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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Main Office Assistants - Getting to Know Us

This Spring, eight students work in the Main Office. They are available from 7:45 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 7:45 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Friday to help you with everything from room reservations to checkout equipment.


Rose Nguyen

My name is Rose Nguyen. I am a junior studying political science with a minor in family social sciences. I am interested in learning and researching how American policies affect immigrants and the urban community. I am a Vietnamese and English speaker. I have some past experiences in learning Spanish, French and Arabic and would like to be proficient in those languages as well as in Chinese. This is my first semester working for the LC and I am very excited!!


Saoirse McMahon

I'm Saoirse. I'm a junior and double majoring in Psychology and Professional Journalism. I've been working at the Language Center for about a year and a half now. I edit and write for the Elsie Speaks blog, and am currently a Research Assistant for a lab focusing on career assessment and counseling psychology. I have studied mostly French but also some Latin and Spanish. When I was younger I learned a little bit of Gaelic as well. My name means "freedom" in Gaelic and is pronounced "Seer-sha," in case you were curious.


Hunter Slack

My name is Hunter Slack and I am a freshman at the University of Minnesota this year. I have been working in the main office of the Language Center for a semester now. Currently, I plan on majoring in marketing with a minor in design focusing primarily on graphic design. Together I hope to land a job in advertising when I graduate college. I have been studying Spanish as well since high school and I completed Spanish 3015 last fall. I am also a musician and have been playing various instruments in bands for about four years now.


Henry Wahl

I'm Henry, a Junior studying Linguistics in CLA. I started Liinguistics a semester late, so I'm just doing the basic classes right now. I've taken a smattering of Spanish in Elementary through high school and now am in Span 3104, Introduction to Hispanic Literatures. I'm also in fourth semester Chinese and I hope soon to go to either or both a Spanish speaking or Chinese speaking country to study abroad. I started working at the Language center a bit over a year ago.


Heather Berglund

I'm Heather, and I'm studying music therapy here at the U. In high school I studied French for two years (je ne parle pas bien francais... see I probably didn't even get that right) but I would love to study more languages such as ASL, Spanish, and Russian (just because I think it sounds awesome.)


Fuad Warsame

My name is Fuad; this is my 3rd year and my major is communications with a minor in Marketing. I speak a second language which is Somali. I love learning new languages. I'm currently studying Italian. I've been with the LC Office for about a month.


Miranda Moen

My name is Miranda Moen. I am a sophomore and am majoring in Architecture and plan on minoring in Neuroscience. I have studied 3 years of Spanish in high school but overall find language and that as a way humans interact very fascinating because being fluent in different languages show different patterns in your brain! I have been in the Language Center for a semester now, but was primarily in the Classroom Support area. I am new to the Main Office this semester and look forward to learning new things and expanding my knowledge all things LC!


Jenny Li

Hi! I am currently a freshman originally from Apple Valley, MN. I am minoring in Spanish, but undecided for my major. Other than English, I am fluent in Chinese, particularly Cantonese and also in Spanish. My favorite color is pink and I enjoy eating sushi. One day, I wish to own a Siberian Samoyed dog. In the summer time I enjoy going to the beach and in the winter season I prefer staying warm and cozy listening to some Taylor Swift.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

La Vie Branchée: French Hybrid Classes

This is a continuation of a series of articles on hybrid courses. The series began with an interview with Dan Soneson, who coordinates the Hybrid Working Group, followed by the Spanish Hybrid article.

With the debut of French 1004 in Fall 2011, French was the second language program to offer lower-level hybrid courses. Since then, curriculum developers have experimented with different proportions of weekly face-to-face meetings with online components at the 1003 and 1004 levels. French 1002 was added as a hybrid course this spring.

One of the most exciting developments in hybrid French 1004 is the integration of TandemPlus class-to-class exchanges between U of M French students and English learners from Troyes, France. Students are assigned to communicate via Skype with their language partners on predetermined topics that complement the themes covered in the curriculum.

Trina Whitaker, French 1003/1004 coordinator and instructor, said "This is, for many students, a very positive experience."

Corbin Treacy, a French 1004 hybrid instructor, also described the online webcam activities as a positive experience for students. "My students got a lot out of the Skype exchanges," he said. "One student traveled to France over the summer and stayed with her exchange partner; other students have told me they are still in contact with their 'correspondent.'"

Experimentation with French Hybrid Format

Rick Treece taught a traditional five-day-a-week French 1004 class this fall. On the first day, he asked students how often they would like to meet, while maintaining the same five credit load. The majority responded that they would like to meet four days in-person and one day online. Treece then revised the syllabus to the four-day-a-week format (4+1), with an optional day when work could be done face-to-face if the students chose to.

