L2: Volume 12 Issue 1

Culture as Non-Consensus: Exploring Coherence Among Native Speakers’ Perceptions of German Expressions of Affection

From early in their learning experience, foreign language (FL) learners at American universities explore socio-cultural connotations that, it is argued, are signified by FL words. Textbook authors and teachers follow an implicit canon of difference, a list of iconic words that over time—and without the benefit of empirical evidence—have come to represent essential differences in outlook between their native and the FL culture (Kubota, 2004). Despite the fast progression of the theory of teaching culture in FL learning (Kramsch, 2015; Risager, 2015), large empirical gaps remain. To date, there is little evidence that native speakers (NSs) of the FL perceive their cultural practices, including the cultural contexts in which language is used, homogenously enough to warrant their status as cultural traits. Using the example of expressions of affection, this exploratory study drew on qualitative and quantitative questionnaire data to investigate whether German NSs’ (N=52) accounts of their own and of most fellow Germans’ language behavior converged enough to derive a comprehensive and reliable cultural norm. Results indicated a lack of consensus among German NSs’ self-reported views, eluding the assumption of a pertinent community-specific norm. Implications for FL teaching and learning, as well as directions for future research, are discussed.

Community Service-Learning Translations in a Legal Spanish Course

Teachers’ Forum

There is growing interest in including service-learning courses in higher education, and abundant literature exists on this subject. Less researched is binomial service learning, specifically related to civic learning and legal translation. Studies on the goals of combining foreign language instruction with civic participation in the Hispanic community through translation have revealed very positive outcomes. This paper presents two different community-related translation activities in a Spanish course for specific purposes (specifically, Legal Spanish), and the corresponding students’ reflections. One is related to El Salvador and to asylum and refugee claims in the US, while the other is linked to a Health Center in Trenton, NJ. The conclusion summarizes the results and evaluates their significance in the context of community-learning service and their success in bringing students closer to a reality that is far beyond their context, while critically thinking about justice-related issues.

Creating Books for Use in Language Revitalization Classrooms: Considerations and Outcomes

Teachers’ Forum

In this paper, I examine the development, implementation, and results of utilizing three types of storybooks in a language revitalization classroom for students ages 5-12 learning Teotitlán del Valle Zapotec, an indigenous language of southern Mexico. Although each method used for creating books in Zapotec generated a positive reaction from students and parents, I consider the ways in which each method facilitates student learning while also problematizing the cultural authenticity of the classroom. Based on classroom observations, a parent focus group, and student interviews, I conclude that the most effective method for storybook creation involved students creating their own book modeled on a pre-existing book written in the non-indigenous language. This student-created book generated sustained interest in the language and allowed for students to shape the materials into something that was culturally relevant for them personally.

So That All May Speak: Inviting All to Describe Themselves in the L2 French Classroom

Teachers’ Forum

In this article, I examine two focal students of L2 French whose curiosity and embodied learning inspired me to rethink my teaching about personal gender expression and grammatical gender and to develop curricular innovations that would open up pathways for self-expression in the L2 French classroom.