American Association of Teachers of Slavic & East European Languages (AATSEEL)

I would like to thank the Berkeley Language Center for support I received through a BLC Travel Grant to attend the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages (AATSEEL) annual conference, held this year in Vancouver, BC, Canada, in January. I presented in both a poster session on teaching less commonly taught languages and in a Czech literature panel.  My poster, with brief accompanying talk, was entitled “Čeština Čapkem: Strategies for teaching language through cultural media;” my literature paper discussed “Revising the Classics: Literature in the Occupation.”

The poster session provided an opportunity to exchange ideas with other teachers of Czech, as well as of Polish and South Slavic languages. Of those addressing Czech topics, Christopher Harwood of Columbia University presented a poster on the use of fairy tales for Advanced Czech, Ewa Pasek of the University of Michigan discussed challenges in distance learning, and Milada Saskova-Pierce and Layne Pierce presented a poster on a project to involve students in preserving the Czech cultural heritage in Nebraska. There were three posters dealing with Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, although one concentrated only on the question of whether to accept “the new Croatian speak” (Marija Rosic, University of Michigan). Alexander Boskovic was unable to attend, but his poster on using the Alan Ford comics in the BCS classroom was presented by a colleague. Victoria Lejko-Lacan of UCLA presented a paper on teaching vocabulary in the BCS classroom. Anna Szawara of the University of Illinois at Chicago presented a paper on the use of technology to engage students with authentic materials. Wayles Brown did not present in this session but circulated among the posters and discussed the projects of various presenters.

I also attended talks on language teaching and teaching materials, as well as some literature sessions. Among the interesting sessions on teaching materials, Yuri Shevchuk’s project to create a Learner’s Dictionary of Ukrainian stands out for the scope and potential value of the project. He starts from the premise that there is no learner’s dictionary currently available for Ukrainian and lays out an ambitious set of goals. The dictionary is to be prescriptive, present words in alpha order, be bilingual (Ukrainian-English) and collocational, noting also mutations, and ranking meanings according to frequency. Unfortunately, the very scope makes it likely that it is years from completion. As a teacher of a language with a rather good learner’s dictionary, I appreciate the value of the eventual work and his efforts to expand it to include antonyms and to visualize its use as a learning tool for various levels.