Western Association of Asian Studies

On Oct. 4, I attended the Western Association of Asian Studies Conference at Arizona State University, Tempe, with a travel grant from the Berkeley Language Center.

I organized and chaired a panel entitled Using Authentic Materials in the Southeast Asian Language Classroom, and I presented a paper myself on that panel, entitled My Right to Free Speech: Using a 1990s Cambodian Elections PSA Video to Teach Political Vocabulary.  The paper documented an activity I do in the history and politics content unit of my Intermediate Khmer language class, taught here to both UC Berkeley and UCLA students.  Other papers in the panel discussed the use of oral histories acquired from family members by heritage students, and the use of poetry and pop songs to teach grammar in Vietnamese.

I didn’t feel this conference was particularly well planned.  Here we are in the middle of the semester, and they hold a conference that begins (with a reception) on Thursday night!  Most panels, and the keynote address, take place in the morning and afternoon on Friday, and then only a few panels take place on Saturday morning; everyone basically went home at noon on Saturday.  However, both colleagues on the panel and I had to teach on Friday (at UCLA), so we couldn’t get there until very late Friday night.  Basically, we just presented our papers, sat in and participated in the discussion of another panel by Southeast Asian language teaching colleagues, and then after lunch, the conference was over.

It’s always nice to see colleagues one has known for years, and who teach languages with similar pedagogical issues, but it would be nice to meet some new people—and have “outsiders” attend our language teaching panels—once in a while!  Once again, as has been the case for the past several conferences I’ve presented at, my panel was only attended by colleagues I’ve known for years, and it was a very small attendance at that.  In fact, the idea for this panel was hatched by the group of us when we attended a similarly “low-interest” panel by other colleagues at the Heritage Languages conference this past March, at UCLA!