Communication and Communities

Communication and Communities is part of a five-part video series: Learning Languages Other Than English: A Texas Adventure, that was produced in response to teachers' requests for examples of what TEKS for LOTE implementation actually looks like. The videos are centered around scenes from LOTE classrooms across Texas and include interviews with students, teachers, parents, and administrators. This video focuses on the interrelationship of the Program Goal of Communication and one of the other goals: Communities.

The Communication and Communities video study guide offers suggestions for how to use the videos in a variety of professional development contexts. It contains background information on the changes brought about in LOTE instruction as the TEKS for LOTE are implemented and individual workshop units focusing on the program goals highlighted in each video. Resources include worksheet masters, suggested activities, workshop facilitation tips, and supplemental reading lists for participants.

Part 1 of 2

Part 2 of 2

Transcript of this video

[Student speaking Spanish to a native Spanish speaker] Using a second language to communicate with others in the real world is an important goal for all language learners. As we continue the adventure of learning a language other than English you'll see students taking their language skills out into the community. You'll see how communities welcome input from, and interaction with, language students, and you'll see how some of the most successful teachers in Texas implement the program goal of communities into their daily lesson plans.

Any examination of how language is taught in Texas begins with a mention of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for Languages Other Than English (LOTE). The TEKS for LOTE are the standards which describe what all students should know and be able to do at various stages within the LOTE discipline. These standards are organized around five program goals, often referred to by educators as the five Cs. First and foremost is Communication. In LOTE classrooms, students are striving to use a second language, and communication is the vehicle language learners use to become proficient. The other four goals stem from the use of the target language in and out of the classroom. Students learn about the cultures associated with their second language and gain valuable insights into the perspectives of the people of that country or region. Learning a second language, students make connections with other subject areas and connect to gain information in the target language. Students who make the comparisons between their second language and culture and their first language and culture develop insights into the nature of all languages and cultures. Finally, students are encouraged to take their second language out into the community, to use it with neighbors here at home, or in communities abroad. It is the acceptance of and implementation of these five program goals into daily lesson plans that Texas educators believe is a key to obtaining advanced proficiency for all language learners.

[Students speaking Spanish] Clearly, communication skills are the primary focus of language study. Through the communication goal, students develop the skills necessary to master the content of the other four program goals. These skills include listening, speaking, reading and writing, as well as viewing and showing. Communicated proficiency derives from control of three modes of communication: interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational. Students need practice in all three types of communication in order to satisfy their most commonly expressed reason for taking any language class: to learn to communicate.

The first thing that I do when I do my lesson plans is think about the communication that's going to take place between the students. At this level, interpersonal communication is the most important--that they be able to give the information that they want to give, and more importantly that they receive the information that they want to receive. So, that's where I start. From that point, I want to bring in culture. I want to bring in new vocabulary. I want to bring in a connection with students that they don't have already--that being with students who don't speak the target language, in this case Spanish. So, everything revolves around that interpersonal communication. If at some point then we can get to other kinds of communication--interpretive communication, communication of presentation type--that's good, too, but at this point, it's the interpersonal communication that's most important. It's what they want to do; they want to learn how to speak Spanish.

The primary mode of communication is the interpersonal mode, where there is a direct exchange of communication between individuals, either listeners and speakers, or readers and writers.

[Student speaking a foreign language] At Churchill High School in San Antonio, these students are involved in a mock job fair. They're demonstrating proficiency in the interpersonal mode of communication: speaking and listening. This mode of communication requires active negotiation of meaning between the individuals and calls for a natural pattern of adjustment and clarification in order to be successful. Another form of interpersonal communication occurs between writers and readers when both writer and reader have access to one another. In Heidi Kirby's German II class at Cinco Ranch High School near Houston, her students are e-mailing students in Germany. The two groups of students are thousands of miles apart but utilizing the technology available in today's language classroom, they are able to be e-pals in their target language. Using their computers the students are communicating in the interpersonal mode. They're developing the skills of reading at the same time developing the skills of writing.

