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Foreign Languages and the Dodo Bird: A Lesson from Darwin


  • John M. Troyanovich

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      JOHN M. TROYANOVICH (Ph.D., Michigan State Univ.) is Professor and Chairman of the Dept. of Foreign Languages at Illinois Wesleyan Univ. In 1960, he received a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, and in 1964 was given the Germanist Society of America Award for study at the Univ. of Tubingen. He has been a consultant in foreign language education for the Europäisches Sprach-und Bildungszentrum, Cologne, Germany, and for the Shawnee Mission School District, Kansas, as well as editorial consultant for Die Unterrichtspraxis, and the foreign language department of Harper & Row. His published articles include “Another Approach to the Intermediate Course,” in AFLT, 1, No. 2 (1971).


ABSTRACT  The present state of the FL teaching profession is analogous to the situation of the dodo bird in 1598 when the Dutch landed on Mauritius. As in the case of the dodo, our protected environment has not conditioned us to the changes now required of us for survival. The changing goals and conditions of formal education demand new objectives, attitudes, and procedures in the teaching of FLs. Avenues of innovation which merit exploration are: the decentralization and individualization of FL instruction; a predominately social science orientation in FL teacher education; and a greater emphasis on culture in an anthropological sense in the FL classroom. Literature in its present academic form must be relegated to secondary status if today's students are to find relevance in FL courses. If we are to rejoin the mainstream of life, service must become the hallmark of our offerings since language is an end in itself only to us; to the rest of humanity it is a means to an end. Failure to adjust to changing conditions will result in a fate similar to that of the dumb dodo.