My granddaughter is in her second year of high school Spanish. This week I got an earful as she told me what they do in class. They do thematic units. We know or should know where that leads and she delivered the death blow in the form of the ultimate teen-age girl disdain: the eye roll. She kind of like the unit on food and knew the words for hamburger and pizza and joked about not knowing any other food words although we live in Arizona and eat tacos and enchiladas most days. But the units on dealing with airports and flights and on the theater cracked her up. What did those units have to do with anything? “Oh, grandpa, and theater doesn’t mean movies, it’s like a place you go…..” Yeah, I know. What the hell do the purveyors of this nonsense know about a 15 year old girl in Arizona who goes to the mall and the multiplex?
And the remonstrance coming from the teachers tells it all: “Oh, but it’s about haute culture, which they need to learn about in order to be citizens of the world and they need to know how to manage an overseas flight so they can realistically plan travel to foreign countries.” And that is just the problem: the vast majority of students are not going to be flying any time soon on an international flight, nor are they going to be attending ‘the theata’ – they go to movies.
Because the content found in these textbooks is so removed from the lives of our students, they will not learn the language; so when they go to Russian or Japan or France or Argentina, they will have no usable language. I will grant her teacher one credit point: he talks to them in Spanish about “what happened in first hour”. At least the guy is trying. If he could find his way to a tprs conference, he would learn how to expand on that meager beginning.
BTW, my granddaughter is an A student and would like to know Spanish.
Addendum 8/25/17 On the way home today my granddaughter talked about the “trip” unit. This is separate from the “in flight” unit. She pulled out a vocabulary list and went over it with me. For language pedagogy it served little. But what I thought about was the large number of students who won’t be flying on an airline where the staff doesn’t speak any English nor will they be travelling anytime soon to the country where the L2 is spoken. Here in AZ we often travel into Mexico a short ways and Spanish would come in handy and once in a while a student will indeed tell of helping parents negotiate a drug deal (pharmaceuticals are often cheaper in Mexico). I doubt most people find taking 2 years of Spanish, app. 300 classroom hours, is compensated for by one occasion of successful negotiation to buy a sombrero. What I do see is a bias from the early 20th century when it was assumed those students studying a fl in high school or college came from families that did travel to Europe. So what would a more apt way of organizing lessons be?