Treece found that there was relatively high attendance on the optional days, with over half attending. However, most of his students had expressed interest in continuing past French 1004, which was not typical of other classes. Students who plan to continue studying the language beyond 1004 tend to be more intrinsically motivated.

For instructors and students alike, certain French hybrid formats require more work. This Spring semester, Whitaker is teaching a 4+1 hybrid course after teaching 3+2 hybrid. "I am frankly shocked at how much less time I have to spend on my teaching, when the class meets more often," she said. "The 3+2 classes are a lot more work - there is more grading, more planning... just more of everything that takes a lot of time."

Hybrid French 1002 course, introduced this fall, utilizes the software Connect, a new hybrid interface for the textbook Deux Mondes.


 Reactions to Hybrid Content

The French hybrid format allows instructors to experiment with content to engage students. Treece was surprised by students' reactions. "Results didn't always match my expectations: a session on use of online translators, which I expected to be wildly popular, only attracted 4 students."

During the first semester of French hybrid, students could do work based on the individual's level of skill in French, but it did not always relate directly to the course content. This method included using separately purchased software based on readings, video, audio and grammar exercises, Whitaker said.

"There was a disconnect between what the students were being asked to do outside of class and what we were doing in class," Treacy said. "Initially, they liked the concept of independent learning, increased flexibility, and targeted online linguistic support. Before long, however, students began to look upon the online exercises as burdensome and arbitrary."

"Things that seem to work better," Whitaker said, "are having students do readings or watch videos that we select within the department and can make sure are entirely relevant to our course content."

Best Personalities for Hybrid

Whitaker found that, for students motivated and strong in French, hybrid is successful and adds extra motivation. However, she said, "students who are less strong in French, or who are not motivated, can find that the course feels like a lot more work to them." Whitaker explained that for a student who is used to the traditional format, which allowed more reliance on peers and instructors to answer questions, he or she is less successful.
"When students are doing the hybrid work, they are on their own, and they must do their best to figure things out without outside help, without relying on others. So it makes sense that it's taking more time [for these students], even if in reality the same amount of time is going by on the clock - it is more intensive time." - Trina Whitaker
Treacy agreed. "It requires a student who can learn independently and engage meaningfully during the hybrid section's more limited class time. Students who require constant, cyclical instruction, and who need more accountability, seemed to struggle in the hybrid section I taught."

Though the French hybrid format requires a motivated student, it also requires concise instruction. Treacy said, "The adjustment required me to be more organized and thoughtful with class time. Particularly difficult was the balancing act between responding to specific student needs (reviewing a tricky concept, for example) and moving forward with new material."

Treece also mentioned that hybrid courses require a special type of student and instructor. "One of the recurring topics in our Hybrid Teaching Work Group has been consideration of what instructional talents, skills and preferences hybrid and online teaching demand or favor vs. face-to-face teaching."

Hybrid caters to a new generation of online learners. Treece noted, "As we begin to face a new generation of learners who have been learning online their whole lives (and who therefore are comfortable with that sort of instructional delivery and competent in that setting), we hope that we will have bred a new generation of teachers trained in that style of teaching and equally familiar with and comfortable with online learning."

Future Goals

Treacy expressed hope in French hybrid as it improves content in the future, despite student's occasional hang-ups related to content:

"I recall that on a mid-course evaluation, students expressed a simultaneous frustration with the specific forms of the online exercises and an appreciation for the hybrid concept. Despite their struggles to integrate in-class learning and
out-of-class online study, the students overwhelmingly reported they would take a hybrid course in the future."
-Corbin Treacy

Treece described a student's experience with the independence and accountability of the French hybrid format.

"I had a point of clarity when I asked a class about their experience with a (new) video assignment we were piloting. A student remarked that she had gotten a lot more out of it by being forced to do the work on her own. She said that if I had shown the video in class, she would probably have zoned out and waited for other members of her small group to take up the slack, but at home faced with her computer and the worksheet, there was no one else to do the task, so she worked through it herself." - Rick Treece

In addition to continuing the current French 1002 hybrid 4+1 format, Treece said the hybrid French 1003 4+1 format will most likely expand to all day sections in Fall 2013 and will primarily include online video.

