Problem solved!

Today on Twitter there were some memes posted from a languages conference. Said memes are language-teacher jokes about ideas and frustrations. The poster has done us a favour: these nicely illustrate things that are simply not issues for C.I. teachers. Check it:

First, we have this complaint about those dunder-headed Administators, putting native speakers in poor Monsieur Tabernac’s Français Nivel 1 classe:


For us C.I. teachers, this is not a problem: NSs can act in stories, help with PQA modeling, and peer tutor. They speak and understand well– ahhhhhh, one less kid to test, ahhhhhh– so all we really have to do is assess reading & writing, which is easy. And when they have finished reading all the C.I. novels and Bex news, they can do hwk from other classes. Problem? 

Next, something we used to see when we used legacy methods:

Why do students use Google translate? Because the teacher is asking them to do something they can’t (yet) do.  In a T.P.R.S. class, this doesn’t happen: most writing is quick and done in class, and students merely have to use the vocab from stories.  No need to Google “if I had had the right amount of money, I would have bought the ochre flared pants to match the mauve clogs.” 

Next, we have this:

The joke here is, of course, on the writer, who seems to think that a pointless activity– assessing for proficiency at any time other than at the very end of the course– is better than another pointless activity, crosswords. 

Proficiency, bla bla bla: the only way to develop it is via lots of input, and no feedback of any kind other than “focus in class and when reading, and ask for clarification when you get confused” is going to do anything for students.  

End of year/school? Great, assess Johnny and tell him where he’s at in ACTFL or CEFR terms; I’m sure he’ll be STOKED about learning Blablabian after you tell him your number is __ out of ___ which is not as terrible a number as it could be but hey it could also be better, not here and now obviously 😜

Finally, we have this whine about the dreaded ______ grammatical feature that English doesn’t have, in this case the subjunctive:


Why have some teachers decided to complain about this? Because they treat language like a set of discrete skills and the “hardest” skills therefore are the least-well acquired.  

We know this: the brain does not acquire language in thematic or grammar-unit “sets,” or follow what we teachers call “rules,” as Bill VanPatten has repeatedly shown. We also know that the subjunctive– for, say, Spanish speakers– is not a seldom used or late-acquired tense. 

If we as teachers start presenting the subjunctive– or whatever seems “non-Englishy”– as soon as possible, and don’t treat it like winning a gold medal i.e. only a few can do it, and don’t treat it as a rule but rather as just another part of talk and stories, why, English (or whatever)-speaking kids will pick it up, just like their Salvadorean and Bolivian peers do. 

Anyway, if these memes apply to you, worry you, etc, fear not: good C.I. will solve most of your problems, and be loads of fun for your kids. 

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4 comments

  1. Wow, Chris. You really turned these on their head and revealed the traditional approach to language which underlies them. “I can’t wait to teach that again.” This implies that language is mastered in one unit and that it will not have to be done again for another year. It reveals a lack of understanding of the notion that language is acquired and that in bits–not all at once. Blaine Ray sets students up for the subjunctive by telling stories with a lot of subordinate clauses joined by “que” (that), “I met a boy that was called Jack.” From a frequent use of the subordinate is a natural shift into subjunctive subordinates. Again, a lot of great comments.

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