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Language Over Lunch: 2012-13 Language Institute Brownbag Series

Does Success Indicate Learning in an Italian literature Course?

Barbara Bird, Second Language Acquisition Doctoral Program
12:00 pm, Monday, October 8th, 2012
1418 Van Hise Hall, 1220 Linden Drive

Description: Reading literature in a foreign language (FL) requires a learner to move beyond decoding simple meanings and phrases, to a complex system of analysis and interpretation of multiple meanings. It also involves the development of a more global understanding of a text’s significance, which entails participation in a multifaceted social practice, situated in cultural, linguistic, and historical traditions (Johnson 2003). As undergraduate FL majors approach the study of literature for the first time, they make a decisive transition from language study to literature study, often finding themselves unprepared to read complex texts, and perhaps uninterested in literature. In this presentation, I examine how a group of undergraduate Italian students attributed value to grades, peer relationships, and language proficiency as they participated in introductory courses in Italian literature over 2 semesters. I used discourse analysis to analyze interviews with students and professors, class observations, student reading observations, tutoring sessions, study group participation, and primary documents. Over the course of the study, students developed a value system for Italian literature study based on what the teacher prioritized in class and in graded assignments, while simultaneously maintaining their own individual classroom identities and peer relationships. They also considered Italian literature reading to be largely irrelevant to their grade, and either inconsequential or detrimental to their language proficiency. These students’ value systems hindered their socialization into the field of Italian literature, yet supported their socialization into the community of undergraduate Italian majors. Although this study is not meant to be generalizable, it raises some important issues and recommendations with regard to FL literature learning, teaching, and curricula. .


Language Over Lunch brownbag presentations and discussions are free and open to the public. Sponsored by the Language Institute.

For more information or accommodations: Kazeem Sanuth (608)-262-1473.



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Upcoming Events

Brownbag: Language Learning in ConTEXT
12:00 pm, Thursday, March 27
1418 Van Hise Hall, 1220 Linden Drive

The fourth brownbag discussion in the series Language Learning in ConTEXT. Presentations by David Danaher, Department of Slavic Languages and Literature; and Will Brockliss, Department of Classics. Learn more >

Invited lecture: Content Based Instruction in Foreign Language Education

Michael Byram, University of Durham
4:00 pm, Thursday, April 17
Wisconsin Idea Room: 159 Education Building, 1000 Bascom Hall
Learn more>


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