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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Mailbag

    Wildcat’s SafeRide coverage was excellent

    I just wanted to quickly thank the members of the Arizona Daily Wildcat Opinions Board for their kind words in Friday’s Pass/Fail editorial. All of the staff of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona SafeRide have worked extremely hard this year to reach this incredible goal, and I deeply appreciate the Wildcat’s excellent coverage of this momentous occasion. Thank you again for your praises.

    Joshua Wright
    director, ASUA SafeRide

    Foreign languages require outside practice

    I see a few major flaws in Vanessa Valenzuela’s Friday column on the shortcomings of language instruction at the UA. Unfortunately, Valenzuela offers no evidence to support her claims that language instruction at the UA is not up to snuff. In fact, the UA is recognized across the country for its language instruction. If you don’t believe me, just look it up: The UA teaches languages many other universities won’t even touch, like Arabic, Chinese and Portuguese. Since it seems obvious that Valenzuela is particularly disappointed with the Spanish and Portuguese department, I would remind her that it has the second-highest enrollment in the entire university (second only to the English department). I am sorry that Valenzuela has encountered a situation in which she was dissatisfied with her instructor and/or fellow students. The solution is not, however, to allow oneself to break down into English in class. Had Valenzuela gone to the department head, to the instructor or to any other professor to discuss the matter, I’m sure she would have gotten better results. Instead, she has taken her lack of knowledge about language teaching and learning and made gross overgeneralizations, homogenizing the entire “”language instruction”” of the UA into something that looks like one big, chaotic mess.

    I, an “”overstressed grad student,”” can hopefully offer some solutions to Valenzuela’s frustrations. If you read any book on language pedagogy, you will find that, sadly, four hours a week isn’t really enough to learn a language quickly and efficiently. Yes, students who really want to gain fluency need to work outside class by participating in outside events, just as Valenzuela suggested. Study abroad is another very good option. You can’t learn a language entirely sitting in a classroom, just like you can’t learn to swim if you never jump in the pool. Business students do internships, education majors do student teaching, music students practice their instruments outside of class and language students should be no different. You have to put in the time and energy if you want results. Valenzuela’s complaints about her instructors breaking down and speaking English and the lack of reasonably priced tutors on campus is a bunch of whining nonsense that I have to listen to every day as a language instructor. If you study, visit your teacher in office hours, make friends who speak the language you want to learn, watch television, listen to the radio and read in the target language, you can give yourself a much broader experience. It’s up to you to take the initiative. No one can force you to learn if you’re not willing to put in a little extra effort.

    Lucy Blaney
    graduate teaching assistant in Spanish and Portuguese

    Disagreements not un-American

    I’m writing in response to a Friday Mailbag letter from Ove Mard. I didn’t think I would see the day that someone referred to Scott McClellan as a great American and thought he spoke “”for all Americans.”” (There is a reason why Republicans and Democrats alike pressured Bush to shake up his staff, of which McClellan was a big part). But Mard’s opinion is not what I am taking issue with; I am frustrated by the constant labeling of un-American or “”enemy of freedom,”” to use Mard’s words, for anyone who questions a member of the White House. It’s supposed to be a press conference, not a lecture hall. This blind dismissal of liberals as un-American is a large part of the polarization of Democrats and Republicans and their followers. I hope that, at least, most Americans would agree we are all one people under one flag, and we are all striving to make this country the best it can be. We may disagree about how to accomplish that goal or what that means exactly, but it is our right as Americans to disagree and voice that opinion; that’s the whole point of the First Amendment.

    Mario Enrique Uriarte
    creative writing senior

    Not all classes are equal

    Vanessa Valenzuela’s Friday column insulted every language department at this university, based solely on one class of one department. She should make herself better informed, perhaps attend several other upper-division language classes or speak with professors or department graduates before she passes judgment on the UA’s language programs, especially before publication. Had she, she would have seen a much different view from the one class she attends. This column was an insult to every language program here.

    Sabrina Sebens
    molecular and cellular biology junior

    Language classes can’t be blamed for students’ bad habits

    I agree with Vanessa Valenzuela to a certain extent that foreign language classes can be somewhat inefficient at the lower levels, but as a student who has completed minors in German and Spanish at the UA, I feel that she places too much blame on the programs and not enough on the students. Students who truly want to learn and utilize their speaking skills will do the homework, will try to use the language whenever possible and will get something out of their classes. Unfortunately, not enough students really want to learn. They just want to earn the credits for graduation, and that is why they make little or no effort to retain what they have learned in class. Learning a foreign language takes practice and dedication, and it is up to the students, not the instructors, to take the extra time to do that.

