Beginning Czech Program: Students’ Communication Skills

Katya Koubek, University of Nebraska

Since the movement toward standards in foreign languages (National Standards in Foreign Education Project, 1996), the teaching profession has been faced with a new task – to reexamine communication previously seen as four separate skills: speaking, reading, listening, and writing. In the light of the standards, communication has become a pivotal element in a truly communicative language classroom. Instead of using the four language skills in isolation, the skills and the modes of communication (Brecht & Walton, 1995) such as interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational have become integrated as students interact with written and oral texts and with one another. Communication implies not only oral production but also writing and the reading of literature across centuries (Shrum & Glisan, 2000).

As Homstad and Thorson (2000) have stated, “Proficiency approaches to second language instruction emphasize the production and transmission of meaningful communication in the target language. The proficiency movement promotes the use of culturally authentic materials and the attempt to create with language in real-life situations as early as possible" (p.7).

This paper will present a description of the beginning Czech program at a large midwestern university where oral and written communication skills are stressed. An overview of activities, student output and techniques used to develop students’ communicative skills in a beginning Czech class will be highlighted. Emphasis will be placed on integration of authentic materials and culture in order to create a classroom environment that is conducive to language proficiency. Student oral and written output will be demonstrated based on their presentations, information-gap and think-pair-share activities, questionnaires and surveys, journals, movies and fairy tales. A detailed repertoire of assessment ranging from teacher to student based will be explained with every activity.