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Friday, November 4, 2011

Sustainability and Language Acquisition: Different Approaches to Integrating Academic Content for Different Languages

When the French, German and Spanish language programs had the opportunity to collaborate on the creation of sustainability-themed content for their courses, they jumped right in. However, curriculum developers from the three programs had a different visions for how the content would ultimately be integrated into their university languages courses.

This spring semester, University of Minnesota language students will have several new opportunities to learn about sustainability at the same time as they continue second language acquisition.

Part of the curriculum development was funded by Title VI to create Foreign Languages Across the Curriculum Content (FLAC) resources for K-12 and university courses. The team working to get these initiatives off the ground is:

Elaine Tarone (CARLA)
Patricia Mougel (French)
Charlotte Melin and Beth Kautz (German)
Susan Villar and Frances Matos-Schultz (Spanish).

Here is an overview of the two approaches the programs took for integrating academic content with second language acquisition, focusing on examples of classes offered Spring 2012:

French and German: Upper-level course enhancement and redesign
FREN 3022 The Language and Culture of Business in France
GER 3501 Contemporary Germany: Environmental Debates--Food, Energy, Politics

Patricia is currently teaching her French advanced oral communication class as a new content-based language course on the theme of water. For Spring 2012, Patricia is revamping her ongoing business course, integrating new content on sustainability while keeping the focus on business overall. In the course students will learn about and discuss sustainable business practices in France through case studies of businesses that have moved towards sustainability in terms of resources selection, product development, marketing and human resources management.

During Spring 2011, Charlotte taught a German course with an environmental literature theme. For Spring 2012, she has completely redeveloped an existing course on contemporary Germany. Students will be able to use this course towards the completion of the Sustainability Minor by petition. Here is the course description:

Public concern about environmental issues is driving social, political, and cultural change in German-speaking countries today--a trend visible in the successes of the Green party in recent elections and plans to decommission nuclear power plants over the next decade. This course (taught in German) looks at the ways environmental imagination is expressed through language and contemporary culture. We will examine the evolution of the environmental movement and European conceptions of sustainability through the lens of nonfiction writings, literature, on-line resources, and film. Historically, concepts of ecology arose out of early 20th century discoveries about interconnectedness, epitomized by the term Umwelt (surrounding world), which was coined by Jakob von Uexküll. In keeping with this systems perspective, we will study examples like food production, energy consumption, and urban design. To take into account the divergent opinions that surround these topics, assignments will include debates, expository writing, and creative projects that probe differing positions.

Spanish: Integration throughout the lower-level curriculum
SPAN 1022, 1003, 1004 Second-Semester and Intermediate Spanish

Spanish has begun integrating sustainability content modules into all of their hybrid Spanish 1022 and 1003 sections. The program also plans to integrate the content into hybrid Spanish 1004, once that class debuts. This means that as more Spanish sections switch to the hybrid format, as many as 900 to 1000 students will interact with sustainability content each semester.

Interested in learning more? If you are an advanced student of French or German, or a beginning student of Spanish, take a class Spring semester! Registration for FREN 3022 is open for students of French who have completed 3015 (3016 is recommended). GER 3501 is open for German students who have completed 3011W. All sections of SPAN 1022 are hybrid, as well as some sections of 1003. Contact the appropriate department for more information on these courses.

You can also read more about the development of the German class, and how some of the content debuted at World Languages Day at Elsie Speaks, and Charlotte wrote an article about her Spring 2011 class for Neues Curriculum.

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