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  • Introduction to the Special Issue: A Century of Language Teaching and Research: Looking Backand Looking AheadAuthor(s): James P. LantolfSource: The Modern Language Journal, Vol. 84, No. 4, Special Issue: A Century of LanguageTeaching and Research: Looking Back and Looking Ahead, Part 1 (Winter, 2000), pp. 467-471Published by: Wiley on behalf of the National Federation of Modern Language Teachers AssociationsStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/330301 .Accessed: 25/06/2014 10:20

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  • Introduction to the Special Issue

    A Century of Language Teaching and Research: Looking Back and Looking Ahead

    JAMES P. LANTOLF Centerfor Language Acquisition The Pennsylvania State University 5 Sparks Building University Park, PA 16802 Email: jpl7@psu.edu

    IN THE SUMMER OF 1996, I WAS SEARCHING for information on early doctoral dissertations on language teaching and learning. Knowing that The Modern LanguageJournal currently publishes a listing of recent dissertations in this area, I thought perhaps the Journal might have always followed this practice. It turned out that I was right. Not only did the MLJ, from the beginning of its existence in 1916, publish an inventory of dissertations on language teaching and learning, it included a listing of dissertations in linguistics and literary studies as well. More important, how- ever, with respect to the present project, when I casually leafed through the pages of some of the early volumes of the Journal, a fascinating portrait of the 20th-century roots of the language teach- ing field began to emerge. Very quickly I was hooked and ended up spending the better part of that summer sitting in the stacks of the Olin Li- brary at Cornell University reading the MLJ.

    As it happened, the current editor of the MLJ, Sally Magnan, and I were part of a team of outside reviewers invited to evaluate the language pro-

    The Modern LanguageJournal, 84, iv, (2000) 0026-7902/00/467-471 $1.50/0 ?2000 The Modern Language Journal

    grams at a major university in the fall of 1996. One evening over dinner we began to talk about what I had encountered reading through the pages of the Journal. Eventually, we decided a special retrospective issue of the MLJ, which traced some of the important developments in the field as reflected in the pages of the Journal, might be an interesting and appropriate way of marking the turn of the century. At the meeting of theJournals editorial board held at the ACTFL Conference in November of that same year, we presented our proposal for a retrospective issue. With considerable enthusiasm, the board agreed that a special issue would be a worthwhile under- taking, and indeed several of the board members volunteered to contribute manuscripts on a topic of interest. At the time, no one suspected that the task we had embarked upon would be as daunt- ing as it has turned out to be. Over its more than 8-decade history, more than 4,000 articles, notes, book reviews and editorials have appeared in the MLJ. Surveying a representative sampling of pub- lications on some of the major themes relating to language teaching that have appeared in the pages of the Journal has not been easy. Clearly, we have not been able to deal with all of the topics, and we, no doubt, are open to some criticism for

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  • 468

    areas we opted to include, as well as for those we decided to exclude. Nevertheless, we are confi- dent that readers of the special issue will find a good deal of interesting and informative reading on the history of many of the domains that co- here to create the field of language teaching and learning.

    We decided to cover 11 topics in the special retrospective issue. In addition to taking a retro- spective stance, each contribution also offers at least a partial prospective glance into the new century. Because of length constraints, the spe- cial issue will be published in two installments, the first in this the final issue of 2000 and the second in the initial issue of 2001. The 5 topics included in the first installment are as follows: the influence of linguistics and psychology on the field, the development of teacher education pro- grams, language learners and their relationship to language teachers, language testing, and liter- ary analysis and its teaching. The second install- ment will comprise 6 articles focusing on the fol- lowing topics: the controversy over the place of foreign language (FL) in the school curriculum; developments in language teaching methodol- ogy, the integration of technology and language pedagogy, experimental research, perspectives on MLJ book reviews, and a history of the MLJ's editorial policy.

