I was called a lunatic this weekend and it made me really happy.
Why? Because I was in an auditorium filled with other lunatics and it was so nice to have company. We were all lunatics. Language learning loonies who sold out a conference to hear a linguist.
Stephen Krashen spoke at the MDTESOL conference. For the 99% of you reading this who do not know who he is, Stephen Krashen is an eminent linguist whose theory of comprehensive input has had a major impact on the field of language learning. One can agree or disagree with his theory, but he is the man you agree or disagree with. How cool to get to actually see him and hear him speak!
And then he called us the Lunatic Fringe.
And I was delighted. I am a certifiable member of the linguistic lunatic fringe. I love language learning in a country of monolinguals where being bilingual is like being a freak. I cut my linguistic teeth diagramming sentences with Catholic nuns. (To this day, diagramming sentences is a fun thing for me to do.) Krashen cracked a grammar joke about French past participles that only a smattering of other lunatics picked up on. It was great.
Then Krashen said that “nobody cares” about language learning, which we all know to be true, but he wasn’t calling us unimportant. He affirmed my membership in the club of linguistic geeks while reminding all of us that having a compelling story is what draws people in. Compelling stories are irresistible.
Compelling story is what led one student in my 7th period class Friday to say, “I only came to school today because I knew we were watching the movie!” That made me smile, but the student who made my Friday was the kid on the lunatic fringe. When asked to translate Les poissons imitent un dauphin (the fish imitate a dolphin), he gave the smarty-pants answer “The fish imitate the son of the king of France.” And I shot back, “I guess that makes it a pretender to the throne.” The two of us were laughing like lunatics while the rest of the class went “huh?”
I suppose everyone belongs to some sort of lunatic fringe group: actuaries, tuba players, liverwurst makers. We all just want to belong. And hang out together. Sometimes even at a conference.
How crazy is that?