Another mode of communication is the interpretive mode. In this form of communication the communicative source, the speaker or writer, is not present. The listeners or readers must determine for themselves the meaning of what is being communicated, using the skills of listening and reading.

At Cambridge Elementary in the Alamo Heights School District, these first-grade immersion students receive a full dose of all three modes of communication in the target language, right from the first day. The interpretive mode occurs not only as students listen to their teacher, but also during reading time. For these youngsters, full comprehension of what they're reading is still a ways down the road, but their interpretive skills are already being enhanced, and they're developing viewing skills using pictures to help interpret what they see and read.

In today's LOTE classroom, more advanced students can take their interpretive skills to the Internet. In Vince McGee's Latin I class at Lake Highlands High School in the Richardson Independent School District, students research a project in their target language on the computer. The teacher is available to help students navigate the Internet, but the students themselves must apply what they've already learned, in order to interpret the messages provided by the Internet author.

The third mode of communication to be mastered by language learners is the presentational mode, which calls for the creation of formal messages, public speaking, or and editorial, for example, to be interpreted by listeners or readers where there is no opportunity for active negotiation of meaning between listeners and speakers or readers and writers. At Rayburn High School in Pasadena these French III, pre-AP students are making presentations to their classmates that compare cultural similarities between young people in the U.S. and France. [Student speaking French]

Current fashion trends for teenagers is a popular theme, and the presenters use the skills of speaking and showing. In this example, as is often the case, more than one mode of communication is occurring in the LOTE classroom. Here, as presenters communicate in the presentational mode, the rest of the class, or audience, uses the interpretive mode to view and listen to the presentation.

I want the kids to be able to go to a foreign country, check into a hotel, ask for a clean towel, get tickets to the opera--maybe not the opera but get tickets to something that they are interested in--to be able to use the language, and I think that's where the TEKs have driven us, to make it useful to them.

As we will see, learning languages other than English occurs not only within the LOTE classroom, but also beyond the walls of the school: out in the community. Learning a second language increases opportunities for students to interact with communities in Texas and in other parts of the world. In George Trauth's classroom at MacArthur High School in Irving, the teacher has created an environment where even beginning students are required to remain grounded in the target language. The atmosphere, en francais, prepares students to connect with French-speaking communities. My theory is that language acquisition begins when the students begin to hear the language, not when they begin to speak it, but when they begin to hear it, because a child growing up hears the language first before he or she begins to speak, so they hear it first from me, and then gradually they begin to speak.

Another way teachers implement the communities program goal is by reaching out to the world community through the use of technology. Of course, I think technology has been such a wonderful opportunity for students in the schools that we're building now, and working with the principles of the schools and they're asking, "Do we want traditional language labs?", and we've all decided, "No," that we want multimedia labs or opportunities for teachers to have computer access with Internet access for the students. Some of these activities are so wonderful because it's the old concept of Pen Pals, but now they're e-pals, so statements have immediate feedback from friends in all parts of the world. They really establish a friendship, and one such situation at one of our newer high schools, the connection was so strong that the teachers became very close friends as well, and the teacher in Sugar Land in our area actually traveled to France this past summer to meet the teacher in her sister school in France. So they took a lot of pictures that then they were able to e-mail back and forth to the students, so it was wonderful.

[Teacher speaking German] In Heidi Kirby's German II class at Cinco Ranch High School in Katy, students use the Internet and their second language skills to e-mail students in German-speaking communities thousands of miles from Texas. [Teacher and students speaking German] Well, when I start a lesson or theme or take whatever we're covering at the time, I sit down and plan accordingly, if it takes seven to ten days, and I look at when I'm gonna cover. Then I make sure I'm never going to cover all five Cs in one day, but I try to pick selected activities for each of the five Cs. Like today, we happen to be reviewing communities because we're reviewing in our German II book, about, or the theme is school systems, and so what I did is, I mean we talked about it and communicated about it yesterday in class, but as you saw today, I also elaborated and we went into e-mailing the e-pal in Germany, and that is extension of community.