    As we worked on the project, it became clear, based on the commentary provided by the review- ers of the articles, that we were confronting a scope problem. Several reviewers were concerned that, because of our focus on a single journal, we are not presenting the full picture on any given topic. Presenting comprehensive histories of the topics was, by design, not our intent. We are of- fering, instead, a chronology of important themes in language teaching as seen through the eyes of one of the oldest and most widely read journals in the field. Despite changing editorial policies of the Journal throughout the course of its history, it seems clear that what it chose to publish in any given epoch is, to a considerable extent, representative of what was going on in the field in general at the time. A brief look at articles that appeared in such journals as Hispania, The Moder Language Bulletin, Monatshefte, The School Review, The Journal of Education, and The Educa- tional Review reveals that their contents closely paralleled what was published in the MLJ. We are confident that the topics covered as well as the content of the articles here surveyed are repre- sentative of developments in the field over the course of the last century.

    This shortcoming aside, the special issue pro-

    The Modern Language Journal 84 (2000)

    vides some interesting reading. Many of us, for example, are familiar with the contributions of people such as Wallace Lambert, Dwight Bolin- ger, Nelson Brooks, Robert Politzer, Paul Pim- sleur, and John B. Carroll, but I suspect that for all but the serious devotee of the history of the field, scholars such as Walter Kaulfers, Algernon Coleman, Charles Handschin, Otto Bond, Peter Hagboldt, James B. Tharp, Grace Young, Helen Eaton, and Heyward Keniston are not among those names that are easily recognized, yet they were important players in shaping the profession in its early days and were regular contributors to the MLJ. Many of these by now obscure names will resurface in the articles included in the retro- spective issue, which we invite readers to ap- proach with an open mind. You will be offered a fascinating glimpse into the history of the field as it is documented in the pages of the MLJ. Many of the problems that the profession continues to wrangle with today-proficiency testing, individ- ual differences, motivation, aptitude, teacher preparation, effective teaching methodolo- gies-were at the center of concern for our predecessors throughout most of the last century. One can only hope that our successors will not be grappling with these same problems at the con- clusion of the present century.

    Among the many interesting aspects of the Journal that I discovered as I read through its thousands of pages is that many of the articles carried in the first third of the MLfs existence were authored by language teachers or supervi- sors affiliated with secondary schools. Of the total of 30 articles carried in the initial volume of the Journal (1916-1917), 12 (40%) were published by individuals with secondary school affiliations. Perhaps this should not be too surprising given that the Journal was the official organ of the Na- tional Federation of Modern Language Teachers Association, whose membership was largely com- prised of public school teachers and, as Heidi Byrnes reminds us in her contribution, at the outset of its life the MLJ "was neither a linguistics nor a psychologyjournal but ajournal for and by practitioners." In subsequent issues, the percent- age of contributions from the secondary school sector dropped to around 17% and remained roughly at this level, with a few exceptions (in Volume 11, published in 1927, the percentage rose to 33%) until about the time of WWII, when it declined sharply to about 6%. It remained at this rate for the next 2 decades, although in 1966 and 1967, due in large part to contributions fo- cusing on FLES programs, the rate rose to ap- proximately 15%. By the mid-1970s, contribu-

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  • James P Lantolf

    tions from those in the secondary schools were limited to one- or two-page notes.

    It is probably not by chance that school teach- ers began to disappear from the pages of the MLJ at about the time the linguists and the psycholo- gists came onto the scene and introduced special- ized jargon and a scientific approach to the study of language, language teaching, and language learning. To be sure, several of the early studies on language proficiency were published by indi- viduals with secondary school affiliation, but these studies generally did not represent a fo- cused research agenda as was the case with schol- ars from the major universities, who published regularly in the MLJ. Consequently, reports on how to teach students to use the Spanish subjunc- tive correctly or on the use of songs to teach French culture-which had been at one point featured articles, often contributed by school teachers-were relegated to more marginalized status within the Journal. Focus was placed on the relevance of phonological analysis of a particular language, or on the relevance of morphological analysis for the teaching of vocabulary. In short, with the advent of the linguists and the psycholo- gists, the teaching of FLs was to be built on a "scientific" research foundation-an enterprise in which teachers apparently were unable to par- ticipate. As a consequence, teachers were no longer producers, but were consumers of knowl- edge related to language learning and teaching, that is, of research that was increasingly con- ducted in sites far removed from the world they inhabited.

