Communication and Comparisons

Communication and Comparisons 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: Comparisons.

The Communication and Comparisons 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

View Transcript (text-only)

Communication and Comparisons (part 1 of 2) - Learning Languages Other than English (2001)

Learning Japanese isn't as difficult as you might imagine for these Level One Japanese Language Students at Taylor High School in Katy, Texas.

You'll see them making comparisons between their first and second languages and cultures, as we continue the adventure of learning the Language Other than English (LOTE).

You'll meet educators and students who are working together to communicate in a second language using the program goal of comparisons to learn more about the nature of all languages and their relationship to culture. And you'll see how some of the most successful language teachers in Texas helped their students, see how languages and cultures impact one another. And how those same teachers implement the program goal of comparisons into their daily lesson plans.

Any examination of how languages 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 C's. First and foremost is "Communication". In LOTE classrooms students are striving to use a second language and communication is the vehicle language learners views to become proficient. The other four goals stem from the use of the target language in the classroom. Students learn about the cultures associated with their second language and gain valuable insight into perspectives of the people of that country or region.

Learning a second language students make connections with other subject areas and connect to access information in the target language.

Students who make the comparisons between there second language and culture and their first language and culture developed insight 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.

[Speaking in 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 the viewing and showing.

Communicative 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.

Ricci Hatten, Teacher
The first thing that I do in my lesson plans is think about the communications 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 important 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 the students who don't speak the target language, in this case Spanish.

So every thing revolves around the interpersonal communication. If it's some point then we can get to other kinds of communication, Interpretive Communication uh...

Communication of Presentation Type, that's good too, but at this point it's the Interpersonal Communications most important, this is 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.

At Churchill High School in San Antonio these students are involved in a mock job fair. 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 had access to one another.

In Hidie kirby's German II class at Cinco Ranch High School near Houston, her students are emailing 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 email pal's 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 it.

Another mode of communication is the Interpretive mode. In this form of communication the communicated 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 the full dose of all three modes of communication in the target language, right from the first day.

The interpretive mode occurs also during reading time.

For these youngsters full comprehension of what they're reading is still a ways down the road, but they're 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 One Class at Lake Highlands High School in the Richardson Independent School District. Students research a project 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 message is provided by the Internet author.

The third mode of communication to be mastered by language learners is the "Presentation Mode". Which calls for the creation of formal messages, public speaking, or an 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 three pre-AP students are making presentations to their classmates, that compare cultural similarities between young people in the US and France.

[Students 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 motive 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.

Ricci Hatten, Teacher
I want the kids to be able to go to a foreign country, check into a hotel, ask for a clean towl, get tickets to the opera,(maybe not the Opera) but get tickets to something that they're interested in.

To be able to use the language, and I think that's where the text has driven us. To make the text useful to them.

When language learners make comparisons between their own language and culture and a target language and culture, they have the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the nature of language in general and the overall concept of culture.

Comparisons helped language learners see their own language and culture in ways they may never have considered before.

It may help them to understand that there are many ways to communicate the same idea book linguistically and culturally. Comparing languages and cultures also allows students to see the influence that languages and cultures have on one another, which can help to dis-spell ethnocentric notions that students may have.

A natural result of learning a second language is the comparison of the language being learned with the native language.

As a result of these comparisons students focus, often for the first time on how their own language functions.

[Student Speaking Spanish...]

For example of how the comparisons program gold can be implemented into a daily lesson plan, we visited this Spanish Three class at Irving High School near Dallas.

Today Ginger Cline is asking her students to compare language structures in Spanish and English.

[Ginger Cline - Teacher speaking English and Spanish]
We do a little bit of comparison. In the class today were comparing the way English speakers described things in the past and the way Spanish speaks describe things in the past.

We saw some examples of ways it's appropriate to use the preterite. And ways to use the imperfect, so they can start to get a handle on that.

A lot of these students are (many of them) are native speakers. They already have a pretty good sence, because it sounds right, but I want them to know that there's a reason behind what they're doing, and a lot of them are learning English for the first time and it compliments their English skills, as well. So they can say that in English they don't have to look for another way to say, (what sounds kinda strange to them) because it's the same way of saying the preterite, it the same way of saying the perfect.

