Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Language Levels

Part of my summer assignment is revising the syllabus for third year loghatelba7th, which I'll be teaching come Fall.  In preparation for this, I observed the second year class that's going on now, to get an idea of the students' level.  I'm dumbstruck.  In two hours of class, not one of them could put together a complete and correct sentence in loghatelba7th (I'm not even sure they could do an incorrect but comprehensible one, like the equivalent of "he go to store").  Then again, they didn't really talk much, so maybe they can but didn't? The drills all failed, because it's pretty difficult to do a speaking drill when you're not speaking.  Or if you turn a speaking drill into a translation drill.

I hold my students to pretty high standards, because four years of college language classes really isn't much unless you do a lot of extra work outside of class.  So, to accomplish anything, I think you have to push pretty hard (and I kind of wish I had been given this information as an undergrad).  But you also need a base to push from.

So expect lots of frustrated complaining come Fall!


  1. Bring it on. Blogs were made for this.

  2. Wait wait wait, did you travel through time and attend my second year lughatelba7th class? Because that shit sounds familiar.

    (The only students who made real progress, I noticed, were the ones who did summers in programs abroad. I didn't have the money. Ergo.)

    Best of luck in the fall. I should tell you that my cohort of ~15 in 2nd year dropped to...3 in third year? I was one of the drop-outs, much to my current chagrin.

  3. Enjoy, and learn a lot from the experience. My only question is: Is loghatelba7th an "unusual" language? Because with my experience in Spanish, there is a mix of students who can confidently speak the language in his/her 3rd year, and others that are how you describe. When I was in grad school and was a TA, I had a student in my Intermediate Spanish II class that had a natural talent for languages. He could speak and write it very well. He was also taking Arabic, but he said that until he spent a summer in Morocco at the end of his second year of studying the language, he felt that he didn't have a grasp on the language. Now, many years later, he is doing grad studies in an Arab-speaking country.

  4. ajnabieh--for assorted reasons, this students don't really have the option to drop, unfortunately

    Spanish prof--it is considered an "unusual" language, but this is something that typically drives me crazy because it's used as an excuse for why students perform poorly (it's so hard, it's so unusual, poor babies, let's praise them because they said a word!). It is not so hard or so difficult that the average student will be unable to produce sentences by the end of their third semester, unless they are allowed to get away with this in previous semesters. I'd probably consider a "grasp" of the language somewhat higher than this, and that often does take some time abroad (especially for sociolinguistic reasons) as well as longer than two years of study for even the most talented students.