With the upgrading and expansion of school Internet infrastructures, using technology in the language classroom has become ever more popular. Student and teacher communication through E-mail is becoming more common, better Internet-based lesson plans are being designed, and teachers now have more access to networked labs, where they can create interesting in-class activities and possibly develop distance learning environments.
Whether they know it or not, students who are studying a second language today find themselves in a fortunate position. While high school and university students are exposed to a number of fields such as biology, anthropology, and music, little is known about how students best learn about ecosystems, ancient cultures, and melody. However, much is known about how people acquire a second language. Indeed, scholars have been studying in earnest the manner in which people acquire a second-language for more than twenty-five years. While there is much that we do not know about second-language acquisition, researchers have been able to identify the most important cognitive, classroom, and social conditions that facilitate the learning process.
Business language courses have been a more or less integral part of college and university level language curricula since the 1970’s. The nature of these courses, however, is as varied as the institutions offering them, with courses that basically handle business communication at one end of the spectrum and those that offer introductory to advanced content-based work in business and economics themes and concepts at the other. These variations are the result of the diversity inherent in the goals and objectives of language programs at the institutions where they are housed.
It used to be that students. once they got to middle school or high school, had their choice of two to three foreign languages to study. At my own high school, I was able to choose from French, Spanish, or Latin. Today's students are different. Students are asking for, and schools are providing, an increasing array of languages from which to choose. Languages such as Japanese or Swahili are beginning to creep into school curricula. Universities as well are offering more and more language choices for their students. Still, school and university curricula tend to be dominated by a core set of languages, namely French, Spanish, and German. Languages other than French, Spanish, and German, because they are less frequently taught and studied, are referred to as the less commonly taught languages, or LCTLs.
The Use of Internet Technologies to Integrate the National Foreign Language Standards in a Cultural Learning Scenario Format
In a standards-based curriculum, all five standards should be seamlessly integrated. Thus, the cultural standard would be intertwined with other aspects of a foreign language curriculum: making connections with other disciplines (history, art, cinematography, film), drawing linguistic and cultural comparisons between the source and target languages and cultures, and engaging in use of the target language outside the classroom with various communities (e.g., other language learning communities, target culture communities in the U.S. or in target culture countries). In order to engage learners actively in the attainment of these goals, they must participate in activities based on the communication standard. These would consist of tasks that would allow for practice of the interpretive (receptive skills), presentational (productive skills), and interpersonal (interactive skills) modes.
Quite a few claims have been made lately about the fantastic resources that foreign language teachers can find on the World Wide Web (WWW). With this article we will explore why the web is so good for foreign language teaching and specifically why and how WWW-based activities can be useful for teaching our students about the target culture. The web provides a storehouse of realia, authentic language, and topics that have broad appeal to students. As such it is a valuable tool for teaching culture as advocated in the ACTFL standards and by many scholars. In addition, it provides students with opportunities to make meaning and test their hypotheses of the target culture.
With the rapid and growing explosion of the World Wide Web, there is an overwhelming amount of material that provides opportunities for students to submerge themselves in the target language culture and interact with native speakers, and for schools to collaborate with each other in language projects. Coupled with the awareness that the web is an extraordinary tool for language teaching is the fact that searching for adequate materials or developing activities that support language learning in this environment can be extremely time consuming. With the unique situation of each classroom context, even the use of other teachers' resources may call for adaptation.
Business language courses have become a part of foreign language programs at many colleges and universities since the early 1970s. In the more recent past, business language instruction also has been introduced in numerous foreign language curricula in secondary schools. Despite its spread and rising popularity, however, basic issues are currently being raised by many colleagues who are interested in business language instruction but are dealing with administrative constraints, professional obstacles, and personal reservations for which they seek collegial support and guidance.
Because teaching demands a high level of responsibility, as teachers we tend to assume responsibility more easily than we delegate it. We do our utmost to ease the burden of learning for our students. Occasionally, though, we may err too far in that direction. As the saying goes, one learns by doing, so we need to ensure that students are fully involved in all aspects of the learning process. Two primary student responsibilities are participation in class and preparation beforehand. Clearly, we cannot do homework or volunteer for students. We can, however, make it a priority to factor in student accountability when planning activities and assignments. The suggestions offered below are geared toward helping students become better prepared and more active in class.
Thirty-eight secondary school teachers from 15 states participated in a teacher education program from July 20-Aug. 1. The Taos Institute for Language Teachers, sponsored by CLEAR and co-sponsored by the Centers for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) at Michigan State University (MSU) and San Diego State University (SDSU) and by the Language Acquisition Resource Center (LARC) at SDSU, was held at the Thunderbird Lodge in Taos Ski Valley, N.M.