    Although several world events have impacted on our field, as the MLJ documents, three, all having to do with human conflicts, have had spe- cial consequences for the field: World War I, World War II, and the Cold War, marked particu- larly by the Soviet's launching of Sputnik. Of the three, however, WWII clearly had the most pro- found and lasting impact on language study in the United States. Because of the need for large numbers of soldiers and others involved in the war effort who had speaking and aural compre- hension ability in a wide variety of languages, the well-known Army Special Training Program (ASTP) came into existence. Owing to its success, those in the educational domain believed that it would be possible to adapt the techniques em- ployed in the ASTP to fit the secondary and post- secondary settings. As a consequence, as Kramsch and Kramsch's study documents, the study of FL no longer meant study of foreign literature, but the development of speaking and listening profi- ciency. In the decade following the conclusion of


    the War, the bifurcation between language and literature study grew increasingly greater. The Cold War and the launching of Sputnik in 1957 raised national security concerns to the point that, in 1958, the federal government established its National Defense Education Act (NDEA) insti- tutes to promote the learning of FLs, including especially Russian. These institutes legitimized the chasm between language learning and litera- ture study that had begun during the war years. In many respects, university FL departments con- tinue to be polarized by this division today, even though in most cases language and literature fac- ulty cohabitate. Perhaps the guarded optimism expressed by Kramsch and Kramsch at the con- clusion of their article, that in the present cen- tury we may be able to find innovative ways of reintegrating the learning of FLs and the study of

    foreign literature, will be realized. Prior to the First World War, as documented in

    the MLJ, the most popular FL studied in the United States was German, far outstripping French, which was a distant second. The study of Spanish at this time was hardly noticeable. Once the United States entered the war, however, en- rollments in German declined precipitously, and French replaced German as the most widely stud- ied modern FL. German, in fact, fell to third place after Spanish, whose study was seen as im- portant, not because the culture and literature of its speakers was seen as worthy of study, as was the case with French, but because it was important for commercial markets opening up in Latin Amer- ica. During WWI, the pages of the MLJcontained some exceptionally vitriolic articles that railed against the study of German-the language of the despised enemy. It is interesting that during the Second World War the same type of negative arti- cles against German language and culture did not appear in the pages of the MLJ.

    With these preceding remarks as background, I would now like to present a brief overview of each of the five articles included in the first in- stallment of this special retrospective issue. The initial article, by Heidi Byrnes, documents the discussions and debates carried on in the MLJ regarding the relative contributions of linguistics and psychology to the language teaching enter- prise. These discussions, as Byrnes notes, are par- ticularly interesting because they reflect an im- portant shift not only in the field itself, but also in the contents of the Journal. Psychology made its presence known in the field and in the Journal beginning in the 1920s, when articles appeared on language aptitude, motivation, and profi- ciency. Linguists did not make regular appear-

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  • 470

    ances in the MLJuntil the time of WWII and the

    emergence of the ASTP. In the discussions that

    appeared in the MLJ, linguists such as Dwight Bolinger argued for the relevance of linguistics, while psychologists such as Carroll and Wallace Lambert pointed to the significance psychologi- cal research had for language teaching practice. As Byrnes points out, one might expect that lin- guists and psychologists might complement each other's work. After all, the former are interested in what is to be taught and the latter with how it should be taught most effectively in order to fos- ter optimal learning. As it turns out, however, because of the success of the ATSP, linguists had a great deal to say about how languages should be taught in the roughly 25-year period following the end of WWII. Psychologists, such asJ. B. Car- roll, cautioned that neither audiolingual theory nor cognitive code theory was supported by psy- chological research.

