Jordan Smith

Rhetoric and Professional Communication | Applied Linguistics and Technology

It’s been a while…

It’s been exactly a decade since the last foreign language class I took. I was a student on a study abroad in Berlin taking German courses at the Goethe Institut on Neue Schönhauser Strasse. My time in Berlin was unique. I ended up getting sick, being hospitalized, and missing most of my coursework. I had to make up one of my classes and withdraw from another. But I still got to live in a different place where people spoke a language different from my own. And that was a very valuable experience for me.

Because of my lack of classtime—and because my time as a foreign language student was so long ago—I haven’t been exposed to many technologies foreign-language teachers use these days. When I was in my language courses, we were still largely relying on printed pieces of paper with cartoon dialogues. Sometimes we’d have to go to a computer lab and use one of the old colorful iMacs to work through a multimedia module. I’m sure these would seem pretty primitive by today’s standards. Most of the time, we’d just practice speaking to each other and to our teacher.

When I was in Berlin, I tried to use my German to get around, but I never felt confident in it. I wonder if I were to study German now if things would be any different. I wonder if I were to use some of the technologies we’ve discussed in class if it would help me feel like I could communicate better or give me more authentic practice. I have to think it would.

4 Comments

  1. I have an Austrian friend who was sick and hospitalized while in Burkina Faso. This unfortunate situation turned out to be a good thing–at least as far as language learning went. He and his girlfriend got to practice French with authentic audience!

    To your comment “I wonder if I were to use some of the technologies we’ve discussed in class if it would help”, which technologies have you thought about so far?

    • Tyler

      November 30, 2016 at 9:23 am

      Sorry to hear about your friend, Alif. But at least there was a silver lining!

      As far as technologies go, I’m thinking specifically of some of the mobile apps like maybe DuoLingo or Quizlet. If you have recommendations, I’d love to hear them!

  2. Hi Jordan,
    You almost summarized the everything my students and I used to discuss in our class back in Turkey. What is the best way of learning a language? Studying it vs living it? They always think that they can’t learn English because they know noone to practice it. That’s way, students try to find a way to study abroad. Have you heard anything about Erasmus? This is a program through which you can study at a European university, a kind of student exchange program. This is the most famous motivation for students in Turkey for a decade.
    Also, I should say that you almost described me:) in terms of tech use as a language learner. I think we missed a lot.

    • Tyler

      November 30, 2016 at 9:25 am

      I’ve never heard of Erasmus, but it sounds really interesting. And such a good idea. I wish I would have taken better advantage of my time in Germany to practice the language with natives. It was really easy for me to stick with the other Americans in my cohort and use English often. Live and learn, I guess.

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