Part One: Summary
This article was about the newest way to learn a foreign language, and that’s through online videos through a company called Middlebury Interactive Languages. The approach is simple–instead of having students memorize words, colors and numbers, they are watching actual interactions between native speakers of whatever language they are studying. This uncensored version of learning offers them an opportunity to experience the language as it is spoken. After watching these videos of natural conversation, students pair off with their classmates to do some conversing of their own.
This approach is unique because for so long, foreign language has been viewed as filling an empty vat with grammar and syntax rules, when in reality, students already comprehend more than we like to admit. They know how to pick up on context clues, voice inflection and body language; this way of learning allows them to cut through the clutter associated with learning a second language in order to be as successful as possible.
Part Two: Questions and Answers:
Question One: What are some criticisms of this?
Answer One: One teacher with much experience with Middlebury says that there is a glitch that deletes students’ assignments from time to time. This issue is small, he said, but is unpredictable, nonetheless. According to other teachers, the auto-grading of assignments is difficult to manage.
Perhaps the biggest issue with the Middlebury Interactive Languages program isn’t with Middlebury itself, but rather with the schools and their lack of technological abilities. Not every district has flawless wireless connectivity, or an abundance of updated software, and Middlebury points out that this may be the issue schools have when it comes to successfully operating the program.
Question Two: What kind of activities do the students do?
Answer Two: Students do “real life” activities, in other words, they aren’t doing repetitive worksheets. They might do something like plan an itinerary for a potential trip to the country of the language’s origin by using sources written in that language. This gives them an opportunity to experience the language as it is naturally; when one goes to a foreign country, they are not just spitting out colors and numbers like traditionally taught in a classroom. As with a traditional style of teaching, students are required to practice their speaking with partners or small groups within their class. Teachers bounce around from group to group to guide them along in their conversations.