    Schulz surveys developments in the area of teacher education. Clearly, this has been one of the most complex and hotly debated topics to appear in the MLJ. At the beginning of the 20th century, the predominant assumption was that teachers were born and not made, or if they were made, they were "self-made." Therefore little at- tention was paid to the idea of FL teacher educa- tion. By the 1920s, however, articles began to ap- pear that outlined a curriculum for the "training" of high school language teachers. One of the

    problems confronting teacher education pro- grams in the early years of the century was lack of speaking ability on the part of candidates for cer- tification. It is not too surprising, given the focus on literary study in the university sphere, that college professors abhorred the teaching of lan- guage. State and national teacher exams were

    proposed over the years to ensure a reasonable level of proficiency. Also, at times, teachers were encouraged to spend time abroad. It is not sur- prising, however, that teachers were not required to take special methods courses for the teaching of FLs. They were required to pursue general methods and testing courses as well as courses in the psychology of learning. One of the controver- sies reflected in theJournal was how many subject- matter versus education courses teachers would be required to take. In fact, because of the stress on education courses in many circles, one of the worries of some college professors was the worry of some in liberal arts schools that their graduates would be shut out of teaching positions in the public schools. Prior to the 1940s, only rarely were courses in the linguistics of the language discussed in the MLJ. By the 1960s, teachers were

    The Modern Language Journal 84 (2000)

    expected to demonstrate both subject matter and

    professional competence. They were required to take courses that focused on the language, al- though early on these were not what we would now consider linguistics courses. When linguistics courses were taught, for example, beginning in earnest at the time of the NDEA institutes, lin- guists in general had serious problems making linguistics relevant to teaching. Especially inter-

    esting is that in a 1964 special issue of the MLJ, a set of "guidelines" for teacher preparation was published, but as Schulz points out, these guide- lines were not very different from what had al-

    ready been recommended as early as 1898. De-

    spite the field's best efforts, one problem continued to nag the profession-the low level of language proficiency among future teachers. Most teachers did not reach a Foreign Service Institute (FSI) level 2. Schulz also discusses arti- cles dealing with teaching assistant (TA) prepara- tion programs at the university level. It is not too

    surprising that concern with this topic did not

    emerge until nearly the end of the 1960s. Horwitz's contribution traces the history of the

    relationship between language teachers and lan-

    guage learners as it played out in the MLJ. She considers such topics as learner motivation, atti- tude, and aptitude and points out that, almost from the beginning of the Journal, there was in- terest in understanding and dealing with individ- ual differences among learners. Articles also ad- dressed concerns over learner attrition. Most interesting of all is the appearance of a number of articles written by learners themselves. These are different from the recent articles written by second language education researchers who have documented their own attempts to learn a second

    language. The Journal also published articles on

    teaching language to nontypical populations such as English to German prisoners of war dur- ing WWII. A particularly interesting aspect of the

    early writings on learners and their differences has to do with use of what, by today's standards, would be considered nonpolitically correct lan-

    guage. Learners were often referred to in the 1920s as "dullards," and some authors rued the fact that they too often found themselves in posi- tions of having to provide language instruction to the "incompetent." A particularly interesting study from 1939 that is mentioned by Horwitz, as well as by Spolsky, reported a strong correlation between college grades and a test of mental abil- ity among female language students but only a very weak correlation between these two factors

    among males. Neither Horwitz, Spolsky, nor the author of the study speculates on the source of

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  • James P Lantolf

    the difference. Other articles encouraged teach- ers to market their wares conscientiously by mak- ing their classrooms attractive, by providing infor- mation about the usefulness of language, and by engaging students in extracurricular language ac- tivities. As early as the 1960s, some articles were published that foreshadowed research on prag- matics, variation, and native speaker reactions to learner language.

    Spolsky surveys the articles on language testing and assessment that appeared in the MLJ. He points out that whereas some of the articles, such as the debates on the Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) that took place in the 1980s and the re- search on cloze testing that appeared at about the same time, were influential, most of the re- search on testing published in the Journal did not appear to have that much impact. To be sure, he argues that much of what predated the ap- pearance of journals such as Language Learning, TESOL Quarterly, Applied Lingusitics, and the spe- cialized journal Language Testing offers a useful perspective on the growth of the field of lan- guage assessment. However, he sees these early studies as interesting for their historical, rather than for their research, value. For instance, he notes that as early as 1951 the MLJpublished an article that foreshadowed cloze testing, even though it was ignored by those who would later develop and refine this technique. We also learn that researchers were already interested in place- ment, proficiency, and aptitude in the 1930s. He does not believe, although perhaps not uncon- troversially, that a generalist journal such as the MLJ can have only limited value in advancing a field such as language testing. He suggests that the Journal would provide an important service if it would occasionally publish state-of-the-art pa- pers on testing.