As students and teachers go beyond the walls of the classroom, they have the opportunity to not only learn from native speaking members of the community, but also to use their skills in real-world situations. In terms of the community, we've really had some spectacular things happen with our teachers and our students. One year, one of our partners is KVDA, which is the Telemundo Television, and one year, our students translated the news into Spanish for the Internet for KVDA. Another year, one of our Spanish classes translated a huge book that gave all the policies for a particular health care organization into Spanish. So we've had wonderful support for the community, because our students our teachers are so willing to use what they're learning in the real world.

Well, I mean like, when you see people at like different places, like at stores and stuff, and like they don't understand, like I've tried before to like, speak Spanish, and like, they kind of laugh, because the accent is off, and like, but I mean like they're thankful at the end 'cause we like, finally communicated. I mean I might not say it perfectly, but at least we get the gist of it.

Out in the community, knowing a second language can be an invaluable skill. This girl is at the store, and she is a cashier at Walmart, or K-Mart, whatever, and this lady, and this family obviously is French or Belgian, and this lady said [speaking French] "I wonder if this girl speaks French," because obviously maybe they were not comfortable with their English. And the girl turns around and says, "Oui, Madam" and the woman just about, you know, fell over. And she said, "Ca fait combien?" So this girl tells her, "How much does that cost?" This girl says, "Ca fait blah blah," and she came the next day, she was so excited, she was about jumping through the roof of the school, telling me about, she had met this French family and how she had to used her French. So, I encourage them to use their French. Communication is the basis of a language, and I have this little story that I tell them. Of all the years I've been to, I'm from Quebec--my home town--of all the years I've been to Quebec, been to France, I have never seen a person down the Chans de Lise, or anywhere that come up to me and say hey, I want the passe compose of this verb, you know, and I keep telling the kids accuracy is very important, but communication comes first.

A fantastic example of how language learners and their teachers can go out into the community occurs regularly in Dallas. Teacher Alias Rodriguez from the Booker T Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts often takes his class shopping--not for groceries but for native Spanish speakers. When I tell them to prepare their questions, they can't ask a yes or no question. Did you have a house? Yes, well that's not going to get them anywhere, so they have to have questions that are going to produce language, and in assessing the whole situation, the whole assignment is that I ask them to, first of all, is a native speaker going to be able to understand you? The length of time, the type of questions, is your pronunciation good? How much information did you get from the individual? So, all of these things come into play, and at the same time, they're using the language, which is the more important thing, and you're bringing in the community, because we have a rich community, especially in Dallas, and I'm sure in other areas in Texas as well.

It's important to make a point to the students that community goes beyond the classroom. I think too often we have concentrated our efforts directly to the student in the classroom and have not gone out of the box, so to speak, and so we feel bringing in the community, especially in Dallas where we have such a diverse group of Latin American citizens that have migrated or come into the Dallas area from Central and South America. The language is a living thing. It's not something that is out of the textbook.

[Students speaking Spanish] Today, at the farmer's market in downtown Dallas, teacher Rodriguez and his Spanish III pre-AP students are interviewing native speakers. Turns out it's fun for the interviewee and is an eye-opener for students.

[Students speaking Spanish] The kids actually get to use the language, and it's not in an artificial environment, such as in the classroom. They actually get to speak to a native speaker, and that's the whole purpose. One of the objectives of this exercise is to actually, can a native speaker understand them, and can they understand a native speaker? They love it, because they actually get to use what is being taught in the classroom.

[Students speaking Spanish] For many of them, this is the first time opportunity to speak to someone who speaks Spanish. So, it's bringing them out to the community, and, you know, Spanish is actually being used out there everyday by these people. And let's go out there and talk to them, because it is not something that is just isolated in the classroom.

[Students speaking Spanish with native Spanish speakers at a market] So many of them think that every Spanish speakers in Texas is Mexican-American, and what a lot of the, especially our Spanish speakers in the classroom, realize that there are Spanish speakers that are from Central American, from South America, so that not everyone who speaks Spanish is from Mexico.

