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A Key Skill for World Language Learners

Presenting information is a great task for world language learners, and these four engaging activities will get them talking.

Student giving presentation to his world language class

The World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) consider presentational communication to be essential. In the world language classroom, presentational activities give learners more opportunities to use the target language in meaningful ways, build their self-confidence, and share cultures with other people. The goal of presentational communication is to develop the learners’ ability to present information, concepts, and ideas, and to share, inform, narrate, explain, and persuade.

I’d like to share four presentational communication activities that particularly engage my world language students.

4 Presentational Communication Activities 

1. Hop-On, Hop-Off:  The goal of this activity is for learners to present the beauty and bounty of a town or province they’ve chosen from the target culture. The idea is similar to a hop-on, hop-off bus, where learners assume the role of a tour guide.

The teacher arranges chairs in the classroom to resemble the seating in a bus. The learners “hop off the bus,” and an appointed learner tour guide gives their presentation. When the learner tour guide is finished, the learners “hop back on the bus,” ready for the next learner tour guide to give their presentation.

The tour guides share specific details, such as the history of the locale, notable landmarks, main products and cuisines, festivals, etc., using the target language. The tour guides are allowed to switch from the target language to their first language and vice versa, to give more detailed information about the location. The learners can prepare tour pamphlets and display boards as visual aids. They also have the option to show tourism advertisements, similar to this one , featuring the town or province they’ve chosen.

2. At the Museum:  During the activity, the class goes on a “museum tour.” Assigned student docents choose one cultural or souvenir item from the target-language country to feature in the exhibit and explain its cultural relevance. For instance, when we did this in class, I asked learners to pick and choose any item from the Filipino culture that they had learned about in class. One of my learners chose to display a baro’t saya , a pair of traditional Filipino clothing items for males and females. Teachers and students from other classes can also participate and experience a day at the museum.

3. Zoom-ing In:  The next presentation activity is applicable to virtual classes. Using Zoom as a platform, divide the class into groups. A suggested presentation features food items or dishes. Each group of learners presents the steps or procedures for preparing a specific dish from their home culture as they fulfill the role of a key informant or chef. Students from the target culture are the audience.

For instance, American learners of Tagalog would present the steps for preparing an apple pie or cornbread using the target language. The presenting learners prepare the dish, while their audience watches online. The purpose is to allow exchanges of cultural practices (through food) between the world language learners and others from the target culture. Hence, the target audience would give a presentation on how a traditional dish is prepared in their country.

When we did this in our virtual Tagalog class, the Filipino learners we invited prepared a vegetable okoy , a Filipino vegetable fritter. Both groups can also share other interesting facts about the dishes or food items they prepared.

4. Minute to Vlog It: The last activity to enhance presentational communication skills should be very popular. With learners’ familiarity with social media, they’ll likely relish presenting information through a vlog (video blog), taking on the role of a vlogger. To make it more interesting, the learners create a minute-long vlog featuring different fun facts about the country where the target language is spoken.

Using social media platforms and video editing tools or a design application like Adobe Creative Cloud Express , vloggers include interesting features of the country they’ve learned in class, such as the language, the people, places, or a specific cultural practice. An example is this video from a YouTuber who describes the Philippines in one minute , but the learners’ vlogs should be in the target language and have the vibe of an advertising campaign. Students can view the one-minute vlogs during class time.   The key to successfully organizing presentational communication activities for world language learners is to be mindful of the event’s communicative purpose (to present, inform, narrate, etc.), the media or channel (physical or virtual), and the audience. Although the World-Readiness Standards describe presentational communication as one-way, the teacher can still foster interaction by encouraging the audience to ask questions, clarify ideas, and add more information.

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World Atlas of Languages

The world atlas of languages.

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The World Atlas of Languages is an interactive and dynamic online tool that documents different aspects and features of language status in countries and languages around the world.  It aims to provide  a detailed record of languages as communicative tools and knowledge resources in their sociocultural and socio-political contexts.

According to the World Atlas of Languages’ methodology, there are 8324 languages, spoken or signed, documented by the governments, public institutions and academic communities; out of 8324, around 7000 languages are still in use.  On the World Atlas of Languages, every language is marked distinctly according to its type, structure and affiliation, its situation, state and status and, finally, their functions, users and usage.

The World Atlas of Languages relies on a survey to collect information about languages in country from UNESCO’s Member States. These languages in country profiles are built on the official information provided by governments, national departments of statistics, public language harmonization and standardization organizations, and higher educational organizations, which are mandated to carry out fundamental research and collect official data.

The World Atlas of Languages (WAL) effects a shift from a mono to a multidimensional approach and allows the demonstration of linguistic diversity in a multi-layered manner, taking advantage of technological and scientific progress. It applies a wide definition of language that includes and embraces all communication systems created, defined, described and used. However, the prime focus is on natural human signed/spoken languages, used across and within countries, regions, and communities. This change of paradigm brings forth the implications that: 

  • language is a carrier of human heritage (in identity, historical, cultural and linguistic material);
  • language is a local knowledge repository system (in identity and ethnic issues, traditional knowledge, biodiversity);
  • language is a system for communicating between people (including in the political, sociocultural and economic domains); 
  • language is a regional, national and global economic-political resource to be managed as an asset along with natural, human, financial and other resources, as part of good governance and societal development.

Why is the World Atlas of Languages important? 

The World Atlas of Languages is an online platform that reflects the dynamism and depths of the global linguistic diversity. It provides accurate, reliable, up-to-date and robust data on the world’s languages. By taking advantage of scientific and technological progress and drawing from data offered by trusted providers, including national governments, academia and language communities, the World Atlas of Languages is able rapidly to capture linguistic diversity shifts. More importantly - and building on the good experiences from the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger of Disappearing published in 1996, 2001 and 2010 - the World Atlas of Languages represents a major step towards a more inclusive, comprehensive, and interdisciplinary understanding of linguistic diversity.

It is vital to protect linguistic diversity as a requirement for equal participation, social cohesion and sustainable development. A prerequisite to enable the international community to meet this objective is the documentation of the languages of the world, which allows the drawing of conclusions on the situation of each particular language. Only a sound situational analysis of languages and their specific linguistic ecosystems guarantees the development of policies able to protect linguistic diversity adequately.

For whom is the World Atlas of Languages intended?

The World Atlas of Languages is a methodology and policy tool which can inform, assist, and support relevant decisions, policy making, and results monitoring. As a fact-based analysis of languages and their specific ecosystems, relying on up-to-date data collected from different sources, it can underpin the development of policies able to protect linguistic diversity. The World Atlas of Languages aims to stimulate research and innovation, towards new language policies, resources and tools, by providing evidence of create concrete actions focused on preserving, revitalizing, and promoting languages, to meet the needs, challenges and aspirations of language users (speakers and signers) around the world. Finally, the World Atlas of Languages offers an open online space for forging new partnerships, collaboration, participation, and knowledge sharing among multiple actors. Users are invited to explore linguistic diversity in its multiple aspects, including diversity, type and affiliation, state and status, users and usage. The World Atlas of Languages intends to serve and involve the broader public — interested individuals, language users, stakeholder groups and decision-makers.

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  4. The World Atlas of Languages

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