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Teaching Foreign Languages Workshops Home
    8: Engaging With Communities

Put It Into Practice: Activity B

Before You Watch
Analyze the Video
Examine the Topic
Put it Into Practice
Action Research Project
Reflect on Your Learning

Library Video Chart
Choose an Activity | Activity A | Activity B

Activity B: Observing Language in the Local Community

Foreign languages are used in many communities throughout the U.S. They may be spoken by residents, printed on street signs, or heard on local radio or television programs. Some place names are even derived from foreign words -- Los Angeles, for example. Other cities and towns are named after places in another country.

For this activity, you will design a task that gives students an opportunity to observe examples of the target language in their local community.
  1. Teacher brainstorm. Think about where you might observe examples of your target language, in oral or written form, throughout your community. If you find that there are not many examples of your language in the immediate community, consider extending your search to include neighboring communities. For example, you might include the metropolitan area of which your community is a suburb.
  1. Student brainstorm. Next, consider how you might lead students in a class discussion of where they think the target language is evident in the community. Think about any materials you could make available to students to help trigger their thinking (for example, local maps or business directories).
  1. Field observations. Next, determine how you will instruct students to make additional observations when they are out in the community. These observations can be a short-term task or an ongoing exploration throughout the school year. Create a bulletin board or poster display where students can record their observations about incidents in which they heard or saw the target language being used. The following chart is an example of observations that could have been made for a French class or a Japanese class.
Evidence of Target Language in the Community
Observation Date Description
Local towns have French names: Dubois, Duquesne, Versailles Township 11/22 These Pennsylvania towns were named at the time of the French and Indian Wars.
Tourists at Bryce Canyon were speaking Japanese with a guide. 9/29 The National Park Service has Japanese-speaking guides who give daily tours to speakers of Japanese.

  1. Recording interactions. As a follow-up activity, shift the focus from students simply observing the language in the community to students interacting and negotiating meaning in the target language. Develop specific tasks that encourage students to seek out opportunities for interactions, but keep the activity flexible enough to allow students to include additional events as they naturally arise. Be sure to plan for regular in-class check-ins to learn about the types of interactions students are having and how they are experiencing them.

    To help students keep track of their interactions, develop a form that they can fill out as each opportunity arises. You may also want to start a new class display where students can share their experiences with one another. The following chart is an example of a form you could create for students or for the class display:
My Interactions in the Target Language
Event Date Description
At a local concert, I sat next to an Italian exchange student from another school. 5/17 I spoke Italian with the student to learn where she is from, how she liked the concert, whether the group is popular in Italy, whether she and her friends go to concerts there, and whether they have "raves" in Italy.
As a volunteer at the local hospital, I have had to speak Spanish with patients and their families. 3/14 I found that my three years of Spanish allowed me to talk with patients and their visiting relatives in the hospital, and that this is much appreciated.

Assignment Submit your design for community observations and interactions tasks as an assignment.

Choose an Activity | Activity A | Activity B

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8: Engaging With Communities > Introduction | Before You Watch | Analyze the Video
Examine the Topic | Put It Into Practice | Action Research Project | Reflect on Your Learning
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