So making that point with the students making them see it for themselves and go, I get it.

Ginger believes communication is the key to successful language learning.

She encourages students to talk in her classroom as long as the conversation is in the target language.

[Ginger Cline - Teacher]
The language class room is not a sit at your desk and be quiet classroom.

If an Administrator walks into my room and sees my students moving around active, talking, that's because that's what we want them to do. You can't learn a language and communicated if you don't ever speak.

I also find that the students are more motivated when they're actively involved in the lessons, and when I can get six or seven groups, all doing the same activity, I could have just as easily called on one student to do in the classroom.

On this day teacher Cline's classes making comparisons and identifying differences between two different past tense forms in the target language.

[Speaking in Spanish...]

[Ginger Cline - Teacher speaking English and Spanish]
I know it looked a little like chaos, at first - at least.

It's a very active class, but it works very well to use group assignments with them. I gave them each a sheet of transparency film and a topic and I had to go through a story that they've already read and find an example of that kind of a statement, in the story.

They were practicing the differences between two different past tense forms in Spanish preterite and imperfect and it was a way of discovering it, rather than giving them some notes and saying okay now lets practice on a worksheet.

They found examples of the different kinds of sentences and they had to tell me which kind of verb was being used in the sentences.

[Students Speaking Spanish]

Students do a lot of group activities, deal with a lot of native level text, and a lot of research, a lot of presentations, a lot of projects, and grammar really is a secondary and a very deductive form of learning (as far as that goes). We try to stay in the content language or in the target language as much as possible.

Teacher Cline is another educator who embraces a proficiency based approach to language teaching.

[Ginger Cline - Teacher]
I believe very strongly that most of the reason the students signup to take languages because they want to speak, and want to understand, they want to have conversations, they want to feel comfortable in situations where that language is being used.

They don't really want to go out of here saying that... I've learned to conjugate four hundred verbs, I know all the twenty thenths', or saying whatever, I know exactly where to put every accent. Although those things are important.

Another educator who asks her students to make comparisons of languages and cultures is Helen Nakamoto in her Level One Japanese class at Taylor High School in Katy.

[Helen Nakamoto - Teacher speaking English and Japanese]
Say - I like Japanese language.

She directs her students to express likes and dislikes to make comparisons as they state their preferences in the target language.

Using Flash cards

[Hellen Nakamato - Teacher speaking English and Japanese]
[Speaking Japanese language...]

Helen also has her students compare cultural differences and similarities in English and Japanese with a venn diagram.

Here students are comparing the characteristics of school systems in Japan and the United States.

View Transcript (text-only)

Communication and Comparisons (part 2 of 2) - Learning Languages Other than English (2001)

Here students are comparing the characteristics of school systems in Japan and the United States. Semester and semester systems.

Do you know anything about "Nihon" Actually means three trimesters in Japanise. Three trimester.

(Speaking in Japanese)

As students learn about the cultures associated with their target language. It is natural for them to compare the new culture with their own.

They learn about different practices, products, and perspectives, and discover that they share many things in common with the people of the culture being studied.

(Students Speaking Spanish...)

You look as if you've seen a ghost!

(Gracias... Continuing speaking Spanish.)

At communications arts high school in San Antonio, Roseanna Perez and her Spanish Language students are making comparisons of cultural perspectives.

They're comparing the mexican holiday, "The day of the dead" with the U.S. holiday of "Halloween".

(Students Speaking Spanish...)

Roseanna Perez, Teacher
It was a learning senerio for the day of the dead. What I planned with my students was this.

We did a learning activity to learn what they knew about the day of the dead. Then they asked questions of what they wanted to learn. So that was our first day.

They also decorated the room to be festive, to celerbrate the day of the dead. The next two days we went to the computer lab at our school and we researched on the Internet.

They were researching their questions, about what they wanted to learn.

The next day we read a story about the day of the dead, making a comparison with Halloween. Then our senerio was going to be that they were going to write their own skits. What you were seeing was mostly students making the comparison of Halloween on The Day of Their Dead and how they related that to their young lives, because they are teenagers. Some of them tell you it was funny at the beginning, but started making their research realizing this is very interesting. How the Mexican people see they're different from how we see Halloween.

