Introduction to a comparison of a Linguistic orientation & a Humanities orientation

L = language or languages.

Having decided against posting this to a listserv, I only hope someone will read these and comment. I am particularly interested in hearing from those who take umbrage whenever some of us talk about communicative teaching, those who say, “I do teach for communication but you can’t communicate until you know your verb endings.” Even more, I’d like to hear from those who believe the curriculum is being diluted by too much emphasis on students using the L. These folks characterize their methods of paradigm memorization and practice through work sheets emphasizing grammar as “rigorous” and oppose them to those of us who use L2 more in the classroom without the emphasis on the production of grammatically accurate sentences.

I’ve been wisely cautioned against expecting too much when I put these points in exaggerated forms. I don’t know how to get people to respond otherwise. Our teacher culture encourages us to sweep differences under the rug. It is considered rude and even unprofessional to ask if a teacher’s students can communicate in the TL. Why do many teachers continue teaching in ways that do not produce students who can communicate at any level in L2?

Several suggestions: they believe their students can communicate in L2.
They believe no one else’s students communicate in L2 either.
They believe that is not the main purpose of a fl class.
They believe it is impossible to do so with “kids these days”.
They believe the culture and other elements are more critical to pass on and that is what they are doing.

Whatever the reason, a good many teachers at all levels produce students unable to function in L2. Maybe that isn’t our goal but I think most teachers do see that as our primary goal. The reason I’ve produced this list of contrasts is to try to get at the differences among teachers. I am not aware that any proof exists that any teacher or any method produces students who communicate in L2. You do find students here and there who can but they are definitely the exception. Our aim is, I presume, to have most of our students who put effort into the class able to communicate at some level, some level of proficiency, 1st year, 2nd year, 3rd year, and so on.

My aim is not to antagonize teachers. I probably will though b/c I am biased toward the linguistic orientation. I no doubt have characterized the Humanities/Arts folks in unpleasant or unfair ways. I tried to squeeze that out but I am surely unsuccessful to some degree. So keep in mind that I deliberately exaggerated these characteristics and features of the two methods in order to draw teachers out. No teacher falls entirely on one side or the other. Think of this as a scale with most people bunching around the middle. Who does not see language as a vehicle for artistic literature? Who does not recognize the value of folk culture? And so on.

The two models or orientations should be laid side-by-side for comparison of each bullet point.

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