immigrant or his or her memories of "old country" tales and customs, should receive the recognition of being presented to the class, or reported in the school or local newspaper; alternatively, it may form part of a group writing project on unusual features of the local community for eventual dissemination within and beyond the school, even perhaps via a local-access cable channel.
Where there are no such resources, the community is contacted from a distance _ through pen-pals, tape pals, or e-mail; through classrooms twinned by computer and modem, sister city projects, collaboration with a commercial campaign at the local mall ("France" or "Italy in Our-Town"), where language students enliven the proceedings by singing songs in the language or performing dances of the culture. Weekend camps can be organized where teachers from different schools become the 'native speakers' for the duration. There are endless opportunities now for contact with other languages and cultures through satellite broadcasts and videos. We must seize every existing or imaginable opportunity for taking the language and its learners out of the classroom, in actuality or through vicarious experience.
Once our students see advantages and experience satisfactions in undertaking these kinds of projects, they will think of others of their own. Like barbecues, students need a little "starter".
Each of these principles expresses a philosophical or psychological position or attitude. We each teach according to firmly held attitudes of this kind. Our own may not be clear to our students or even to ourselves; we may not have paused to reflect on them sufficiently, but, if challenged or confronted with other views, we respond in a way that reveals "where we are coming from." By clarifying our attitudes and convictions in our own minds, we are strengthened to "select judiciously," as Palmer puts it, applying what we find to be useful, not for all time but for this time. Keeping the needs of our present language learners in the forefront of our thinking, we experiment and innovate purposefully in this particular context. We are in charge and we cede this role to no other. This way lies true professionalism _ with liberation from external pressures and empowerment to develop and improve our work in the way we judge to be best for our students.
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