Institute for Christian Teaching
Education Department of Seventh-day Adventists
Christian Values FOR FUTURE FOREIGN LANGUAGE TEACHERS IN THE APPLIED LINGUISTICS COURSE
Sylvia Rasi Gregorutti
538-03 Institute for Christian Teaching 12501 Old Columbia Pike Silver Spring, MD 20904 USA
538-03 Institute for Christian Teaching
12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904 USA
Prepared for the
31st International Seminar on the Integration of Faith and Learning
As an increasing number of Christian scholars have become interested in the question of faith and learning and funds have been directed toward this end, educators in areas beyond the fields more frequently considered (e.g., religion, education) have begun to formally evaluate their areas of specialization and share their observations in a public forum. In the field of second language learning, Christians teaching English as a Foreign or Second Language (EFL/ESL) have long recognized the possibility of transmitting value-related content through the vehicle of language instruction. Several participants in Faith and Learning Seminars such as the one for which this essay has been written have described the presentation of Bible-based content in the ESL/EFL classroom.
Christianity in the applied linguistics course
Regardless of the relatively recent elaboration of Christian and Seventh-day Adventist approaches to the integration of Christian values in foreign languages, they remain a relatively popular choice among Adventist high school and college students in the U.S. and a number of college graduates go on to serve as teachers of the languages they have learned. In an ideal situation, before entering the FL classroom as teachers, these graduates will have acquired a basic knowledge of what human language is, how it is acquired, particularly as a second language by adolescents and adults, and how it can best be taught.
Several topical areas in the applied linguistics course offer opportunities for natural connections to Christian values to be made. The areas selected for comment here do not represent a closed set; they are simply offered as examples. They are also a reflection of the author’s personal interests, experience, and training in particular areas. Those that have been omitted for reasons of space or, more likely, for a lack of imagination here and elsewhere may simply be awaiting the comment of someone who has yet to share his or her perspective and experiences.
The integration of Christian values into the applied linguistics course will first be considered in connection with the initial class session, where it can be initiated very naturally. After taking assistance, the teacher may offer an opening prayer, and proceed to a description of the course objectives, textbook, other materials, and major projects. In order to underline the importance assigned to the integration of Christian values with the subject matter, and to make the teacher’s intent transparent to the students, the integrative objective should be included in the course description found in the syllabus. It should be read aloud, and perhaps briefly commented on.
If the instructor feels comfortable doing so, he or she may ask students what they understand the phrase “integration of faith and learning” to mean, particularly with respect to a course in applied linguistics. Alternatively, the teacher may assign the preparation of a brief personal reflection on the topic of the integration of Christian values in the FL classroom (see Example 1 at the end of this essay). Due to the reflective nature of this task, the instructor should allow students some time to prepare the assignment, requiring its submission a few sessions after the initial class. When given towards the beginning of the class, this type of assignment helps set the tone for the course and serves to emphasize that the objective of integration is real, and to be actively thought about by both teacher and students.
A history of applied linguistics
A logical continuation to the introduction is a description of the field of linguistics, and applied linguistics in particular, especially as it relates to foreign language teaching. The field’s history provides a practical entry point into the subject and is conveniently included at the beginning of the textbook currently used in my class. Students may be introduced to several early examples of believers who made the Christian values/FL instruction connection. The first two individuals we will consider are theologians who recognized and championed the value of foreign language learning for Christians. Ramón Lull, a 13th century Christian theologian and the father of Catalonian literature, was able to win support for the establishment of a number of foreign language colleges dedicated to missionary purposes. Roger Bacon, an English theologian and contemporary of Lull, encouraged the study of foreign languages for various purposes, including that of promoting justice and peace among nations.
Long recognized by secular sources as an educator of great insight, Comenius may also be presented foremost as a Christian educator who believed language to be “a domain in which human lordship and stewardship are to be responsibly exercised…[and] deliberately cultivated as instruments to be used to the benefit of humanity and the glory of God”. Comenius valued the vernacular languages as capable vehicles of communication, insisted on the need for professionalism and Christian conviction in the instructor, on the value of foreign language learning by appealing to the senses, and presented the then-controversial notion of play as a valuable pedagogical tool in the FL classroom. These elements, in addition to his harrowing personal trials, including persecution for his faith, loss of years of professional work, and the death of his family, render Comenius a pioneer eminently worthy of consideration by future Christian foreign language teachers.
