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Question for a pedagogist- re. acquisition and specialized courses

asked 2015-06-01 10:13:43 -0400

updated 2015-07-03 23:24:24 -0400

We are currently having a discussion at my institution regarding the most appropriate time to teach Spanish for the Professions courses (for example, Spanish for Medical Professionals, Spanish for Law Enforcement, Spanish for Educators, Spanish for Business, etc.). Some of my colleagues believe that these courses can begin at the elementary level and teach the specialized vocabulary and cultural topics in conjunction with language; however, other colleagues believe that these courses are best taught once students have successfully completed their language skills courses (elementary & intermediate Spanish, advanced grammar & composition, and conversation, etc). Based on the fact that our instructors will have moderate to good training in the communicative approach and that our student population is largely un-exposed (including at the high-school level) to languages other than English and to language education, what would your recommendations be and what does current research offer? with kindest regards for your time and assistance, Joelle

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answered 2015-08-09 02:35:09 -0400

JoostE gravatar image

Good question! If you take into consideration that the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference, Council of Europe, 2001) describes the levels of proficiency going from A1 basic user to C2 native proficiency, and consider the various corresponding can do statements, there is a lot to say for starting with an approach that would involve more generic parts of a foreign language, before you expose a learner to the more professional areas of language that are relevant to him/her. This is especially useful if the learner has to communicate with native speakers of the target langue, who tend to use idiomatic constructions from every day language, rather than the specialist vocabulary your students would learn if you'd start out with these from level 0.

Of course, you should make the target language as interesting as possible for your learners, so you should design learning contexts and language tasks so they suit the learning needs the students might have. You could, for instance, design a basic user language task (e.g. A conversation or discussion about personal interests, level A1-A2) for law enforcement, turning it into an informal interview with a witness (what did you see, where were you...).

Key words are: needs assessment, task based language learning (and teaching). You will find a lot of interesting research in the field of TBLT, so my best bet is to look for more answers there.

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Asked: 2015-06-01 10:13:43 -0400

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Last updated: Jun 01 '15