FC Language Teacher: Lesson 2 and 3

Language Teacher: Lesson 2 and 3

ACTFL Guidelines

ACTFL stands for the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. According to its home page, ACTFL is “a national organization dedicated to the improvement and expansion of the teaching and learning of all languages at all levels of instruction throughout the U.S.”
In 1986, ACTFL developed a set of global descriptions of linguistic performance for speaking, listening, reading, and writing. These descriptions of language ability came to be known as the “ACTFL proficiency guidelines”. These guidelines identify various stages of proficiency, as opposed to achievement. In other words, the guidelines attempt to assess what individuals can and cannot do with the target language regardless of the curriculum.


Dr. Garza on the ACFTL Guidelines.
Duration: 02:18

Read through the ACTFL proficiency levels (e.g., Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, Superior) and estimate your own linguistic proficiency. Note that you may be stronger in one skill than in another (e.g., stronger in reading than in speaking).

National Standards

The National Standards for Foreign Language Education were first published in 1996 as a response to the US Department of Education’s mandate that all core subjects in American education have a set of standards. The collaborative product of 10 foreign language associations, the national standards’ basic philosophical tenet is the following: “Language and communication are at the heart of human experience. The United States must educate students who are equipped linguistically and culturally to communicate successfully in a pluralistic society and abroad. This imperative envisions a future in which ALL students will develop and maintain proficiency in English and at least one other language, modern or classical” (Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century, 2006, p. 7).
The 11 different national standards of this document are grouped into five categories (i.e., Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities) that are collectively referred to as the “5 Cs” amongst foreign language educators.
Read about the “5 C’s” defined in the National Standards:
National Standards for Foreign Language Teaching
According to Scott (2010), the National Standards have already had a significant impact on foreign language teaching at the elementary and secondary levels but relatively little impact on the college level. Why do you think this is so?


Dr. Garza on the National Standards for Foreign Language Teaching.
Duration: 01:05



Summarize the major differences between the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines and the National Standards. Do you agree with Dr. Garza that they are complementary? If so, how?

Communicative Language Teaching

The term “Communicative Language Teaching” (CLT) means different things to different teachers. To some teachers, it simply means a greater emphasis on the use of the target language in the classroom, and in particular, a greater emphasis on orality. To other teachers, communication entails the exchange of unknown information between interlocutors. And finally, some teachers understand communication in the most global, anthropological terms, that is, as a cultural-bond system for making meaning. Despite their various definitions of CLT, all the module instructors seem to advocate for a communicative approach.
Have you heard educators use the term “Communicative Language Teaching?” What did they mean by this term? Did you notice different emphases? What is your own definition? Do you teach for communication?


Dr. Abrams discusses Communicative Language Teaching.
Duration: 02:32



Dr. Abrams emphasizes “real-life language use” in her definition of communicative language teaching. In her discussion, she takes the “speech event” as the point of departure for language teaching, rather than a discrete grammar point or a set of vocabulary items. Do you think that current pedagogical materials meet these criteria for “communicativeness?” In other words, how much information do pedagogical materials contain about the larger cultural context of communication?

Authentic Texts in the Foreign Language Classroom

Discussions about real-life language use often mention the role of authentic texts and authentic materials. Dr. Garza defines authentic language as “language produced by native speakers for native speakers to be consumed in a native environment.” But this leads to further questions about the appropriate use of authentic texts in a foreign language classroom. After all, the classroom is not to be confused with the “native environment.”


Dr. Garza on authentic texts.
Duration: 00:50

Authentic materials present special challenges for beginning teachers and beginning students. Dr. Garza acknowledges that teachers must “manipulate and massage” authentic materials to make them appropriate for the classroom. What do you think he means? Choose an authentic text and specify how you would “massage” it for you own classroom.


Despite continued reference to separate language skills (e.g., speaking, listening, reading, and writing) within the teaching profession, more and more foreign language educators emphasize an integrated curriculum. In other words, most teachers recognize that the four language skills support each other and are found together in real-life language use. Some pedagogues such as Dr. Garza call for the integration of all four skills by emphasizing the over-arching construct of culture. To him, culture ties language skills and use together into a more coherent curriculum.


Dr. Garza discusses the importance of integration.
Duration: 01:21

Challenges of Integration

While generally agreeing with the general concept of integrating language skills via culture, many of the beginning language teachers voice concern throughout the modules that integration is a challenge for them.


Vince, a beginning language teacher, on the challenges of integration.
Duration: 00:55

Why do you think that integration poses a particular challenge for beginning teachers? Do they lack practice in integrating language skills or is this simply a more intellectually challenging endeavor?


Regardless of the particular module (e.g., speaking, reading, pragmatics, grammar, etc.), instructors stress the importance of sequencing activities to form a logical progression. Despite its importance for learning, novice teachers seem to find the concept of pedagogical sequencing, or layering, challenging at times because it requires the teacher to have the big picture—how the pieces of each activity build on previous activities and lead to a final whole.


Verónica, a beginning language teacher, on the importance of activity “layers.”
Duration: 01:23

Verónica argues that pedagogical layering teaches students that language learning is an incremental, step-by-step process that cannot be rushed.
Do you agree with Verónica that novice teachers often forget how much time and effort language learning requires and try to speed up the process?

Implementing a Pedagogical Sequence

Another benefit of sequencing multiple activities into a single integrated lesson is that it allows the teacher to demonstrate how the whole (language) is built from many separate pieces (vocabulary, grammar, pragmatics, etc.). Each activity should logically build on what has been previously studied and lead naturally to a subsequent activity. Such a careful sequence helps to create pedagogical coherence that in turn helps students stay on task.


Dr. Abrams on the benefits of a pedagogical sequence.
Duration: 01:51

What does Dr. Abrams mean when she speaks about foreign language students becoming ethnographic/anthropological linguists? Do you think this is a reasonable goal for your students? Why or why not?


[Module Instructor Dr. Zsuzsanna Abrams, Associate Professor of German and Dr. Tom Garza, Associate Professor of Russian]. 2010. [Language Teachers]. In Foreign Language Teaching Methods. Carl Blyth, Editor. Texas Language Technology Center, University of Texas at Austin. http://coerll.utexas.edu

The material is provided free of charge for those that wish to study it.

How ever a no obligation  exam is available at the end of this module.