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Re : [MaestrosdeEspanol] Monolingual Americans: Why We Can't Learn Foreign Languages

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  • emilia rodriguez
    Thank you Charlotte for your opinion and book recommendation. Become a fluent in a foreign language it takes not one year ( less or more) in a foreign country.
    Message 1 of 2 , Sep 1, 2008
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      Thank you Charlotte for your opinion and book recommendation. Become a fluent in a foreign language it takes not one year ( less or more) in a foreign country. It takes all your live. I did not say become bilingual or a native speaker ( I have my doubts about this). Living in the country is a great and wonderful experience. Is one option for the people have time and money. As a 13 years of professional experience teacher of  foreign languages and as an eternal student of foreign language; if you like to become a fluent speaker you have more options than go outside. There are many factors in this option: you have to be very active looking for opportunities in order to practice the language, and to be expose as much as possible. I have experiences with people that they never have been outside the country and they speak fluent, but the amount of years ( hours) spending in learning ( formal or informal context) is more than the others living in a foreign country. Also it depends of the language, the motivation and the purpose of learning this language. Frequency of be exposed to this language, is for me the key of all. I am agree with you about our classes here: we talk about Spanish or French or other languages but we don't make the students speak. Most of this practice is because the students don't like to do the effort. They are not motivated and they don't find any practical purpose to learning a foreign language. The first question they ask you, is why they have to study Spanish. They don't plan to go in a Spanish speaking country and the English is the lingua franca in this moment( as latin was for many centuries ). The real reason is there is not other purpose than a" practical goal".When my college students tell me they are taking Spanish is a requirement and tell them mathematics also, and biology and sure the most of them will become a mathematician, and with the computers, calculators and computer programs we dont need that. As European we protected our languages and of course English is the lingua franca also, but in each country they speak their own language. The question they ask you in a job interview is not: Do you speak English or...? is How many languages do you speak? Means speaking foreign languages is part of our education and skills, like use a computer, or internet. Here there is not a educational, cultural or formation of the person interest is only a commercial interest ( don't lose Spanish speakings customers) and also the business of teaching English ESL is in risk ( they make a lot of millions and trillions with this language business). Not only Spanish; education is not considered a right, an investment in you as a person:  is a privilege, and this is the result.
      Also the social status of Spanish here ( in my experience of course), is not good. Spanish is the language of the immigrants and the Mexicans: means the poors in the world. Learning French or German are glamorous languages!!!!!. I have an experience with a very famous linguistic professor, in short : they don't believe in the benefits in learning other languages. If this people don't believe and they are the responsibles of promote this learning, is obvious  that we cannot progress in this field. In Europe and other continents ,thousand of students spend money and time in order to speak foreign languages although they know perhaps they will not use these languages in their life.
      Foreign languages, math, biology and other subjects are the knowlegde we acquire in order to become a human thinker with a critical thinking. These subjects are the energy for our brains. We do exercice with the body but we need to also do with our brains in order to get the basic skills. Do you remember the movie I did recommend you?(Idiocracy).
      As you know education is a power, the power of knowledge. You can lose all our money, your home, your family etc.but you will never lose your education.    
      This comment is not a negative critique to the education in States, also in the rest of the countries education is not perfect. Humans need a deep reflection about our goals/purposes in the live and the consequences of them. I have just read an articule about the education in my country and is a topic very controversial and complexe.
       Thank you again Charlotte for this reflection .
      Take care,
      Maria
      ----- Message d'origine ----
      De : Charlotte Meyer <cherokeecfg@...>
      À : Maestro de Español <maestrosdeespanol@yahoogroups.com>
      Envoyé le : Vendredi, 29 Août 2008, 18h39mn 20s
      Objet : [MaestrosdeEspanol] Monolingual Americans: Why We Can't Learn Foreign Languages

      Listeros,
      I just finished reading the book by Dr. William Jiraffales, "Monolingual Americans: Why We Can't Learn Foreign Languages." I found it quite an interesting read. Although there are many great points in the book that would be fun to discuss, the one point I would like to bring up is the Duke University experiment where they did away with their local language department in favor of sending students overseas to learn a foreign language. While I am all in favor of spending time in-country and consider it a valuable part of language learning, one particular point has never been addressed that bothers me: not all college students are single. Duke's plan discriminates against married students. Only students who have no family responsibilities are capable of leaving the country for an extended period of time. (I was able to attend summer school in Mexico between my first and second year of junior college.) Many married students with dependent children
      attend college and leaving the country to study a foreign language is out of the question for them. I was livid when I heard what Duke University was doing. I lived near Des Moines at the time and went through a "what if?" phase. What if I wanted to go back to college and re-study Spanish? What if I wanted to go back to school and get a teaching license in Spanish? I certainly wouldn't be doing it at Duke University! I still had children at home. It is now about 7 years later and guess what? I *did* decide to go back to college, refresh my Spanish skills, and get a teaching license in Spanish. I now live in eastern Iowa and attend college in Dubuque. The college does have the option of semesters abroad in Spain and I'd love to go, but "it ain't gonna happen." I still have a high schooler at home and two children in the community college. Dad is a community college professor and bringing in the bread so Mommy is still needed at home. :-) I
      have believed for a long time that students don't learn Spanish in the schools, they learn *about* Spanish in the schools. They learn to *speak* Spanish when they spend a significant amount of time in a Spanish-speaking country. Dr. Jiraffales encourages teachers to be honest and up-front about what the students will be able to accomplish in a language class, and that is probably what I would tell them, that they will learn about the language in my class, but they will learn to speak the language when they spend some time in-country using it. It's a fact that one does not need to go to Greece to really learn geometry or to an Arab country to really learn algebra, but it's another thing when it comes to foreign language. The very term indicates that it is a discipline from outside the country. Sad, but true. I hope some of you have the opportunity to read this book because it would make for a very lively discussion, one that I would welcome because
      I am interested in hearing different points of view on this topic.

      Charlotte Meyer
      Spanish certification student
      Clarke College, Dubuque Iowa



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    • Charlotte Meyer
      ... Yes, I saw the movie. You told us how the movie showed the language being dumbed down over the years. But another important point in the movie stuck out
      Message 2 of 2 , Sep 1, 2008
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        > Do you remember the movie I did recommend you?(Idiocracy).

        Yes, I saw the movie. You told us how the movie showed the language being dumbed down over the years. But another important point in the movie stuck out for me.
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1sE1E3z7jU
        This is the opening to the movie Idiocracy and has a LOT to say about intellectual people choosing to limit their families while people who are not too bright can't seem to stop making babies, thus changing the demographics and the IQ of the average citizen slowly goes down over the years. It makes me glad that my college professor husband and I have five children. :-)

        Charlotte Meyer
        Spanish certification student
        Clarke College, Dubuque Iowa
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