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The Multilingual Experience: Insights from Language Memoirs


In the US, FL education is still very much hostage to a view of language and culture that privileges the nation-state and its national native speakers. There are currently calls for more imagination/creativity/language play, more collaborative learning. But they have not put into question the ultimate goal, which is to approximate the (nationally conceived) native speaker and to discuss and interpret the canonical works of the native speakers’ national literatures. The teaching of culture in American FL education is still conceived as an initiation to national characteristics or representations promoted by nation-states such as Germany or France--an assimilationist process akin to the assimilation we expect of immigrants to the U.S. After 9/11, our government is interested in promoting the teaching of foreign languages in order to distinguish friend from foe within an international community of nation-states. The notion of ‘cultural difference’ might very well, as H. Seeba remarks, “form the core of the humanities” at American universities, but it does not mean that American FL education teaches the cultural difference, say, between the worldviews of Germans now living in Germany, German naturalized Americans, Germans living in France and Jewish Germans now living in Israel. It teaches about Turks living in Germany, but it does not explore the difference between them and Turks living in Turkey, American Turks, and French Turks. For American learners of German, native speakers of German are still seen as inhabiting a German-speaking national territory and sharing a single, monolithic view of history--an imagined target community inherited from the 19th century.

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