Monday, March 25, 2013

New Book Released Edited by Language Center Director Dan Soneson and CARLA Director Elaine Tarone

Expanding Our Horizons:Language Teacher Education in the 21st Century
Dan Soneson & Elaine Tarone (Eds.) with Anna Uhl Chamot, Anup Mahajan and Margaret Malone

This edited volume on language teacher education includes fourteen refereed papers based on presentations at either the 6th International Conference on Language Teacher Education (held in Washington DC in May 2009) or 7th International Conference on Language Teacher Education (held in Minneapolis, MN in May 2011). The papers showcase research and practice related to the education of language teachers from many different national and international contexts including foreign language education, English as a Second/Foreign Language, and heritage language instruction. This sharing of ideas and insights into language teacher education in such diverse international, national, and disciplinary contexts is truly intended to help all language teacher educators to expand their horizons and improve their practice.

This CARLA working paper is now available on Amazon.com!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Multimedia Lab Attendants -- Getting to Know Us

This Spring, five different student employees work in the Multimedia Lab. They are available from 7:45 a.m. - 7:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 7:45 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Friday to help you with all your technology and language learning needs.


Maryan Abdi

Hi, my name is Maryan (but I used to be known as Fardowsa). I am from Somalia and know three languages (Somali, English, and Arabic). I am an Undergrad Senior this year doing a double major in Psychology and Statistics, and I will be back next year to finish up my Statistics major. After that I am planning to go to graduate school for a Biostatistics major in the School of Public Health. I don't have any big favorites but in my free time I like watching TV shows, cleaning my house, and spending time with family.


Wasim Bachani

Hello! I am currently a Senior majoring in Computer Science.  Other than English I speak a sub dialect of Hindi called Cutchi.  I also have taken four semesters of Hindi and Urdu at the U of M.  I grew up in Minneapolis but my parents are from Kenya.  I enjoy playing sports, especially basketball and soccer.


Kayla Collier

Hi, my name is Kayla and I am currently finishing up my Freshman year here at the University of Minnesota. I plan to major in Asian Languages and Literatures with an emphasis in Japanese, as well as to minor in several other areas as well. I speak English fluently, am proficient in French, and have about a year or so of Mandarin Chinese & Japanese under my belt. I was born and raised in Saint Louis, Missouri and chose to continue onto my post-secondary education at the University of Minnesota! I hope to take on a career as a translator and interpreter and to even teach English abroad in Japan one day.


Kowsar Khuriye

Hi, my name is Kowsar, but my nickname is Kowsarina. I am currently studying psychology and minor in public health. I was born and raised in Kenya, but my family and relatives are from Somalia. I am fluent in three different languages, Somali, Swahili, and English. I also read and write in Arabic. I am planning on doing public health outreach program after graduation for about year. Afterwards I'm anticipating studying Community Health Promotion (CHP) at the U of M School of Public Health.


Jenny Li

Hi!  I am currently a freshman originally from Apple Valley, MN.  I am minoring in Spanish, but undecided for my major.  Other than English, I am fluent in Chinese, particularly Cantonese and also in Spanish.  My favorite color is pink and I enjoy eating sushi.  One day, I wish to own a Siberian Samoyed dog.  In the summer time I enjoy going to the beach and in the winter season I prefer staying warm and cozy listening to some Taylor Swift.

Monday, March 11, 2013

New this Semester: TandemPlus Care Packages, just for you

This semester, TandemPlus has been sending out e-mail Care Packages as a helpful guide for language exchanges. In the past, participants have had trouble navigating various aspects of their exchanges, such as thinking of topics appropriate for discussion in a language exchange, finding good meeting places, and handling communication problems that might arise. The weekly Care Packages are meant to help with these issues, since they contain tips, advice, reminders, and ideas for new conversation topics and meeting places. Participants have found them to be helpful in getting started and continuing with their new language partnership. If you have any ideas or suggestions about topics for future Care Packages, please let the TandemPlus staff know at tandem@umn.edu.

As an example, here is the first Care Package we sent to participants during the first week of the Spring program.

Week 1:   Before Getting Matched -- Judge Your Level

How do you rate your own language level? Knowing this will help you decide what you should discuss with your partner and what skills you should try to improve.

If you are a beginner, you can:
  • Say a few things, but get stuck frequently, either because you don't have the vocabulary or you don't always know how to communicate in sentences.
  • Reproduce memorized chunks of language, but in controlled conversations.
  • Understand some basic questions/comments on personalized topics, but you need the speaker to repeat himself/herself quite often.
  • Give personal information: your name and age, where you're from, talk a little about your family
  • List your classes, and some of your likes and dislikes (interests, foods),
  • List objects (things in your house or things you need for school), colors, months, seasons

You are at an intermediate level if you:

  • Can carry on a simple conversation, especially on concrete topics such as home, family, work, school, and leisure time.
  • Your sentences may not always be grammatically correct, but you can usually communicate your intended message.
  • In everyday conversations with native speakers, when they speak slowly, you can usually get the gist of what is being said (even if you miss a word or a phrase)

You are at an advanced level if you:

  • Say just about anything you need to say. If you don't know a word, you can get around it with the vocabulary you have
  • Participate in conversations on a wide variety of topics, both personal and more general or abstract
  • Understand most if not all of what a native speaker says. If you don't understand, you have the language to ask for clarification.

