`This is an important book. A very important book. It is important because it both challenges traditional understandings of language teaching and learning in universities, and rejects new understandings which only devalue the potential power of language learning…. This is not, however, merely a critique. The authors offer a compelling alternative, and do so in a language and style which mirror the alternative proposed…. The authors illustrate their ideas through snapshots of classroom practices which help to build up a picture of what is meant. Such illustrations are invaluable' - Teaching in Higher Education ‘Every so often a book comes along filled with so much wisdom, critical insight, and sheer humanity that it takes one's breath away. Modern Languages is such a book. Reclaiming language as both a site of struggle and a crucial sphere of politics, Alison Phipps and Mike Gonzalez make it clear that matters of language lie at the heart of any viable pedagogy in which democracy matters. But not a language(s) drained of critical possibilities, passion, power, or imagination, but language as the context and medium in which meaning is produced, affective investments made, and experiences are given legitimacy. Any educator, parent, student, or citizen of the world who cares about democracy, pedagogy, and the crucial role of modern languages creating the conditions for agency, politics, and, yes, hope should read this book’ - Professor Henry Giroux, Waterbury Chair, Penn State University, USA ‘I expect it will become a much-thumbed handbook for teachers in search of inspiration, and I am sure it will be a catalyst to further debate and exploration. But I suspect it may also become a turning point for thinking about modern languages. This book exudes life and hope. It shows a future where languages can thrive because they are an integral and indispensable part of what it means to be human. It is an exhilarating prospect to help to bring that future closer’ - Professor Michael Kelly, Director, Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies, University of Southampton ‘Modern Languages is argumentative in the best sense: it is intellectually ambitious and is making a bold and brave argument of its own. The story is exciting, and offers a radical way of reconceiving teaching and learning in languages. It is written with evident passion and conviction and it seeks to reach out to an audience. The authors come across as committed and even as brilliant teachers. This is a book for its age but yet may have a long shelf-life. It has made me think about modern languages and language teaching and learning in quite new ways’ - Professor Ronald Barnett, Institute of Education, University of London ‘This book pushes the traditional field of Modern Languages into new challenges and it crosses intradisciplinary borders between different languages and cultures. It is intrinsically about languaging and about being intercultural. The authors argue that languages are “a social justice issue”, give voice to language users in general and to language students in particular and engage into powerful, erudite, reflexive and critical insights. This book portrays language and culture education as a passionate, intelligent and committed undertaking. In sum, it is essential and stimulating reading for those Language and Culture educators, teaching in Modern Language Departments from universities all over the world, who dare’ - Dr Manuela Guilherme, Researcher, Center for Social Studies, Universidade de Coimbra This accessible book aims to challenge and stimulate all those engaged with teaching modern languages in higher education. It is not a `how to' book; rather it engages with the complex, often paradoxical position of modern languages today, and offers arguments for, and illustrations of the ways in which teachers of modern languages can position themselves critically in that rapidly changing context. It works with the concepts of languaging and being intercultural, which arise from a rigorous examination of research findings, a challenging critique of current models of work within the discipline and a reflection on existing teaching practices. Beginning with an examination of the 'crisis' in modern languages in the U.K. and North America, the authors draw on data and descriptions of learning experiences in the field and position themselves critically within the debates. Key problems for teachers and learners are identified and elaborated through examples of critical incidents which point to generic as well as specific issues and solutions in teaching languages in higher education. The Teaching & Learning in the Humanities series, edited by Ellie Chambers and Jan Parker, is for beginning and experienced lecturers. It deals with all aspects of teaching individual arts and humanities subjects in higher education. Experienced teachers offer authoritative suggestions on how to become critically reflective about discipline-specific practices.
Points of Departure
Alison: My ‘year abroad’ wrought powerful changes in my life. In the summer of 1988 I had nothing to do but anticipate. I remember always wanting to have a year abroad. I remember the stories of my teachers at school and of watching them at ease in both French and German as they lived and laughed in the languages I was struggling to make grow inside of me. I remember those hesitant steps on school exchanges as I stumbled around unfamiliar words and newly fashioned friendships. I remember just knowing, with a strange kind of pride, that I too would live abroad for a year.
The college discourse was full of such knowing. Friends on three-year courses marked ‘us linguists’ out ...