Please note that German 727 is a topics course and can be retaken.
As the title suggests, in this course we will critically examine how ‘language’ and its putative uses are conceived of in so-called ‘foreign (second) language’ instruction, especially at the college level. We will examine and compare conceptions of language (a) as they are implicit in recent and, for comparative purposes, early published research in second language acquisition, with a focus on leading journals in the field; (b) as the object of teaching/study as evidenced in foreign language textbooks; (c) as the central concern in undergraduate and graduate departmental curricula in the foreign languages (course offerings and rationales given for the purpose of language study) as well as in graduate programs that focus on research into language learning & teaching; (d) as explicitly and implicitly defined in the labeling of teaching practices (e.g., ‘the communicative approach’; ‘teaching for literacy/ies’) and professional standards (such as the World Readiness Standards issued by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages or reports issued by the Modern Language Association); (e) as described by language learners (‘what is that you believe you are/should be studying?’) and language teachers, respectively; and, for comparative purposes, (f) L1-focused publications in linguistics, psychology, communication studies, and related fields.
In short, we will examine how ‘language’ in the context of FL/L2 is implicitly or explicitly defined – and what alternative definitions are possible although they are not apparently or consistently applied. We will further explore how assumptions about FL/L2 learning processes & teachability and about goals & motivations can account for contradictions within the field of FL/L2 as well as for differences between L1 and L2 notions of what ‘language’ and ‘language learning’ are about.
Assignments will include mediated (via reading guides) readings and class discussions; material/research-analytic projects (individual as well as collaborative projects in which the analytic work of individuals will be collated into broader insights); interviews & surveys; and the description of possible/needed future research studies.
All required texts will be available for download from the course website.