    Jasmine Schaller
    business administration senior

    Language pedagogy prefers participation over perfection

    The misguided assumptions and overgeneralized statements made by Vanessa Valenzuela in the column “”University language classes inefficient”” deserve some criticism themselves. Vanessa, you might want to consider that us “”merely overstressed grad students who teach only because we have to”” actually have future professional goals of teaching a second language and therefore would certainly regard it a privilege to be able to apply the pedagogical methods learned in second-language acquisition courses. However, pedagogy doesn’t seem to be your area of expertise, so let me try to correct your uninformed generalizations.

    Firstly, I could not agree with you more that time allotted in UA language classes is not sufficient to allow for complete acquisition. This is precisely the reason why we as language instructors strongly encourage a study abroad experience. I believe it is an indicator of success of a language class, not failure, as you believe, if a student decides “”to leave UA language classes behind completely by packing up and studying abroad.”” That is actually the goal here.

    Secondly, the criticism that “”professors are unable to correct every mistake”” is wildly misguided. Correcting every single mistake in a language classroom should never be the goal of any good teacher, as it leads to students’ inhibition to produce the language. This traditional teaching method was discarded long ago; we now advocate a communicative competence method that advocates active instead of passive student participation. This leads me to the most unfortunate assumption in your article. The hasty comment thrown in at the end, oh yeah, and “”students should do their part as well”” should actually be your main argument as to why UA language classes are inefficient. In my experience, second-language learner success is wholly dependent on the individual student’s effort and interest level.

    So next time, please be sure to observe every lower- and upper-level language course offered (or at least more than one) before assessing its program’s efficiency.

    Ellen Johnson
    graduate student in Hispanic linguistics
    Spanish 201 instructor

    Satiric letter a ‘masterpiece’

    I laughed long and hard after reading Ove Mard’s devastingly droll letter on the resignation of Scott McClellan as the White House press secretary.ÿThe wit was impeccable and a lot more sophisticated than what I’ve come to expect. Sneeringly dismissing the esteemed Helen Thomas as a “”dove”” and in the very nextÿsentence slamming her as an “”enemy of freedom and liberty””? (Priceless!)ÿ Ove Mard mimics the rabid, mindless,ÿinflammatory rhetoric of blindly loyal White House supporters effortlessly. Mard casuallyÿhurls epithets like “”fascist”” and “”dangerous threat”” at anyone daring to question the White House on legitimate matters of policy and state. (As if the U.S. didn’t have a free press. *wink-wink*)

    And then the letter writer finishes with a wild-eyed call to arms for supporters to properly honor the former press secretary’s service.ÿ””Maybe we could start a charity?”” Mard asks, deadpan. (Hilarious!) Now, I do thinkÿMardÿrisked overplaying the joke when suggesting we declare Sept. 11 as official Scott McClellan Day, but in all, an amazing show of satiric force.ÿ

    Well done Mard, andÿkudos to you, Wildcat, for realizing that your readers are clever enough to appreciate such wickedly sly prose. Cheers!

    F. Hickman
    UA staff

    Minutemen: Leave border to gov’t

    This is in response to the Minutemen leaders’ calls for a fence on the border. This article was very upsetting and disappointing that citizens have taken charge and are acting like the government in trying to control the border problems themselves. Minutemen are just ordinary citizens who have been pushed to the limit and cannot tolerate the illegal immigrants any more. I do not support illegal immigration, but there is a point where people get out of line and make matters worse than they already are. Within this article, the minuteman leader, Chris Simcox, has proposed that if the government doesn’t build a fence along the border, they will. What contradicts this proposal is that the government has already built walls, not just fences, to help control the immigration problem. Minutemen are just causing more frustration and problems for the government, and not just ours, but even for the Mexican government. Taking matters into their own hands and building other structures along the border in place of the ones that the government has, causes issues against controlling our citizens rebelling and provoking more hatred from the Mexican government. The U.S. government has dealt very well with these immigration problems and is doing as much as it can in compromising with the Mexican government on this issue. Minutemen need to be stopped, for they are only making matters worse, and there have been no improvements since they have been established and taken matters into their own hands. Only death and criminal investigations have been the outcomes of this cruel and heartless organization.

    Mark Kudrna
    pre-business freshman

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