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.