Marion Gehlker Attends UC Consortium Conference

UC Consortium Conference, San Diego, April 19-22, 2012

I will report on three presentations I found most interesting:

1. MULTILINGUAL PRACTICES IN THE MONOLINGUAL CLASSROOM, by Claire Kramsch, Professor, Department of German, UC Berkeley

After summarizing major developments in FLL+T and SLA research in the past twenty years that propagated multi-culturalism but adhered to mono-lingualism, Claire Kramsch suggested that in an increasingly multi-lingual and multi-cultural world it is time to move beyond a monolingual classroom to one of “semio-diversity” (Haliday 2002). She referred to the 2011 MLJ, devoted to the topic of multi-lingualism. She provided concrete examples on how to implement this vision of multilingual practices through the concept of code-switching:

  • students read text in L1 and report on it in L2;
  • students write a journal in two languages and explain their code-switching
  • students rewrite L1 text in L2
  • students adopt different points of view, e.g., they read Erich Kästner’s account on the bombing of Dresden and then write a letter on the 60th anniversary of this event from different points of view, e.g., the only survivor of this event
  • students read various translations of a poem, including hybrid translations (i.e., texts in L1 with some words in L2) and compare them

2. MULTILINGUAL PRACTICES IN THE MONOLINGUAL CLASSROOM, by Carol Padden, Professor, Department of Communication and Center for Research in Language, UC San Diego

Carol Padden delivered a most unusual talk in and on ASL (American Sign Language), the fastest growing foreign language in the US [number 4 after Spanish, French and German according to recent MLA data]. It was fascinating seeing her rapid hand movements and facial expressions being translated into sophisticated English. Born to deaf parents and herself deaf, she started with a brief history of ASL and ASL teaching. There are about 200,000-250,000 signers in the US and Canada, not all of them deaf; and 130 sign languages worldwide. There’s even a Canadian dialect. ASL is about 200-300 years old, with no written linguistic system. The history of teaching ASL did not start until the 1970s, when the name sign language started being used. There were early versions of ASL textbooks. Padden wrote one herself entitled Learning American Sign Language (2004), which, for the first time, contained grammar and rules about ASL use. She discussed which students are possibly interested more in ASL than other languages: those who would not have taken another language, but are interested in human language, the brain.

There has been a tremendous shift in how deaf people are perceived. Whereas earlier they lived amongst themselves in communities which provided special schools for the deaf, or attended boarding schools for the deaf, they are now integrated into the regular school and college system. An audience member asked the interesting question why ASL is considered a foreign language in the US.

3. Developing Symbolic Competence Through Film Clips, by Mark Kaiser & Rossella Carbotti, UC Berkeley

Rossella Carbotti discussed a topic close to my heart: using films in FL classes not simply for their socio-political significance or to discuss language use in film, but also for the language of film, i.e., its visual cues, film syntax and rhetorical devices.

This was my first time attending the bi-annual Consortium Conference in San Diego. The conference brought together SLA and pedagogy people in a wonderful setting. All presentations and discussions took place right at the hotel on the beautiful California coast in La Jolla (most of the time too foggy to see much though). I am looking forward to the East Coast Conference in 2014!

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