Report on Consortium Conference at Brown University (Marion Gehlker)

Report on Consortium Conference at Brown University on Reassessing the Foreign Language Curriculum in the Age of Globalization, April 5, 2008

By Marion Gehlker, Dept. of Germanic Languages & Literatures

Presentations during the second half of the conference which I attended were a mix of theoretical considerations and practical suggestions.

On the one hand, there were interesting suggestions on how advanced language proficiency should or could be integrated in literature courses. Richard Donato (U Penn) proposed lesson study groups and break-out sessions as an innovative approach. Katherine Arens (Texas A&M) presented her well-known idea of précis writing as part of a multiple-literacies approach.

On the other hand, there were interesting suggestions on how to bridge the language-literature divide through university-wide collaborations. Roger Allen (Professor of Arabic, University of Pennsylvania) showed how the Department of Education had attempted to overcome the language-literature divide (which is at the heart of the MLA report and the Consortium conference) way back in the 1950s, when it established the interesting concept of area studies, with its concomitant support for graduate student research through FLAS in the 1990s.

International and area studies seem to be an extension of the idea of bridge courses, content-based advanced language courses and LAC courses, bridging not only the language- literature divide but involving instructors from various disciplines. Margery Resnick (Professor of Spanish, MIT) presented a convincing project on globalization at her institution. Of course these projects are time-intensive and demand collaboration on many levels.

Perhaps a similar global issues project could be conducted at our institution, e.g. on “individual and environment” (in line with Yale’s ‘green initiative’), “immigration experiences / self and other” or “capitals of the world.”

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