The fact is that the grammar teachers’ claim that their students can acquire a language by focusing on bricks is and has always been completely false. Nothing can come from studying a language in this way. As language teachers we need to build houses. We don’t have to become architects – no mere human could ever become an architect of language.
Creation of language is deceptively complicated and yet majestically simple and therefore is not within the ken of conscious analysis at all. It never was. Why, then, teach it via the conscious mind?
Languages emerge from the collective experience, that is, from the personal and collective unconscious minds of countless human beings over countless centuries. Language thus continues to evolve in the same way. Nobody, not even the French Academy – which has tried – can control this evolution. If one were to risk pushing the image too far, one could point out that, in the area of architecture, Garnier probably never could have predicted the work of Chagall in his building.
It is the same with stories – things emerge into the discussion organically, naturally, at the oddest times. Something learned in PQA about a kid three months ago is suddenly relevant to the story on a story day three months later.
Those connections, like the connection someone made between Marc Chagall’s lofty vision and the ceiling of the Paris Opera House, just happen, and we are all the happier for it, because our teaching days are not dull and boring. We build things – houses of sound and compelling (because they are personalized) images – real things that real kids can wrap their minds around.
We take kids to the opera every day! And we don’t make them stare at the individual bricks on the outside of the building that make up the opera house. We invite them in to the play!
The Problem with CI
Jeffrey Sachs was asked what the difference between people in Norway and in the U.S. was. He responded that people in Norway are happy and
2 thoughts on “Brick House 8”
“The fact is that the grammar teachers’ claim that their students can acquire a language by focusing on bricks is and has always been completely false.”
To follow up on John Piazza’s post the other day and to respond to this, I’ll speak from a Latin teacher’s perspective. In the Latin teaching community, and particularly at the university level, the vast majority of instructors do not have language acquisition (as defined by Krashen) as a goal. They are not shooting for ease of expression. So they do not claim that grammar instruction leads to acquisition, because their goal is language learning and analysis. The goal is for students to be able to read, translate, and talk about Latin literature. We might disagree with them here and argue that reading is not the same thing as decoding. But to have a constructive conversation with our colleagues who aren’t on board with CI, acquisition, etc, we have to start with a conversation about what the goals of language instruction will be.
“Nothing can come from studying a language in this way.”
On the contrary, Latinists all over the world have studied language in this way and are reading literature, producing wonderful and vivid translations, and writing excellent scholarship on Latin literature of all eras. They may all be 4%ers, but how will we show that we value their experience while still advocating for acquisition-based instruction?
In the Latin teaching community, a nation-wide pedagogical shift will require a change in the stated goals of Latin learning. As long as universities and standardized exams focus on translation and parsing, secondary teachers will feel compelled to teach toward these goals.
…how will we show that we value their experience while still advocating for acquisition-based instruction…?
That’s a pretty good question and sheds light on the unique position Latin occupies in this argument. Now that people are aware of the power of CI/Krashen’s work, things even in the world of Latin instruction now MUST change. I am personally not very interested in showing appreciation for those who live in the 4% world. their ivory tower careers got them a job and a valued place in academia where people admire their scholarship so they are appreciated enough. Why would they ever want to leave that world for some – in their minds – fantasy world? Everybody learning Latin? That somehow would take away their status, their place. Latin – common? Not if they can help it. I say let them be. Find those who buy into the idea that Latin can be spoken again – for whatever reasons (that would be an entirely different set of people with the exception of those in the middle who will kick off the change and roil around in it) and start the work.