The Language Teacher Tours the Curriculum: New Horizons for Foreign Language Education


  • Barbara A. Ort,

  • Dwight R. Smith


Is the foreign language department an “island entire of itself?” Has the typical foreign language program, with its unfamiliar sounds and machines, become surrounded by a mystique, governed by its own unique laws and isolated from the mainstream of the school curriculum? A close look at many programs suggests that the response must be yes, but in this era of team teaching one wonders whether foreign language instruction should be divorced from the rest of the instructional program.

If language is important; if the process of thinking and reacting in alternate linguistic modes provides individuals with greater potential for intellectual and emotional maturation; if language is an intensely social phenomenon—indeed, culture's basic centrex—then it follows that language instruction should be closely related to all facets of school life.

This article explores some of the avenues open to foreign language teachers interested in leaving their secure and comfortable one-way streets in closed foreign language programs; it presents descriptions of more than a dozen attempts to go beyond the matrix within which foreign language programs have been traditionally structured. The descriptions vary in length, style, and emphasis, but each brings some particular information, insight, or added dimension to this tour of the curriculum.

In reading these descriptions, a number of critical themes emerge repeatedly: student viewpoint, planning, interdepartmental cooperation, materials selection and development, funding, research, intensive instruction, and moving from experimentation to regular curricular offering. Other factors such as student load, scheduling, use of community resources, teacher initiative and involvement in planning, evaluation, choice of content, and innovative teacher strategies are keys to understanding particular descriptions.

The first two descriptions are particularly interesting because of Student Viewpoint; the first is written by a high schood student while the second reflects choice of content because of practical questions facing high school students.