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Productive Foreign Language Skills for an Intercultural World

A Guide (not only) for Teachers


Michal Paradowski

The past two decades have created quantitatively higher and qualitatively different demands for foreign language skills. Learners’ needs, expectations and contexts of language use have undergone radical and far-reaching transformations. This collection of essays by experienced educators, teacher trainers and researchers from diverse linguistic, cultural and professional settings offers a fresh perspective on the aspects and ways of teaching skills which are crucial to contemporary language instruction, especially at the more advanced stages, but which have oftentimes been unjustly neglected in the classroom. The book discusses issues ranging from approaches to teaching, contexts of instruction, testing and assessment to curriculum development and technology in the classroom.
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Engaging Second Language Learners: Developing Cultural Knowledge and Language Proficiency through Service Learning



Developing proficient and culturally competent second and foreign language learners is the goal of language educators. The challenges in carrying this out are well documented in numerous studies published throughout the years (Brown, 2007; Mitchell et al., 2013). This chapter looks at using service learning to develop language skills as well as cultural competencies through interactions with diverse community members who represent a varied spectrum of Hispanic cultures and dialects in the United States, focusing on foreign language as well as native/heritage learners of Spanish. Using reflective journals and surveys gathered over 5 years from different advanced Spanish classes, it discusses how students applied the knowledge from their class work to their service learning experience, developed greater cultural awareness and competency, and finally improved their language skills in authentic communicative interactions. The results showed that students were able to recognize and apply the knowledge and skills learned in class through interactions with community members with whom they interacted during service learning. It was also found that students were able to develop new cultural insights and connect these to their own lives and the larger Hispanic community. Finally, students became much more comfortable speaking the target language in a wide variety of settings as well as developed an understanding of dialectal variation.

Key words: service learning, cultural competency, language proficiency

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