In addition to The Day of the Dead and Halloween, educators used other holidays to compare cultural perspectives.

Myrella LeBlanc, Teacher
Another time that we do a lot of comparing as far as cculture is around Christmas time. Because of the the day of the three kings in January verses the Santa Claus. The preparation for Christmas like the posadas in Mexico and again we talk about the north american traditions and beliefs. You know Christmas compared to what they do in the esponic world. uh...

Wee sing - usually it comes out because of singing, because we we sing a lot during Christmas time. The villancicos that come from Spain and so that brings out the different traditions and things that they do during that time of the year.

How in the United States the students say well yeah we put up a Christmas tree, but in the Esponic world they put a nativity sceen.

That is there a Christmas Tree and how the children look forward to the day of the Three Kings, because of Three Kings were the ones who bring the gifts.

(Speaking in Spanish...)

One more example of language learners making cultural comparisons, are these French III Pre-AP students at Rayburn High School in Pasadena.

Teacher Myrella LeBlanc has her students making presentations to the class that compare products and perspectives.

They're examining, in the target language the similarities and differences in fashions for young people in France and the United States.

(Student speaking in French...)

Myrella LeBlanc, Teacher
Today you were seeing comparison of clothes that teenagers wear. uh... I asked them to think of what they think that French teenagers would wear.

What would they where for particular occasions? What would they wear - let's say for the prom or going to a dance.

One girl had going to a date, and that sort of thing.

I ask them to compare and what they think? Some of the students have um... They've bought magazines, did research, bought magazines for what's in fashion, uha in France right now. There is a difference, I was trying to get them to think.

I think that the French do where more hats than we do and that sort of thing. That's what you saw, the comparison of clothes for teenagers.

I really think that if you make the language pertinent and if you zero in on what they like and make the class kind of fun and things they like that, it works well.

Teacher LeBlanc students also make language comparisons as they correspond with pen pals in France. They exchanged letters with students in the South of France, mistakes and all. Her students learned by comparing the errors they and their pen pals make, writing to one another in the target language. The letters in English is like - I have two brothers youngs. Because she does not correct English I don't correct French.

Myrella LeBlanc, Teacher
The letter in English is like "I have the hairs browns". Because it's translated from French and you know, I keep telling them look, this is learning a language. You have to take a chance, it takes a while before you get it right.

We do a lot of comparison and culture.

Finally students who make comparisons of their first and target languages and cultures learn how languages and cultures impact one another.

Myrella LeBlanc, Teacher writing and speaking...
Sandwich, Hamburger, Pizza

Now, what do you know French worry about?

More so than other countries perhaps, is a deterioration of the language. They want the language to say as perfect as it is, and it's been contaminated by words like this. Again this is a of French perspective.

Contamination would be word like one of these, taken from English and make it French, how? Simply by giving it a French pronunciation.

At Sandra Day O'Connor High School in San Antonio Estella Getzen's French class is working up a good appetite talking about food. She asks her students to compare French and English vocabulary and note the differences. But also, to suspend any value judgments they might make. The lesson that we started briefing on Friday is introduction, a brief introduction to foods in French and the concept of the indefinite article and when you talk about foods you can very easily then show the students, like we did in the classroom.

uh... what foods can you think of? In English that we now have learned are used in French, also with the French accent. And conversely, what foods now can you now think of that we use In English that probably came from French. So with that food vocabulary the comparison between the two are easy to make.

Myrella LeBlanc, Teacher
(Teacher speaking in French...)

Myrella LeBlanc, TeacherEstella Getzen, Teacher
A lot of times if we're talking about things about comparing one country culture to another. I always tell the students that if nothing else, remember things French are different from things American. If they just leave this class so that concept, then I'll be satisfied, because then that means that their perception of another culture is not a close perception based on a stereotype. But it's simply an appreciation for something that's different.

Teacher Getzen wants her students, even the beginning language learners, to discover for themselves, that different languages use different structures to express the same idea.