In general, the lower your language skills, the more you will need to prepare for your Tandem exchange. You can do this by going over vocabulary in advance and prioritizing what you want to work on most, i.e. listening skills, pronunciation, or vocabulary.
When you have assessed your own language level, you can decide what you'd like to work on in your exchanges.

If you are a beginner, you have many options. You can:

  • Practice pronunciation of common phrases
  • Learn new vocabulary
  • Learn about the target culture (in your first or your second language)

Most intermediate level learners can:

  • Extend and build vocabulary, especially for familiar or frequently-used topics or items
  • Learn about the diversity of cultures in the country/countries that speak the target language
  • Perfect use of simple verb tenses, and work on becoming more comfortable using complex tenses (present perfect, past perfect, conditional, subjunctive) or cases
  • Improve ability to talk about a topic for several sentences (1 paragraph)

Many advanced level learners can:

  • Learn idiomatic expressions
  • Learn about dialectical differences that exist within the language
  • Perfect grammar, including complex verb tenses and less-commonly-used cases
  • Become comfortable expressing hypothetical situations
  • Improve ability to converse about a topic at length (over the course of several paragraphs)
  • Develop your ability to speak and write in different registers, i.e., formally or informally, and to people of different social status

For more information about proficiency, see the ACTFL proficiency guidelines.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

TandemPlus Bowling Night - A huge success!

Last Friday, March 1, TandemPlus hosted a Bowling Night in Goldy's Gameroom. The event lasted from 3:30-5:30 PM and drew a crowd of approximately 25-30 people, who spoke languages including Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, Russian, Malay, Farsi, Portuguese and English. It was such a hit that participants continued bowling and conversing long after the free bowling period ended! Many participants made new friendships and learned about many different cultures and ways of life. The next TandemPlus event will take place Friday, April 5. Stay tuned for more details.

Reminder: An Annotated Video Clip Resource is Available

All University of Minnesota-Twin Cities language and culture instructors (including graduate instructors) are eligible to participate in the Berkeley Language Center's Library of Foreign Language Film Clips (LFLFC). This web-based collection features high quality tagged and structured clips from a wide-range of foreign language films. Many clips offer optional subtitles. Because the database is searchable by both keyword and target-language vocabulary, an instructor can quickly select clips based on the particular instructional topic of the day and play or share an existing annotated clip.

To date, few instructors have taken advantage of this opportunity. if you are interested in exploring this resource, please read this Elsie Speaks article and follow the application process outlined at the end of the article. If you have any questions, please email elsie@umn.edu.

Monday, March 4, 2013

TandemPlus: A record number of individual matches for Spring

Spring registration for TandemPlus is now closed, and we are thrilled to have such a large group of participants. This semester, 586 people registered, including many students from universities overseas, including Mexico, Russia, China, and France. Notable this semester is the large number of non-English Tandem pairings, including some Portuguese-French exchanges, Chinese-Korean exchanges, and Chinese-Japanese exchanges. Summer registration will open in May.

Video Recording in Jones 30 and 35 - Now Straight to Media Mill

Instructors can arrange to have their class video recorded remotely in both Jones 30 and 35. Classroom video recording can be useful for an instructor's professional development and to document students' academic progress. Jones 35 is the preferred location for video recording, as the room is equipped with three cameras, which increases the recording possibilities.

Beginning this semester, video recordings are being made to both DVD and computer. Computer files are uploaded to Media Mill and shared with the individual instructor. Instructors who would like to retain a DVD copy should bring a blank DVD with them to Jones on the day of their recording. The DVD is of higher video quality, but the Media Mill recording is easier for the instructor to share with colleagues and students.

Any language instructor can request to have their class video recorded in Jones 30 or 35. To request this service, please check classroom availability, and request a classroom. Please select "Video Recording" on the reservation request form. On the day of the recording, please communicate with Classroom Support staff concerning what they should try to capture. For example, should the focus be on the instructor or on the students, or should the camera follow the action of the class? If you would like us to record student presentations, we can create a separate computer file for each presentation which will make sharing the files with students much easier.

Please contact the Technical Coordinator, Diane Rackowski, at dianer@umn.edu if you have questions about the new video recording setup.