I had never really done it before, and it gave me a chance to actually get out in the community and, you know, speak the language with different people and actually have a real conversation, because in class we just speak with each other.

[Student speaking Spanish] Another teacher who asks his students to use their language skills to meet real-world challenges is Greg Folds in his Spanish II classroom at Churchill High School in San Antonio. Our objective today was communities, and we're being fortunate enough to live in San Antonio, we have such a rich Hispanic and cultural heritage here, and of course the Spanish language is almost everywhere, from my historic monuments to restaurants to tourism, and we've talked in class about the fact that the tourism industry is actually not the number one industry in San Antonio. It's actually number two. The number one industry being the health care and medical industry. We basically looked at developing a brochure or the beginnings of a brochure very similar to the one that the hospital systems use her, in particular Methodist Healthcare uses to make connections to the Mexican community as well as Latin American customers and clients. The brochures are researched, written, and then presented to class, all in the target language.

[Students speaking Spanish] And as I said before, we compared it to a brochure that's actually used by a health care system in San Antonio, students could make the immediate connection that there are people in the community, the largest city outside of the walls of this high school, that are making money and are reaching people that speak a different language--be that health care, tourism, whatever--whatever it might be.

[Students speaking Spanish] What did you learn from this project just from the little bit that we did. We threw this at you kind of quickly, but what do you feel like you've learned, someone that can volunteer, just from the recommendations we've made. Kristen. That Spanish is used widely--like--it's used in everyday life outside of high school, past college, in a career. Excellent.

Finally, the program goal of communities shows students that knowing more than one language is not just an asset for a future career in business opportunities. Learning a language other than English provides endless occasions for personal enrichment for travel, for example, or to connect with family heritage. My sister was born in Mexico, and a lot of my family speak Spanish. I was pretty much the only one who, growing up I didn't learn as much Spanish as my brothers and sisters did, so I can speak Spanish okay, but coming into communications arts, it improved my Spanish a whole lot. It made me realize how important it was, and I started speaking it a lot more at home, because I realize that I needed to practice it, especially going into the field I want to go in to, which is international law.

I have to know Spanish and I have to know how to speak it well, so I think through the experiences here, through my classes, through my teachers, I mean especially my teachers, they have such an international flavor, if you will, I mean, one is from Argentine, one is from Puerto Rico, and one is from Spain. Just getting to meet them was great, because they bring different elements to the classroom, and when they teach, you can see it when they teach, so I think that is really important, and I took that home with me.

Well, my mother had to take French in school, and she studied actually in Quebec, and she does a lot of French cooking, so from a very young age I've been very interested to learn more about French, and again into the whole culture thing. And, everyone else is taking Spanish, I wanted a little different flare, and my middle school offered French, so I decided to try that instead.

In my mom's family, they're Cajun, they all take French, and they have that Acadian line, so I get to speak a little French around them, and I've done traveling to quite a few French-speaking areas. I did actually go to Canada over the past summer. I got to speak with some Quebec guys and um... you know it's a great vacation language, because they speak it in places like Tahiti, in Vietnam, and all of the world. Places that have speak France, so I've had a little experience speaking it outside the classroom.

Foreign languages need to go beyond what we've been achieving. We need to connect with other disciplines, so that students can see how a foreign language is integrated into every other area curriculum, and even more importantly we need to be connecting with the community around us, and that community is a very broad word. It's not just your local high school. It's not just Austin. It's not just the state of Texas, that we are indeed a global community, and through foreign language, students have the ability to connect with all of those communities.

Thank you for watching Learning Languages Other than English, A Texas Adventure: Communication and Communities. For more information about any of the topics discussed, or to contact any of the individuals who helped in the production of this video, please contact the Languages Other than English Center for Educator Development at their Web site at Or, contact LOTE CED director Lillian King Meidlinger at 1-800-476-6861. Or, contact the LOTE unit at the Texas Education Agency at 1-512-936-2444.