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The Foreign Language Appropriation Conundrum

Micro Realities and Macro Dynamics

Thomas Szende

This monograph’s title reflects the need to articulate the classroom actions and strategies of an increasingly efficient technological environment with symbolic, cultural, and political issues, namely the multi-dimensionality of affiliations, which today condition the practices of learners, teachers, tool designers, and the dissemination (or not) of languages throughout the world.

Reflective testimony of a teacher who is passionate about his work, this book is also the result of research conducted by a linguist wishing to raise the field of foreign language education to the level of a coherent and rigorous discipline capable of presenting teaching/learning options to all languages/cultures.

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4. Learning in the Classroom

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4.   Learning in the Classroom

4.1    Lesson Zero

Our culture forces us to look at the Other even before our first encounter with individuals and their language. Whether we like it or not, sociolinguistic stereotypes exist in our minds during ‘lesson zero’, our very first contact with L2. These are ‘pre-judgings’ and ‘post-judgings’: representations constructed by the discourse circulating in and around the school and university spaces. Evidently, it is partly the educational institution itself with its teachers, inspections, academic program designers, and manual writers, that produces and regulates ‘epilinguistic’ discourse on foreign languages. Certain traits or sectors of target languages such as ‘unpronounceable’ phonemes, a ‘poor’ verbal system, ‘untranslatable’ interjections, and ‘arbitrary’ plural rules are established as symbols while others are simply ignored. All languages, as well as the teachers charged with disseminating them, can be affected by stereotypes, as for example the Spanish teacher arriving in class with a guitar or the German teacher with a grammar book in hand. Even though the representations are hard to quantify, they are often predominant, from glorification and passion to distrust and rejection, and the language stereotypes can be extremely diverse in regards to the speakers’ cultural environment and country of origin.

Do languages have a market value? One American study (Hosoda & Stone-Romero, 2010: 113) establishes a strong connection between accents (quintessential identity markers) and representations: “In comparison with French-accented applicants, Japanese-accented applicants fared worse on employment-related decisions, especially for...

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