Myrella LeBlanc, TeacherEstella Getzen, Teacher
In the first year you have a lot of opportunities to focus on one particular thing and show - for instance today with French (tu as faim), Literally do you have hunger. Now obviously in English we don't say it that way. Are you hungry and we talk about this over and over again in English we say - Are you hungry?

When the French want to say the same thing they say it - this way. It's just a different way French is not word-for-word translations of what we say English. It is it's own unique distinct language and all we're learning is how they say things, when we say things, we mean this, they say this. So its gives them a chance to hit that over and over again.

Making cultural comparisons can also help learners of a classical language like Latin.

Myrella LeBlanc, TeacherRandy Thompson, Teacher
Our major focus is to read Latin and somebody said Latin is a conversation with the past. And so as long as they can keep up with their reading, they know vocabulary, the forms and vocabulary and they can read those things. That's a wonderful opportunity, again first to find out what roman life was like and compare that with our own life.

In Randy Thompson's class in Churchill High School in San Antonio, Randy is asking his Latin students to compare the layout of their hometown with how ancient planners labeled a map.

(Group discussion...)

Myrella LeBlanc, TeacherRandy Thompson, Teacher
You each have a map of the general area of San Antonio, there is an inset focusing on downtown San Antonio.

Now you know what's coming up, right?

What elements a roman city planning show up in San Antonio city planning, such as zures, and in the downtown area, In particular?

(Student conversation...)
Advanced water supply system.

Myrella LeBlanc, TeacherRandy Thompson, Teacher
Is there a lesson there for San Antonio?

We need to provide water for San Antonio. We have drouts, Romans had systems for dealing with that and so they did some brainstorming on what that implies, major features of that.

They got a in their groups, each got a copy of a map of San Antonio and it's remarkable how many similarities or how that roman city planning still shows up today, in city plans. You know here we are thousands of miles and millennia away but still there's government buildings and things all tied in, exactly the same way roman city planners had done.

Randy says comparing the ancient culture of the romans with our own society today is a natural for students of Latin.

Myrella LeBlanc, TeacherRandy Thompson, Teacher
I guess no matter which way you motivate your students Latin is a wonderful vehicle for almost anything, and you know, you know, with their what they're doing is good. Everything they get is going to be something new. We don't have any native speakers coming in here and when they leave, they're able to read latin.

Again communicate with the past and able to see how the achent world contrasts and compares with their own world. And hopefully they can understand their own world and their own place in it a little better, because they've seen what happened in the ancient world. Which so incredibly parallel to to modern America.

Another Latin teacher who implements the program goal of comparisons into his lesson plans is Vince McGee at Lake Highlands High Schools in the Richardson Independent School District.

Vincent's class uses computers to research a lesson on roman views of death and the underworld.

Myrella LeBlanc, TeacherVince McGee, Teacher
This is a map the underworld, as best as we can tell from there writings.

This is a lake or crater nesstled and this is a cave entrance there, the rest of it is underground and the're different areas to it.

So first thing - it's different is and uh... what you're use to people died, they go to heaven maybe, that's going up.

The romas belief is that you all went down, good or bad, you went to the underground area.

Teacher McGee also helps the students to make comparisons that show the influences of ancient literature on the literature of a slightly more modern society.

Myrella LeBlanc, TeacherVince McGee, Teacher
In two thousand years of time people still write about the same things. We think a lot of our stores are new well the romans wrote it like Romeo and Juliet which Julius Caesar wrote there's actually a roman myth, only found in Latin, it's not found in Greek about Promis and Thisby that reads very much like Romeo and Juliet.

In fact now scholars think that probably Shakespear knew Latin, probably studied Omvid the roman poet, and probably read that particular myth and made it into a play.

To summarize the comparisons program goal both supports and is supported by the program goal of communication. By making cultural and linguistic comparisons teachers help students to internalize language and culture.

Language teachers have always been good at making comparisons between languages and cultures. But as we've seen today's most successful teachers have found new and innovative ways to make those comparisons.

Thank you for watching Learning Languages Other Than English. A Texas Adventure, Communication and Comparisons.

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 visit the Languages Other Than English Center for Educator development website or contact LOTE CED director Lillian King Meidlinger at telephone number: 1-800-476-6861 or contact Texas Education Agency 1-512-936-2444.