2010 Hall of Fame Nominee
Highland High School
Fort Thomas, KY
2010 Finalist from SCOLT
“Language learning is no longer just being successful at conjugating verbs, declining articles and making adjectives agree. It is a communicative skill vital to our country. More than ever our students are being required to become globally competent citizens.
Yes, they need to know grammar, but that is only one part of their language experience. Culture is the heart of every language. It is where the true understanding of language exists. You can offend a client in an instant if you do not know the proper register that is culturally accepted. You can offend your host mother, as I did years ago, by saying good-bye and leaving for the day while she was waving at me. Unfortunately for me, waving in Guatemala with the hand going up and down means “come here”. If you play a joke on someone in Spain on April 1st instead of December 28th, he or she will not understand and may take offense. There are so many facets involved in communicating beyond grammar. That is why it is vital that culture and language usage be intertwined seamlessly in teaching communication in a second language.
My goal is not only to help my students become competitive in today’s job market, but also to open their eyes to the world in which they are going to manage and be responsible for in the future. They need to understand and be empathetic to peoples of the world. They need to improve their critical thinking skills to solve problems. They need to acknowledge and accept that societies, which use languages to express their cultural norms and ideals, are not right or wrong; they are just different.
They can accomplish this by learning a language in the context of culture. One of the biggest compliments I had was from a student I overheard speaking to a native speaker. The speaker has asked him how much culture he studied in class because it was obvious in their conversation that he had learned many things. He responded by saying, “We don’t learn about culture, we just learn Spanish”. He had not even realized that the culture was woven into his Spanish lessons. This is what teaching a language is all about.”