Mr. Chadwick and Rigor

I remember when Mr. Chadwick, my French teacher at Culver Military Academy, told me that in the past tense the past participle agreed with any preceding direct object pronoun. I remember the ferocity with which I set out to memorize that rule. It didn’t help that the terms were foreign to me, but I reasoned that it was indeed a foreign language.

Weeks later, through a sufficient amount of worksheets, I was able to fully grasp the idea about past participles but then Mr. Chadwick, a truly English gentleman who wore tweed even in hot weather, hit me with the être agreement rule. My right brain dominant mind could not handle that one.

I had already learned one rule about participles. Why did I have to learn another. And in this case it was sixteen verbs that could all fit into a house and the agreement was with the subject and not the object. Because it was a different verb. That wrecked my self confidence and I thought I would never learn French but deep down I knew I had to – I just had to.

In the end it all worked out, though, because I was placed in a French 102 class when I arrived at Washington U. in St. Louis after my four years of study with Mr. Chadwick. I was proud of myself that I was not placed into a beginning class.



6 thoughts on “Mr. Chadwick and Rigor”

  1. I had a very similar experience. And then in college, it was great to have a class based around reading literature. The problem was that it was so hard! I understood only a fraction of what I read. I did well in classes because I always wrote my papers about one very specific section of text that I could study super carefully. I am jealous that my students are getting to read little by little, that there are leveled novels for them to work on before they get to the French classics. Teaching it, I feel like I get a re-do, and I am inspired to re-read some of the texts that I drowned in in college.

  2. It makes me wonder more and more about the authentic texts thing. What exactly does ACTFL mean? Don’t they know that in suggesting the use of authentic texts they automatically exclude most kids from engagement with them? Am I wrong on that? I don’t get their motives.

    1. The thing that keeps going through my head lately about authentic texts is what the passage from Catharina’s textbook said… that by no means should a teacher ever simplify or alter an “authentic text” because they need that original for real gains in language ability.

      Seriously, I don’t know how they could say that. But they even took issue with some example teacher using what amounted to embedded reading versions of an authentic text first, before using the original text. I don’t get how incomprehensible text or speech is supposed to develop language ability.

      1. I don’t get that “don’t alter the text” position, either. We alter the text for native language learners. My first Bible was a Children’s Bible rather than the King James Version; my first exposure to myths and legends was a series for children titled “Tales from Many Lands”; my early exposure to classic literature was a prototype of graphic novels – all of them simplified or “graded” versions of adult literature. If it’s all right to do that for first language learners, why is not all right to do that for second language learners? After all, I later tackled the “authentic” versions (even reading the Bible in the original Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic) and found my early exposure to simplified versions a helpful organizer for the more difficult reading. In particular, I remember taking a course at university in Germanic Mythology, in which all or nearly all of the other students were having a difficult time sorting out the Aesir, Vanir, giants, dragons, etc., while I was greeting them as old friends from my childhood. This personal experience alone convinces me that it is not necessary to present emergent readers (and let’s face it, all of our students in high school are emergent readers in the foreign language we are teaching them) with the “authentic” version first.

        At the same time, we should not shy from presenting our students with snippets of authentic text when they fit what we are doing and are accessible. At one of her sessions at ACTFL14, Carol Gaab showed what she does in teaching her baseball players about discrimination as part of reading about Felipe Alou. She uses a single sentence from Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” It is authentic text, but because it is so short, she can make it accessible to her students. (BTW, I doubt that this is what the “authentic text” advocates mean when they espouse using authentic resources.)

        One other thing to keep in mind is that proponents of authentic texts change the definition without telling anyone – and probably without realizing it themselves. This was crystal clear and stood out to me as I was reading “Content-Based Second Language Teaching and Learning”. On page 40 the authors cite with approbation Galloway’s definition of authentic texts as those “communications produced by members of a language and culture group for members of the same language and culture group”1. Then on page 140 they state, “Research supports giving learners opportunities to learn language and content through participation in interpreting and creating authentic texts.” (Emphasis mine) They are using a different definition of “authentic” without telling anyone, because by definition (Galloway’s) a second language learner cannot produce an authentic text in the language they are learning because they are not members of the same target language and culture group as their audience – if they were, they would not be second language learners.

        1.(Galloway, V. 1998. Toward a cultural reading of authentic texts. In H. Byrnes (Ed.), Languages for a multicultural world in transition, p. 135. Lincolnwood, IL: National Textbook)

        To me, the discussion really isn’t about whether to use authentic texts or not because I think we should use appropriate authentic texts as they are available. The question is what kind and to what extent we should use them. In addition, I believe that simplification does not in and of itself render a text “inauthentic” (See my comments above about simplification for native language learners), so long as we are providing readers and hearers with “authentic language” in the sense that it is language that native speakers actually use to communicate genuine messages. One of the definitions in the dictionary of “authentic” is “conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features”, so if we are using language as it is used in real-world encounters, we are providing students with authentic texts. After all, the term “authentic” in “authentic assessment” refers to performing real-world tasks and is not limited by the “by” and “for” strictures of Galloway’s definition. Shouldn’t we agree on a definition of “authentic” that is consistent?

        1. Then on page 140 they state, “Research supports giving learners opportunities to learn language and content through participation in interpreting and creating authentic texts.”

          Very observant, Robert.

  3. It’s interesting. In nearly 5 years of sharing Embedded Reading, I don’t remember one person responding that we shouldn’t be “altering authentic text”. At least directly to me….perhaps it is going on all over the place behind my back and I’m unaware.

    I have had numbers of native speakers, in person and in writing, thank us for making “our beautiful language accessible” to learners.

    Michele? Bob? What have you been hearing?

    with love,

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