Second language acquisition: Theories and methodology
Of central importance in the preparation of language teachers is consideration of theories of second language acquisition and methods for FL teaching. Many textbooks follow a chronological organization in describing the principal theories that have been proposed, together with the related methods. Introduction to the various theories on language acquisition is enriched by reference to Christian beliefs regarding the human mind, such as its simultaneously rule-bound and creative nature as designed by an order-loving, yet infinitely imaginative Creator (Genesis 1) who communicates his will though words and, in the course of time, comes to use the word as a central metaphor for his greatest manifestation on earth in the person of his son, Jesus Christ (John 1:1).
The presentation of language as a God-given gift to humans may be called to mind by reviewing the experience of Adam, who is encouraged by God to put his linguistic ability into practice in the act of naming the animals (Gen. 2:19-20). God waits to see what Adam’s choices are (it is not the world’s first vocabulary test) and then, one imagines, honors Adam’s choices by using the names that Adam has given whenever speaking with him. Another demonstration of the God-given gift of language is shown by Adam as he expresses his joy in the form of a poem composed upon realizing that like the animals, he, too, has a partner, whom he names Eve (Gen. 2: 23).
One of the larger projects that have been required in past applied linguistic courses is the evaluation of a textbook for adoption, a task engaged in by most foreign language teachers virtually every school year. In addition to the typical list of aspects that are considered when analyzing a textbook for adoption (e.g., the grammatical content and progression, use and quality of illustrations, number and type of exercises, breadth of cultural content, availability and quality of ancillary materials), students can be shown how to evaluate textbooks with a Christian set of values in mind. They must be made aware that a critical posture is required when engaging in this activity, since foreign language textbooks are not neutral in questions of worldview.
Foreign language course materials most often focus on the needs of the student, whom it is assumed will be a visitor in the target culture, rather than on the needs of members of the target culture, a perspective which represents an important biblical value (Lev. 19: 34, Deut. 10:19). The nearly exclusive focus on the language learner denies him or her a vision of how to be a blessing to the member of the target culture by sharing the deepest values with others who may believe or think differently. The teacher who is able to perceive and identify such imbalances in the textbook can work to correct them by creating activities such as role-plays (e.g., where the student playing the part of the non-native attends to the interests and needs of the native) and discussions.
Motivations for language learning
As future teachers are led though the process of textbook evaluation, a topic that may be touched on to heighten their awareness of related textbook issues is that of motivation; in other words, the most common reasons their students may have for learning a foreign language and the motivations that he or she, as a Christian teacher would like to foster in the students. Consideration of motivations for foreign language study may also be of use when, as teachers they are called to explain to a variety of interested parties (usually administrators and parents) the value of foreign language study in the context of a Christian education.
The common travel motivation for language learning centers on the here and now: the finding of an acceptable place to stay, food to eat, and other entertainment-related transactions. A quick survey of the materials available shows that foreign language textbooks tend to highlight many of these tourism-related activities. To Christian teachers and students, the tourist motivation should be seen as an overly superficial reason for engaging in the study of a particular language.
Aesthetic motivations for learning a foreign language are perhaps less common now than in the past decades; however, the “connoisseur learner” still exists. This individual desires to enrich his or her own life through the appreciation of the cultural wealth offered by the target culture. Again, there is little room for consideration for the everyday reality lived by members of the target culture or attempting to understand much less attempt to help in solving the problems they face.
While not discouraging those motivations which are constructive, teachers should encourage in word and deed (i.e., by example and through creative assignments) the fostering of motivations for the learning of foreign languages that are in harmony with our Christian mission. Principal among these are the values of service and the sharing of the good news with others. To make these motivations clearer in their own minds, students in the applied linguistics course may be asked to reflect on their own reasons for studying the foreign language they have chosen, including the evolution of their motivations over time.
