Kristi Lentz Taylor poses a question that I’ve never heard before. Hopefully we can shed some light on it:
I am a homeschool TPRS teacher new to the group. In one of my homeschool teaching settings, a colleague in the home (housecleaner) is a skilled and trained teacher in her home country in Honduras. I learn a ton from her and she is a dear friend. However, we have some quite different teaching philosophies: She is convinced I need to do top-down, didactic instruction on forms like gender/articles and written accent marks in order to properly teach Spanish. I, of course, as a CI/TPRS teacher, am coming from a different perspective. (I’m open to “focus on form” as per Long (1997) but not the traditional “focus on forms” that she is advocating.) I can draw on research supporting TPRS/CI, but most of this is done by people identified as U.S./Euro-based. For me to cite this in support of my pedagogy feels like yet one more instance of representatives of dominant imperial cultures (U.S./Euro) telling people from other cultures that what they’re doing/how they’re teaching is wrong. So my question is: Does anyone know of research in SLA supporting TPRS/CI being promulgated by academics in Spanish-language target cultures? Preferably in Latin America?
Thank you in advance for your help!
9 thoughts on “Question”
Kristi have you asked her on what research she is basing her position? I agree that that would be a bit on the snarky side, but it’s also a reasonable question to ask. Of course, she has no answer because there is no research supporting her position. None.
The thing is that they all know each other at that level. Among those researchers there must be someone for her. But will she read it? Isn’t her mind made up? I’ve had conversations with people who just flat out won’t read the research.
Hi Ben, thanks for the question. I haven’t asked her about the research, because from our conversations I’ve gathered that the didactic/instructivist focus on forms is just “how things are done” in her home country — how they’ve always been done, how she was taught to do, and all her colleagues do. So to suggest otherwise is to really disrupt what seems like “the one best and most natural way to do things.” She strongly insists that if I want to truly teach Spanish as L2, I need to teach it as it’s done for L1 learners throughout Latin America, and that U.S. teachers doing all these “other” methodologies is a waste of teacher and student time when I could be going straight through the phonics manual.
Even though I may disagree about L1 literacy instruction, I’ll grant that she is an expert in her field of training and insist on space to teach L2 according to how I’ve been trained. To no avail: she’s responded that both an L1 and L2 learner arrive at the beginning of literacy instruction at the same point: not knowing how to decode. I grant this, but reading is about comprehension via semantic and syntactic knowledge — not just graphophonemic. However, with regard to the background vocabulary knowledge that an L1 learner has upon entering kindergarten, my colleague was trained that an L2 learner can easily gain that same vocabulary by just telling them what the word means, and that the L1 learner doesn’t really know the word either, because the L1 learners don’t “truly know” language before school but just repeat words “like parrots.” I profoundly disagree, coming from a constructivist pedagogy.
I think it ultimately boils down to a philosophical dissonance between constructivist and instructivist educational philosophy. Will be doing some further investigation into this.
I found some support in Bonnie Campbell Hills’ Developmental Continua for Reading and Writign (http://www.bonniecampbellhill.com/support.php) which thankfully has been published in Spanish. So at least I can show that her insistence on focusing on advanced punctuation and accent marks is at a stage way ahead in the literacy instruction of my elementary dual-immersion homeschool classroom. But as for spontaneous spoken output of correct grammatical gender coming late in the acquisition process… and my insistence that L2 students have different needs than L1 learners… she is just going to have to trust me and the research. Now, I just need to find that research in Spanish, and preferably from Latin Am authors.
…U.S. teachers doing all these “other” methodologies is a waste of teacher and student time….
Kristi on that point you could show her this list from the categories here, collected up to 2017 when I broke with the TPRS community:
Also, when I was using TPRS years ago, my students always scored at the highest levels on the AATF National French Exam. Blaine Ray wrote this as an introduction to my first book about TPRS, called TPRS in a Year! (2007):
“This year Ben’s middle school students placed 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 in the state of Colorado high school National French Contest. His top kid was second in the nation. Those top five kids were all national placers.”
Another year one of my French 2 students scored a 4 on the AP exam with no prior knowledge. He did, however, take my evening classes at a local community college here in Denver that year. He also loved the language and spent countless hours at home on it. And his score on the National French Exam level 2 that year was a 69 out of 70 questions correct.
But here is the kicker on that kid, now graduated from Stanford with a degree in nanotechnology in medicine. He found a mistake on the exam that year. It wasn’t a grammar mistake but a mistake in information given during a reading passage – he found that there were no correct answers, so he put down (b) when the “correct” wrong answer was (d).
When I contacted AATF about it, after some checking, they agreed that Eric was right. It was a content error missed by seven native speaker editors, apparently. When I requested that his score be changed to 70/70 the AATF refused, claiming that they had already graded 22,000 exams. Eric didn’t push it.
That was in 2007, but the scores were always like that until I quit entering students in the contest due to some internal healing work I was doing around competition and the need for approval. (I’m so glad I did that!).
I think for your colleague to dismiss our work as a waste of time without knowing the facts is unprofessional. Whenever a professional in any field dismisses something new without looking into it in terms of the research, then I have to ask how professional that person really is.
This is a difficult battle, I have worked for 9 years in Spain trying to implement CI/TPRS approach further than my own practice and it has been a struggle. I have also tried the waters in Latin America, I will be presenting about CI as the main ingredient for language acquisition at a conference in Colombia next month.
When I first submitted my proposal, I place it on a “language learning and literacies” track, the Academic Committee rejected it because didn’t find it relevant to help with the “dynamic, socially-determined, and multidimensional uses of English that learners may encounter in their present and/or future daily lives as they use the language for various social, professional, academic, and everyday purposes”. What?!. So I changed the purpose of the workshop to an “international language teaching technique”, mentioned tons of Krashen and other American researchers in SLA and…guess what? it was accepted.
At the moment most of the language teaching methodology used in Latin America is based on the American/European style. Even the European Language Framework is followed for standardised tests, “bilingual” schools everywhere have American/British branding and names and most institutions would consider the “native teacher” idea first anyway.The bottom line is that the level of stress and frustration language teachers go through is immense, let alone the poor success students have in their classes.
I don’t see the problem in showing the research in which CI is based and definitely not feeling it as an imperialist intervention. I am Colombian, and I don’t care where the idea is coming from in the first place, I am just thankful I encounter CI/TPRS, it has revolutionised my life as a professional but most importantly the experience my students have had of learning a language.
Pilar, thanks for all these thoughts. I’m especially intrigued about the language acquisition conference in Colombia. Would it be possible to access those materials? My colleague doesn’t speak much English, so being able to share about best practices for SLA, in Spanish, from another Latin American, would likely be well-received by her.
Congrats on the acceptance and good luck with the presentation!
Pilar do you know anyone in any universities there in Spain whom Kristi could reference for her friend?
Pilar, this would be great if there is someone writing about CI and SLA in Spanish.
I know that he is not the most popular, but Bill VanPatten speaks Spanish natively. I would be surprised if he didn’t write anything on the topic in Spanish…