    Finally, in addition to what I have already men- tioned about the contribution by Kramsch and Kramsch, their article surveys the research pub- lished in the MLJ on literary analysis as it was practiced primarily before the Second World


    War. Following the war, as we have seen, articles on this topic were no longer robustly represented in the Journal. The authors document the debates between scholars espousing the French approach to textual analysis and those supporting the Ger- man take on things. Later, articles on Spanish literature made their appearance, and, eventu- ally, contributions on other national literatures put in brief appearances as well, including Italian, Luso-Brazilian, Russian, and Hebrew. Over the course of its first 3 decades, the MLJ published annual reviews of work on the national literatures of France, Germany, Portugal and Brazil, Spain and Spanish American countries, Italy, and Russia and other Slavic-speaking countries. As focus shifted to what today is known as communicative ability, and with it the domination of the field by linguistics and psychology, literary scholarship faded from the pages of the MLJ.

    A fitting conclusion to this introduction, to what I believe is a unique undertaking in the field of language teaching, is provided by the commen- tary of a reviewer of one of the manuscripts in- cluded in the special issue:

    It is humbling to read the excerpts from and summa- ries of articles which appeared in the MLJ50 or more years ago. We are so convinced that we know so much more than our predecessors, but careful study often reveals that our views of history are terribly limited or distorted and that much of what we take to be new or even revolutionary was always there, at least in some form. This article certainly had that effect on me. I found it a rich resource, full of trails to follow and acknowledgements to make in my own work.

    As guest editor for this special issue, I believe that I am accurately representing the sentiments of the contributors to this project in stating that we hope readers will find in it many worthwhile "trails to follow" that will provide an enriched understanding of and appreciation for not only the MLJ, one of the longest standing journals in the language teaching profession, but for the pro- fession itself.

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    Article Contentsp. [467]p. 468p. 469p. 470p. 471

    Issue Table of ContentsThe Modern Language Journal, Vol. 84, No. 4, Special Issue: A Century of Language Teaching and Research: Looking Back and Looking Ahead, Part 1 (Winter, 2000), pp. 465-614Volume Information [pp. 612-614]Front MatterFrom the Editor: This Special Retrospective: A Century of Language Teaching and Research: Looking Back and Looking Ahead [pp. 465-466]Introduction to the Special Issue: A Century of Language Teaching and Research: Looking Back and Looking Ahead [pp. 467-471]Shaping the Discourse of a Practice: The Role of Linguistics and Psychology in Language Teaching and Learning [pp. 472-494]Foreign Language Teacher Development: MLJ Perspectives-1916-1999 [pp. 495-522]Teachers and Students, Students and Teachers: An Ever-Evolving Partnership [pp. 523-535]Language Testing in the Modern Language Journal [pp. 536-552]The Avatars of Literature in Language Study [pp. 553-573]MLJ News & Notes of the Profession [pp. 574-577]A Tribute to Jerry Ervin, Associate Editor, News & Notes [pp. 578-579]In Other Professional Journals [pp. 580-585]MLJ ReviewsTheory and PracticeReview: untitled [pp. 586-587]Review: untitled [pp. 587-589]Review: untitled [pp. 589-590]Review: untitled [pp. 590-591]

    ChineseReview: untitled [pp. 591-592]

    FrenchReview: untitled [pp. 592-593]

    IrishReview: untitled [pp. 593-595]

    JapaneseReview: untitled [pp. 595-596]

    LinguisticsReview: untitled [pp. 596-597]

    RussianReview: untitled [pp. 597-598]

    SociolinguisticsReview: untitled [pp. 598-599]Review: untitled [pp. 599-601]Review: untitled [pp. 601-602]

    SpanishReview: untitled [pp. 602-603]Review: untitled [pp. 603-604]Review: untitled [pp. 604-605]

    TechnologyReview: untitled [pp. 605-606]Review: untitled [pp. 606-607]Review: untitled [pp. 607-609]

    YiddishReview: untitled [pp. 609-610]

    From the Editor: In Recognition and with Appreciation [p. 611]Back Matter


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