Target culture contributions
Related to the
selection of a FL textbook is the treatment of key traits of the target
culture. Cultural knowledge constitutes
an important element in the acquisition of proficiency in a language as
recognized by the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages (ACTFL),
among others. The content presented in
textbooks and ancillary materials (e.g., CD-ROMs, videos) communicates to the
student the values that characterize the culture of the target language
studied, yet it is important to note that its selection and treatment is not
value-neutral. For example, valued
individuals or practices in the culture having a connection to Christianity may
be described in vignettes that downplay or omit this connection, or may be
ignored altogether. In cases where such
content is absent, the Christian teacher should make an effort to add the
connection that is lacking, or to create an instructional segment to supplement
the text; for example, a segment based on the biography of an important
Christian member of the target culture. Likewise, the countries in which the target
language is spoken may be considered not only in terms of population, ethnic
groups, and physical geography, but with respect to the
Melgosa has prepared a list of fifteen central practices or traits relating to the Spanish culture with the objective of integrating Adventist values with the subject matter. Considering areas such as chauvinism, el paseo (strolling), bullfighting, the siesta (afternoon nap), Easter, and pride/honor, the author describes how teachers may engage students with the material in various ways, for example, initiating discussions, introducing problem-solving exercises, and conducting field observation and interviews. The concluding page of his essay includes a useful summarizing chart featuring a list of the topics and the value or Adventist doctrine that may be considered in conjunction with it (e.g., siesta à stress avoidance; death and burial à state of the dead). Future teachers should be equipped to initiate discussion of cultural elements with a Christian perspective so that they, in turn, will encourage students to think Christianly and critically about the culture in which they may be preparing to participate. Of course, it is much easier to do so when the future teachers have seen this type of integration occurring from the very beginning of their own foreign language acquisition in the first language classes they took.
This essay has considered several topical areas in which Christian values may be integrated into a course in applied linguistics which has as its objective the training of future foreign language teachers for service in the Seventh-day Adventist educational system. Since the area of applied linguistics and foreign language teaching is vast, as indicated by the earlier list of topics required for California teacher credentialing, much more might be added to our brief consideration of this area. For example, the related fields of sociolinguistics and historical linguistics, usually of great interest to the college-age student, provide extensive opportunities for inclusion of fascinating illustrations drawn from the Bible, a document rich in description of multilingual and multicultural women and men in a broad range of history.
It is my hope that this paper has contributed to the work of integrating Christian values with foreign language teacher education, whose far-reaching result is the education of xenophilic, service-minded students, who are both kingdom-directed and well-prepared to relate to their brothers and sisters around the world.
(All assignments are normally described and completed in Spanish.)
Example 1 - Reflective assignment on Christian values in the FL classroom
Assignment: Christian values in the Spanish as a foreign language course
Description: Prepare an answer to the following question. The response must be typed and double-spaced in correct Spanish and should
be a maximum of one page in length.
Question: If you were a Spanish teacher in a Christian school, what role your Christian values or beliefs would play in the Spanish as a foreign language class? You may give a general answer followed by examples (e.g., activities, content, behavior).
Example 2 - Christian values and methodology
Assignment: Christian values and methodology
Description: Together with another classmate, choose one of the following teaching methodologies. Following the model of Smith and Carvill (2000), prepare a brief, clear description of the methodology with an example of its application in the Spanish as a Foreign Language classroom. Then, indicate the Christian values that are reflected in (or contradicted by) the method. The response must be typed and double-spaced in correct Spanish and should be a maximum of two pages in length.
