Hello, my name is Zsuzsanna Abrams, I am an associate professor in the Department of Germanic Studies at UT. My training and research focus is in second language pedagogy, and computer-mediated communication. In addition to teaching language courses and graduate courses on foreign language pedagogy, I have been the language program director in Germanic Studies for the last eight years. In this module, I was asked to focus on second language writing.
In foreign language instruction, writing often plays only a support role, especially at the beginning stages of learning. It is used primarily to help prepare learners for spoken language (e.g., write out a dialog, then present it to the class). Sometimes it’s also used to practice vocabulary or grammar. I would argue, however, that it really merits its own role in the communicative curriculum, right from the beginning.
There are several arguments that I would like to provide during this module:
First, writing is a dominant mode of interpersonal communication, especially nowadays, there are blogs, people use computer-mediated communication, they text a lot. All of these need to be trained explicitly in the foreign language classroom as well.
Second, writing gives students time to reflect, practice and express themselves in the foreign language in a more adult-like manner with more complex thoughts than when they have to speak without planning.
Third, writing may raise cognitive awareness of the rhythm of the language, it can help practice sound-symbol associations, connections between related lexical items, relationships between lexical items and grammar, among other things.
Finally, writing can be a creative outlet that allows for a stronger affective connection to the language, possibly motivating learners to study it longer and to establish links to other users of the language, which then encourages them to keep practicing the foreign language even beyond the foreign language classroom.
In this module, we will talk about the different aspects of writing students need to learn how to do. For example, how to generate ideas for content, applying vocabulary or grammar, and – in some languages – even learning how to use a different orthography. We will also explore the idea of coherent activity sets that help students prepare different sub-skills effectively before they are asked to write something. Finally, at then end of this module we will discuss several ways in which students can receive feedback on their writing. I’d like to encourage that you move away from a one-shot evaluation for a single grade to a notion of writing as a recursive project and a dialogic process. Focusing on feedback can not only save you lots of red ink, but also has proven to be more beneficial for students in terms of their ability to write in a foreign language.