Usage-Based Instruction: Enhancing Interpersonal Communication in Foreign Languages

Usage-Based Instruction: Enhancing Interpersonal Communication in Foreign Languages

Serafima Gettys (Lewis University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6042-7.ch083
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Abstract

The following case study describes the effort of a small foreign language program at a medium-size private Mid-Western university in which instructors representing several world languages collaborated to undertake a complete modification of traditional textbook-driven curriculum to develop an innovative approach to teaching interpersonal communication in foreign languages. This approach was inspired by the insights coming from the Cognitive Perspective in Second Language Acquisition Cognitive Perspective in SLA, a relatively young, interdisciplinary field, which in its conclusions relies on research in such disciplines as Cognitive Linguistics, Cognitive Psychology, Construction Grammar, Usage-Based Grammar, Artificial Intelligence, and so forth, served as a theoretical foundation for the pilot study that is currently underway. The case will demonstrate how application of Cognitive Perspective increases the efficiency of instruction for oral proficiency. Although the role of technology in this approach is not decisive, it represents a significant element of the instructional sequence to be described in this chapter.
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Setting The Stage: Instructional Context

Lewis University is a private university located some 40 miles southwest of Chicago, which offers 80 undergraduate majors and 25 graduate programs through its 4 colleges. It is one of more than 60 universities worldwide sponsored by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, a more than 300 year-old religious order devoted exclusively to teaching. With its yearly growing enrollments, Lewis University is recognized by U.S. News and World Report and Princeton Review as one of the finest, mid-sized, comprehensive Catholic universities in the country which focuses on professional and career preparation in a liberal arts tradition. Its total student body is 6,500 undergraduate and graduate students, many of whom represent the first college educated generation in their families.

From 1978 to 2004, the University was not offering foreign language instruction to its students. In 2004, thanks to the 1.7 million Title III Grant from the U.S. Department of Education Program, it became possible for the University to re-institute foreign language instruction through the newly established Foreign Language Program. The new Program director, and the author of this case study, was hired with a mandate to establish the type of instruction that would meet immediate practical needs of students in studying foreign language. Today, the Program offers instruction in nine foreign languages, including not only such commonly taught languages as Spanish, French, and German, but also such critical languages as Russian, Polish, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, and Arabic.

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