M-Tu, Aug. 27-28 (Week I)
Key terms and concepts
general vs. specific
to summarize [sth]
a rule of thumb [for sth]
the conventions of a genre
a topic vs. a point
We began with an in-class writing exercise. I asked you to answer the question, "What does it mean to you to be 'good at English,' or to have 'mastered English,' and how will you know when you've gotten to that point?" We went around the circle and shared our answers, and I ended by sharing what I imagine it would mean to have "mastered Chinese."
My goal in doing this exercise was:
for us to notice how different everybody's answers were -- what we think it means to be "good at a language" varies tremendously from person to person, from language to language, and from situation to situation; and
to encourage you to think specifically about your goals and visions rather than in general terms. If you don't know specifically what you want, how can you get it?
What is this course about?
We talked about what we'll be doing in this course. I shared what I believe to be the course's two main goals:
For you to learn and practice basic writing skills that you'll build upon during your four years at DKU -- specifically, to learn the conventions (expectations) of a particular genre of English writing: the academic course paper.
For you to become a better language learner through reflecting on some of the basic philosophical questions about why and how we learn foreign languages.
TED talk: Jay Walker, "The world's English mania"
We watched this TED talk, and I asked you summarize the speaker's main point and share your own reactions.
One thing that became abundantly clear during discussion was that we could not agree on whether Jay Walker feels that world's English mania is a good thing or a bad thing. Which raises the question: How can we have a meaningful discussion about a speaker (or writer's) ideas if we can't even explain clearly what they are?
Which led us to our course text, They Say, I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein. One of the authors' central points in this book is that good academic writing is engaged with others' ideas. In order to engage with others' ideas -- to respond meaningfully to them and offer our own opinions -- we need to be able to explain what their ideas are to begin with.
What is a lingua franca, and what is the origin of the word?
Due W-Th Aug. 29-30 (Day 2)
Read the Course Handbook and be ready to take a quiz on it next class. (The quiz will not affect your grade; it's just to test how much you've understood.)
(Note: the Course Handbook contains links to some other pages. You do not need to read those other pages at the moment, but with one exception: Please do read the Office Hours page.)
Read the introduction to They Say, I Say (pp. 1-15). Come to class with a short list (5-7 items) of what you think are the most important ideas in this chapter. What do Graff and Birkenstein believe that they are trying to convince you to believe too? Imagine you are going to tell the main ideas to someone who hasn't read the chapter.
Finish the writing assignment we began in class. Answer the question: What does it mean to you to be "good at English," and how will you know when you've gotten to that point? Be specific -- this assignment will be a lot more meaningful if you answer this question in specific terms.
(This assignment will not be graded. It is just for me to get to know you better. It will count as your first "Letter to Austin." The Course Handbook will explain how to submit this assignment to me.)