I mentioned listservs in an earlier post this week and thought it might be worthwhile to follow up with some details, recommendations, and tips. A listserv is, basically, an automated mailing list in which all messages are emailed to everyone on the list. It's an asynchronous discussion forum. You read and respond to messages at your own pace. In today's post I'm going to describe some of the foreign language teaching listservs that I have found useful both as a teacher and a blogger.
Nandu is a listserv organized by the Center for Applied Linguistics. It describes itself as "the listserv for school district personnel, superintendents, teachers, and teacher educators committed to improving early language programs by sharing information and expertise." Many members seem to be elementary school foreign language teachers. Recent posts have covered the following topics, for example: how to teach about Thanksgiving in the target language (an interesting dilemma, given that it's a fairly unique American holiday), assigning grades to elementary school students who only have foreign language class once or twice a week, and French songs that appeal to children and whose lyrics are comprehensible.
Nandu's messages can also be consulted on the following websites: here for messages posted after May 5, 2005 and here (follow the link for messages prior to that date). You don't need a password. There, you can either search by keyword for specifictopics or choose the "Read Messages" option. Click here to subscribe to Nandu.
Biling-Fam is a list for bilingual families. Messages on this site seem to be less "academic" in nature and more "personal." (For example, Braunstonian, a regular reader of this blog, announced to this listserv that he and his partner are expecting.) Generally, parents write in with questions about raising their children bilingually, looking for advice and suggestions from their peers. Recent posts that caught my eye included: what should bilingual kids call their mom and dad (at last count there were 74 responses to this query!), ideas for light reading in various foreign languages, educational systems in other countries, and discussion of the lyrics of "You Are My Sunshine." Subscribe here.
Another forum that exists for parents raising children bilingually is BBFN (Bilingual Bicultural Family Network), which is less active than the previous one. You can check out BBFN-News' archives here. Subscribe to the list here.
As I don't have bilingual kids (just a nephew who can't talk yet!) and don't teach elementary school (except for some tutoring), the language teacher listserv I follow most closely is FL-TEACH (and have been following for about five years), which is open to teachers of any language at any level (the majority seem to be Americans teaching Spanish and French). This group is extremely lively and supportive. The moderators give the following description of the group: "The topic of this list is Foreign Language Teaching methods including school & college articulation, training of student teachers, curriculum, and the NYS syllabus. We hope that this list will also be used to foster a community in which colleagues can share ideas, outlines, handouts and other teaching materials, syllabi, and bibliographies." While most posts are classroom-related--how to teach ser vs.estar in Spanish, textbook recommendations, suggestions for practicing clothing vocabulary--there is also the occasional rant, requests for books and movies and translations, links to newspaper articles and websites, and much more. I have collected dozens (in fact, probably hundreds) of ideas and recommendations and teaching tips from this listserv. Search the FL-TEACH archive here; and here's where you can subscribe.
Moreover, I subscribe to several listservs for ESL/EFL teachers. The main listserv, TESL-L, has 27,000+ members! I also receive its sub-group, TESLCA-L, for CALL (computer-assisted language learning). The international ESL/EFL teachers' organization TESOL also offers listservs for its members; they are called e-groups and exist for many topics (I believe there is one about teaching young children, but I haven't joined it yet). I do subscribe to TESOL-Drama, their listserv about using theatre in the language classroom. These three I wouldn't recommend as strongly to the average reader of this blog, simply because they are much more academic in nature, in fact geared towards university teaching (except for the drama listserv). You must also be a TESOL member to subscribe to TESOL's e-groups. If you're interested in learning more, visit TESL-L and its branches here (first provide your email address and a password, then select the listserv you want), while TESOL listservs can be found here.
For additional language-related listservs, check out CCFLT (Colorado Congress of Foreign Language Teachers (scroll down). On this page you can learn about listservs for German speakers, for teachers of less commonly-taught languages, about testing, about technology, about research....
A couple of caveats: Some of these listservs generate literally dozens of messages per day. I learned a long time ago not to have them sent to my school or personal emails. Rather, I set up separate email accounts that I visit every couple of days. Here's what I really recommend: Gmail. In this email program, all messages with the same subject are grouped together, and the first line of the message appears in your inbox. This makes it very easy to a) delete messages which are not relevant to you and b) read all messages on a topic together in chronological order. With any listserv, I would also recommend "lurking" for a while--reading many posts and getting a feel for the topics, the tone, the expectations--before posting messages. Additionally, if you're a new subscriber, check the archives before sending a request for information, for you might find that the subject has been discussed at length already.
Whew! This turned out to be a longer post than I had anticipated, but I really appreciate listservs and wanted to share my top three. Any other recommendations or suggestions?