Don’t worry, world language teachers – we all know why you’re here. You’ve been trying out proficiency-based instruction like comprehensible input strategies but you’ve run into a snag : how to teach in the target language. I mean for real, 90% target language? Do you realize that’s 9 out of 10 sentences, ACTFL? On top of everything else Spanish teachers have to do, we have to hold students accountable for target language use? On top of all our other pressures, we have to now learn how to maintain our own target language as French teachers? JE REVE.
What is Target Language?
The American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages – ACTFL – gives us this definition:
“The use of target language refers to all that learners say, read, hear, write, and view – production and reception of language on the part of learners, educators, and materials”ACTFL, Use of Target Language in Learning, https://www.actfl.org/guiding-principles/use-target-language-language-learning
ACFTL Guidelines for Target Language Use
Why is 90% target language so important in world language classrooms? Why has the established authority on all things language teaching in the US promoted the industry standard of 90% target language if it’s so difficult to achieve? ACFTL says it best themselves:
Second Language Acquisition research has shown that learners need as much exposure as possible to the target language for acquisition to occur…Just like learning to ride a bike or any other important skill, learning is best achieved by doing. For many learners, the precious minutes in our classrooms are the only opportunity in their day to experience the target language. We must maximize this exposure by providing a language-rich environment that prepares them for success in the real-world.
ACTFL, Use of Target Language in Learning, https://www.actfl.org/guiding-principles/use-target-language-language-learning
Stop Struggling With Teacher Guilt
Now we’ve established that world language teachers need to deliver our instruction using 90% target language. The ACTFL method of choice? High quality, targeted, comprehensible input that is appropriate for the students’ level. This is no small feat even for an experienced Spanish, French, German or Chinese teacher. Stop guilting yourself.
Although most world language teachers want to improve their practice and get to 90% and some are even already there, there is a gaping knowledge gap between the industry standard and how to implement. Many teachers want to get there, but don’t even know what a target language classroom looks like every day, let alone how to get there themselves.
How The Blog Series Was Born
DING DING DING. La Libre had an idea. That’s where this Epic Blog Series came into being! I thought to myself…
How are these teachers that we’ve all heard about managing to juggle all of their responsibilities in their classrooms that regular gen-ed teachers have and doing it in French? How on Earth are these teachers explaining game directions in Spanish without having kids straight up walk out of class? How are we explain to students in German that is not what scissors are for?
I created this series, the “10 Days to 90% Target Language Challenge” Because I knew that our community needed a kick towards this scary goal. With the collective wisdom of fellow teachers at various stages of expertise, this goal would become within our reach.
Why Teaching in the Target Language Should be the #1 Priority in Your Classroom
If you’re anything like me, you also fear that giving up English means that you’re giving up key relationship building tools. If this speaks to you, then you’re in the right place. 90% Target Language is by far the most effective way to teach a language course. Your students will learn the language faster, more thoroughly, and with greater proficiency the many of us can imagine. However, the breakthrough secret that many of us don’t realize about the power of 90% target language is how much it will actually solve many of our problems.
That’s why I put this blog series together. There’s a need in our community to work towards 90% . The desire is there, but something that’s been missing from the trainings, the workshops, the mandates, and all the discussion online–the deeper why.
We all know that this is what’s best for proficiency. If that were the only thing that we needed to know, we as an educational community would all be there already. What we really need to get at is why we’re not there yet. The reason is the using 90% target language is hard and it requires some serious training. Most of us have never seen a 90% target language classroom, and fewer have gotten explicit training in effective strategies.
Making the shift to 90% target language is scary- to make sure that world language is on the top of its game, and making sure the target language is a priority for all of us this year? On top of all of the things that we have to do this year why are we thinking that target language has to be our priority?
What Happens When 90% Comprehensible Input Becomes Your Goal:
- Making 90% a goal puts high quality, focused, targeted input at the center of your classroom.
- If you’re only using the language then they have to understand you! AKA you become a comprehensible genius out of sheer necessity
- Shifting your own perspective as well as your students on the possibilities in a language classroom and the reason why you’re there, which justifies all the hard work
- It’s actually going to solve some of the problems that you see on an everyday basis
- Raises the rigor!
- People learn things faster on meaningful way
How to Close the Achievement Gap in World Language Class
More target language means more practice in the trenches every day before assessments – your kids are in the dirt every day. They don’t need to study as much before assessments-if at all, because they’re building language system in their heads. You’re assessing what they’ve acquired, not what they’re able to study.
This simple shift in teaching style from presentation to practice solves a lot of achievement gap problems for typical students and shakes up the status quo. It’s good for equity, and reaches far more of your students.
A Tool to Reach Your Instructional Goals
In this epic series “10 Days to 90% Target Language” you’ve so far worked through the BIG why behind why we can’t ignore the gap between the promise of target language and its actual practice. But this is Post 1 of many- there’s alot more coming your way from this project.
I’ve brought together a panel of experts to talk to you about all of the years of experience of getting to that 90% and exactly how they supported their students and themselves.
Here’s what to expect:
- 1: The WHY
- 2: Tackling the Teacher Fears Behind Target Language Use
- 3: Strategies for Target Language Use
- 4: Curriculum and Lesson Planning Around Target Language Use
- 5: Activities for Class and Ideas for Providing Input
- 6: What to Do When Students, Parents, or Admin (or Everyone) Fights You
- 7: Tips on Using More Target Language from the Best Teachers in the Business
This series has everything you need in one place to revamp your target language use this year. Are you ready for the challenge?
World Language Teacher Social Media Challenge
Head over to Instagram and follow me at @LaLibreLanguageLearning and follow the hashtag #targetlanguage and #targetlanguagechallenge to see all the posts from our social media challenge. You can also find out more here in this 10 Days to 90% Challenge Post.
Video Series & Expert Panelist Interview Series
I’ve put together a rockstar list of expert panelists with varying years of expertise on the topic who have agreed to share their knowledge with you! Are you ready to dive in with the first one?
If you don’t already know Sherry from World Language Cafe, let me introduce you to one of the best in the business when it comes to expertise on teaching world languages…did I mention she teaches 100% in the target language?!
This list will continue to grow as we add more resources to this series on How to Teach with 90% Target Language. Until then,
I’ll see you in the trenches.
Devon @ La Libre