100% Different

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12 thoughts on “100% Different”

  1. I’m still torn between mere unconscious aquisition of an L2 and some/a little involvement of the conscious mind for (older) learners. For one thing, if we translate a word or phrase I would say that’s already conscious learning.
    Another thought: When we learn our L1, our cognitive abilities are almost non-existant but later they develop more and more. Isn’t it possible that those abilities to understand sometimes want to have their share in learning/aquiring a language? When a student asks for a grammatical explanation, I will always give it as simply as possible.

    1. We acquire languages by focusing on the message. Yes, there is some conscious involvement, but how much do you focus on the German language when you speak it on a daily basis, Udo? It’s the same thing. Just get them focused on the message, the advanced kids too because really they are just beginners, really. And those advanced kids should be reading a ton.

      I feel that the initial 2017 Erlangen conference is going to be the beginning of something very important. I really hope we can get together in Erlangen in 2018 and I’m sorry Tina and I can’t make it this summer. Erlangen is going to be like Agen.

      1. Ben, I might have not been very clear about what I mean by conscious involvement.
        Firstly, when I speak German, you are right of course, I don’t focus on grammar. Even if I would like to, I simply couldn’t because I wouldn’t know the rule. I go by the feel and the sound of my mother tongue. Therefore I believe that we have to teach our students in ways to develop their “ear” and feel for the L2 and that won’t happen by focusing on grammar (at least not until they have reached a really advanced stage of L2).
        By the way, do you know of any research regarding very advanced learners.

        Secondly, when I read some self-learning Spanish for beginners book, I sometimes, although very seldom, want to know how the language works even knowing that it won’t give me any language gains.
        Of course young children never ask about the language. If they ask, it’s about words or phrases. But older children somteimes do and I have the gut feeling that if I don’t oblige them I might be raising the affective filter.

        1. Udo, I think those kids are the very few, who actually go on to study language to become teachers and linguists. Robert Harrell has said that he always tells those class “Great question, you and I can talk about it during lunch if you want.” And no one has ever taken him up on it… It might just be a tactic to distract. I would try that. Tell them to come see you in their free time. If they do, give a short explanation, if not… well, it wasn’t that important to them after all. But you let them know you heard them and offered to explain.

          1. Kathrin said:

            …it might just be a tactic to distract….

            I feel that this is very true. I also think that some kids are using it to draw attention to their own intellect, since they see learning in terms of competition and being the smartest.

          2. Actually, in over 20 years of teaching I have had one (1) student take me up on the offer. He was such a language geek that he would come after school to ask me questions, and we would occasionally spend a lot of time looking at different aspects of German grammar until he was satisfied.

            This year a student who has never taken German is trying to teach himself several languages and drops in every once in a while and asks me questions. I’m trying to direct him to comprehensible input, but he is also interested in grammar, so I talk to him about grammar.

            That makes two students in over 20 years. By a conservative estimate, I have taught well over 1,000 students, so this represents less than 0.2 percent of the students I have taught. If they are interested, they will come. Most are only marginally interested, are trying to distract, or are telling you they need a brain break.

          3. Sorry for misquoting, Robert! Two in over twenty years… I wish I could tell my old colleague from the HS this. She taught flat out linguistics in her German class, because she was so interested in it as a student. She also said: “They won’t be fluent in 4 years anyway. We just teach them languages to work their brain in different ways.” oy.

          4. Not a problem, Kathrin. I just wanted to give those two students their due.

            Your former colleague was right that our students will not achieve native speaker fluency in four years. Your colleague’s logical fallacy was the all-or-nothing trap. There is so much wrong there that I won’t pursue it.

            The second statement is grasping at straws. When I researched the history of teaching methods in foreign language instruction, I found the introduction of modern languages into the curriculum a fascinating study.

            Long after they had ceased to be native languages for any of the students at university, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin continued to have pride of place in the curriculum because of their status as “sacred languages”. (Hebrew and Greek for the original manuscripts of the Bible; Latin for the liturgy, writings of the Church Fathers, and first – and official – translations) Learning them was preparation for the “reading” of a closed corpus, but it was also preparation for other subjects and accompanied logic and grammar to form the Trivium. The emphasis was on grammar as the mechanics of language, just as logic was the mechanics of thought. In the same way that the absolute veracity or falsehood was irrelevant to logic, so too was meaning irrelevant to grammar – and often viewed as a hindrance.

            Eventually, people began demanding modern languages in school, but the same approach was applied to modern language instruction as had been applied to classical language instruction. As a result, students left school without being able to speak the language. While this deficiency remained hidden with the classical languages because they were not actually spoken, it became glaring when students could not carry on a conversation after years of study. Thus, a new justification and rationale for inclusion in the curriculum needed to be found. Coupled with the treatment of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, modern language instruction was justified on the basis of “exercising the mind”.

            Your colleague is using an argument that was already specious in the Middle Ages.

          5. Awesome summary!

            When I took my final exams in English at highschool (Gymnasium) in 1977 all the parts were in writing.
            During our 8 years of study, our “speaking” the language consisted of reading out aloud the answers to questions on a text or grammar exercises!!! I couldn’t communicate in English at all.

            Luckily this has changed somewhat several years ago and students are requested now to take an oral examination of 30 minutes. But textbooks and grammar exercises are still in vogue for the first 5 years of instruction.

        2. …if they ask, it’s about words or phrases. But older children sometimes do …

          For me it’s all whether they ask or not. I oblige any questions with quick answers but only when they ask. That’s the key phrase for me, “If they ask.” So I think we are on the same page.

  2. I’m not sure where to post this so I decided to put it here. I am hoping someone could help me out with this:

    This afternoon the High School World Language teachers have a PD to “Develop interpersonal speaking cards/assessments for remaining units of study this year”. The description of the PD goes on to list the Pedagogical Expectations:
    “Embed the measurement of interpersonal tasks into instruction”
    “Provide opportunities for students to demonstrate mastery of interpersonal oral communication”

    I was wondering if someone could help me put into words how what we do is already interpersonal (and how it comes naturally). Of course, I have my own ideas but maybe someone could help me to articulate it a bit better. I always get anxious having to defend what I do and it never comes out right. However, my assistant principal will be there and he supports me so I feel safe enough to do so if I am asked by other teachers.

    Also, I’m sure I will be asked how I measure their speaking… I suppose I could say it’s difficult to measure this since we are talking about acquisition vs. learning, etc… Also, I could mention that forced speech does nothing for acquisition… any other thoughts?

    I should have written earlier because my meeting begins at in a few hours but maybe someone could help me…

    Thank you!

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