Benne, Quality with soul: How six premier
colleges and universities keep faith with their religious traditions. (
 Harry Blamires, The Christian mind (London, SPCK, 1963) as cited in Steven Garber, The fabric of faithfulness (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), p. 181.
example, Don Snow, English language
teaching as Christian mission as cited in David I. Smith and
 See for example Shin Dong-kyun, “Integrating the Bible in the study of English as a second language in a secondary school, Christ in the classroom, 30 (Washington, DC: Education Department, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists 2002), pp. 197-213; Ritha Maidom-Lampadan, “Integrating faith and learning in teaching English as a second language: Possibilities in grammar classes, Christ in the classroom, 27 (Washington, DC: Education Department, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 2000), pp. 169-186; Judy H. Poblete, “Communicating Christian values through teaching English as a second language: The uses of poetry, Christ in the classroom, 24 (Washington, DC: Education Department, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 1999), pp. 277-298.
 While technically speaking EFL falls in the category of foreign language teaching, it is not usually placed with other languages that are taught outside their home territories. We will exclude it following this convention.
 These focus mainly on the more commonly taught languages, Spanish, French, and German.
Lothar Höhn. “Teaching modern languages from a Christian perspective.” Christ in the classroom, 3. (
 That is, students with advanced standing in the college’s four year program.
 In consonance with our school’s mission to prepare workers for the benefit of the church, all students earning teaching credentials simultaneously prepare for certification as teachers in the public school system and in the Seventh-day Adventist educational system.
 In part to foster a student-teacher exchange and in part to give the student an opportunity to learn from mistakes made in the target language, this type of assignment is always returned to the student with the option of answering the teacher’s questions, correcting errors, completing unfinished work, or clarifying ideas for an improved grade.
 Although the term applied linguistics is often used as a synonym for both second and foreign language teaching, the technical definition is broader, encompassing the areas of first language acquisition and language planning.
 Dale A. Koike and Carol A. Klee. Lingüística aplicada: Adquisición del español como segunda lengua. (New York: Wiley, 2003).
 Smith & Carvill, pp. 24-33.
“Languages and the arts which can do us no harm, but are actually a greater
ornament, profit, glory, and benefit, both for the understanding of Holy
Scripture and the conduct of temporal government – these we despise. But foreign wares, which are neither
necessary nor useful, and in addition strip us down to a mere skeleton – these
we cannot do without. Are not we Germans
justly dubbed fools and beasts?” Martin
Luther. “To the councilmen of all cities in
 Smith & Carvill, p. 40.
 The various aspects brought to the fore by Comenius’ work may be presented during this general introduction to the field or may be interspersed throughout the course in connection the topical areas where they are more immediately relevant (e.g., textbook selection, sociolinguistics).
 Smith & Carvill, p. 44.
 This included the innovation of illustrated foreign language textbooks, which became centuries-long best-sellers.
 Smith & Carvill, pp. 5-6.
According to Carstairs-McCarthy, the fact that “Chomsky has explicitly
discouraged interest in language evolution” in the Darwinian sense has resulted
in a generalized reluctance among linguists to explore this area to any great
extent. (Andrew Carstairs-McCarthy. “Origins of Language”, The Handbook of Linguistics, Mark Aronoff and Janie Rees-Miller,
 Smith & Carvill, pp. 171-190.
order to make it more immediately practical, the choice of approaches to be
critiqued may be limited to one of the more recent communicative foreign
language teaching methodologies (e.g., Natural Approach, Total Physical
 This kind of awareness is of particular value to novice teachers since they are often more dependent on the textbook for direction than more experienced teachers.
exception is the Charis Project conducted in
 It must also be added that as a motivation, its validity is weakening due to the position of English as a lingua franca of global dimensions.
 Smith & Carvill, pp. 105-124.
& Carvill suggest Bartolomé de las Casas and Cardinal Romero as
possibilities for the Spanish language classroom, but add that “ordinary,
uncelebrated inhabitants” of the target language countries would be just as
acceptable. In the case of the
 E. Stanley Chace has developed an interesting mission-based approach in teaching geography to elementary school students. Many of its elements may be incorporated into a foreign language class. See Christ in the classroom, 8. (Washington, DC: Education Department, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 1993), pp. 77-82.
 Smith & Carvill, p. 64.
Melgosa. “Teaching the culture of
 These types of student assignments are possible when teaching in Spanish as a Second Language setting, although the cultural subgroups tend to be of Latin American and not Spanish origin.