Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Communication Skills, Cultural Sensitivity, and Collaboration in an Experiential Language Village Simulation

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Communication Skills, Cultural Sensitivity, and Collaboration in an Experiential Language Village Simulation

Article excerpt

Introduction

According to the 2006 Education for Global Leadership report (Committee for Economic Development [CED]), multinational corporations, large and small companies, and military and intelligence agencies are in need of articulate speakers of critical languages who are also endowed with a sensitivity to, and keen awareness of, world cultures, in particular those of the Middle East. Those who enjoy this distinctive skill set could answer the need that international companies have for globally literate employees (CED, 2006). In addition, they could bolster U.S. diplomatic efforts in that region and better represent America and its foreign policy to the rest of the world. To that end, the CED report recommended that "international content be taught across the curriculum at all levels of learning" (2006, p. 2) and that legislative incentives be granted to foster innovative approaches to incorporate international perspectives into classes. The report further recommended that global awareness and knowledge "be integrated into each state'sK-12 curriculum standards and assessments" (CED, 2006, p. 2) with the goal of developing curriculum and instructional methods that can be replicated at other schools and universities. In 2007, the report of the Modern Language Association (MLA) also recommended that learning institutions develop a unified curriculum that holistically teaches language, culture, and literature.

In collaboration with the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, in 2011, the ACTFL developed the 21st Century Skills Map that illustrated how language skills and cultural awareness can be translated into core subjects and also echoed the MLA report in calling for an interdisciplinary approach to language learning based on global awareness and business, civic, and health literacy (Magner, Saltrick, & Wesolowski, 2011). Aligned with these repeated calls for innovative programs and learning expectations that integrate language, culture, literature, and content from other core disciplines, the Intensive Arabic Program at the University of Mississippi has developed an interdisciplinary curriculum that puts into practice these core pedagogical values in the form of a full-day, immersion language experience.

Inspired by the U.S. Army'scombat readiness training, the program prepares students who are learning Arabic to participate in an immersion simulation that involves approximately 180 students from three different disciplines across the university: the Intensive Arabic Program (n ¼ 18), the Army ROTC program (n ¼ 150), and the School of Journalism (n ¼ 8). The experience places students from these three disciplines together in a simulated real-world scenario, allowing each participant to become actively engaged and to depend on the knowledge and skills of students from the other disciplines. This article addresses the language acquisition activities and eventual roles that were played by the intensive Arabic students during this oneday, intense learning scenario in which their language skills were required to carry out a complex but ill-defined agenda, the results of which, according to participants in this study, were wholly positive and lasting.

Literature Review

Experiential Learning

In 1938, Dewey published his seminal work on education, Experience and Education, arguing for a progressive education and against traditional schooling. Learning, in the traditional school, concerned itself with "acquisition of what already is incorporated in books and in the heads of elders" (p. 6) with little regard to the foundation and subsequent building upon of those ideas or even how they were inevitably bound to change over the course of time; even though, as he put it, "change is the rule, not the exception" (Dewey, 1938 p. 6). Echoing Abraham Lincoln's philosophy on democracy, Dewey stated that education is "of, by, and for experience" (1938; p. 6). He never contended, however, that every experience was enriching, rewarding, or enlightening; in fact, he said that, within the traditional school

experiences, the experiences which were had by pupils and teachers alike, were largely of a wrong kind. …

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