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Language Learning - Comprehensible Input 1 of 2

Monday, July 6th, 2009

For a student who is trying to develop a second language, whether there are learning difficulties or not, Comprehensible Input is the solution. The way that this method will work is that the student has to understand what is being taught and be able to comprehend it.

The teacher does not have to only use words for the student to be able to understand. Sometimes, the student will know the words and yet the instructions cannot be comprehended. It is best that the teacher give the student the appropriate input.

The teacher can use visual aids, putting words into context, and clarifications to communicate to the student and make it more understandable. Giving some background knowledge of the content is reasonable enough for the student to learn the language better. The teacher should use different concepts with a little variation of the terms.

Comprehensible input has more to do with context than it is with the content of the curriculum and language development. There is an emphasis on context because the teachers can indulge the experiences of the students that have learning difficulties.

Although, culture is important to actively involving the student, the teacher does not have to know everything about the student’s culture.  However, it is important that the teacher understand the importance of culture and experience as it relates to learning a new language.

Other techniques

There are other tactics that teachers can use to get through to the students. Some of these include using language consistently and allowing students to be more expressive of their own ideas.

Some people learn better with visual aids, so teachers can incorporate this into the classroom to make learning a second language more comprehensible. To make the instructions more coherent and understandable, teachers can use objects for presentations and gestures to improve learning.

Openly Communicate

The teacher should openly engage the students by asking a lot of questions and encouraging the student to be more involved by expressing their own thoughts in the second language.

One way that the teacher can foster motivation in students to be eager to learn the language is to have them share their own experiences verbally in the new language. This will increase their language skills and give them a way to identify with the language.

Conclusion

Comprehensible input is a model to learn a new language, but it is also a real way that students can learn a second language well. It is certainly achievable.

Language Learning - Linguistics: Input +1

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

Twenty five years ago, Stephen Krashen created five hypothesis of language acquisition theory that has been used successfully by students who want to learn a second language. Input hypothesis is one of the five hypothesis theory.

Input hypothesis indicates that language acquisition for individuals who are learning a new language is administered through the understanding of messages and the receiving input that they can comprehend.

The student learning that new language, as the input hypothesis suggests, develops by getting instructions in that language that is beyond their present state of language proficiency.

Learners acquire competence with language comprehension “i” when they are exposed to an input that is comprehensible at a higher level as Krashen indicates would level “i + 1”.

Krashen thinks that students who learn under less pressure and anxiety and adapt to the second language in their own time or comfort level of comprehending are usually the ones that learn best.

Their success and development of the language does not come from forced production and correction, but from communicating and comprehending the language at their own pace.

The input hypothesis is more geared towards language acquisition than the actual learning process.

A student who is at phase “i,” will comprehend not from that particular phase, but from a level that is a little higher, which would be level “i + 1”.

Not every student will be at the same level at the same time, so a teacher should consider this in preparing a curriculum that will address all students in the class at their own comfort level of learning a new language.

Students should learn naturally by communicating with their peers in the language that they are trying to acquire. This will put them at an advance level of comprehension that their stage would rely on.

Conclusion

Stephen Krashen tried to explain the idea of input hypothesis by giving an example of someone who spoke English, but was trying to comprehend Spanish from a program on the radio.

If you are a beginning Spanish student and have ever listened to a Spanish radio station, you know that it is very difficult to comprehend what you hear. First of all, the comprehensible input is too complicated and is lacking a context that you can identify with so as to get clues from it.  This means that the beginner Spanish listener is not at that level of comprehension. Its level is too high for the beginner to comprehend.

However, an advanced Spanish listener would be able to understand. The input hypothesis suggests only a comprehensible input a slighter level higher where the student can at least hear some of the words and phrases learned as a beginner.

Language Learning Methods - The Grammar Translation Method

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

The Grammar Translation Method was a traditional method used to teach Greek and Latin. It is also known as the classical method because it was developed centuries ago specifically to teach classical language.

This technique called for students to provide translation of an entire text on a word for word basis. They had to memorize a lot of grammatical rules and grammatical exceptions as well as a long list of vocabulary.

The main focus of using this method is:

•    Interpretation of words and phrases
•    Learning the structure of the second language by comparing it with the native language
•    Taking into account grammatical rules
•    Be able to read, write and translate a foreign language

The native language is used to conduct the class where a large vocabulary list was used that covered both languages; the second language as well as the first. Grammar points would be derived from the text and contextually presented in the textbook as it is explained by the teacher.

The Learning Process

Those grammar points were instrumental in giving the student a provisional rule of how to assemble words into appropriate sentences. The grammar drills and translations were incorporated into the learning process through practice and exercises. This helped to increase the knowledge of the student without them having to put too much emphasis on the content.

The student would break up different sentences as they were needed and translate them. By the time the student got through that process, they would have translated the entire text from the second language to the native language. In some cases, they would be asked to do the reverse (translate native language into second language) to make sure that they grasped the process.

There was hardly any emphasis placed on how words were pronounced or any type of verbal or nonverbal communication aspects of the language. Reading written text was essential to the learning process, but only to get the translation correct.

Conclusion

Conversational fluency is not important when it comes to grammar translation. You have to depend on your memory to be able to recall all the rules associated with the grammar of the second language you are trying to learn. The student who is learning using this technique will be able to read and write in the target language, but the spoken language is not a priority as well as emphasis on listening skills.

Language Learning - Grammar

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

In any language, structural and consistent rules do apply and serves as a governing factor to the arrangement of sentences, words and phrases. There is generative grammar and transformational grammar.

In generative grammar, initiated by Norma Chomsky, is how the study of syntax is approached. It is how a student would calculate what combined words would form a grammatically sentence accurately.

It identifies and analyzes the correct structure of words and phrases. For example, individuals who speak English would know intuitively that the words cat, cats and cat chaser are very directly related. Most aspects of generative grammar indicate that a sentence is either correct or not pursuant to the rules applied in the language.

Transformational grammar is an earlier version of Chomsky’s generative version. It is representative of deep structures and surface structures. Of course, Chomsky has abandoned this idea and embraced generative grammar instead.

However, deep structure focuses more on the meaning of sentences. Chomsky’s theory was that all languages were conducive to deep structures that revealed their properties. The deep structures were usually hidden by the surface structures. The meaning of a sentence was established by its deep structure.

The generative grammar identifies with just the knowledge that motivates the student’s ability to speak the language and to understand it. Chomsky thinks that this knowledge is inherent, which explains why a baby can have previous knowledge about a language structure and only need to learn the language features by listening to the parents and siblings speak that language.

He also suggests that every language has specific essential things in general and the inherent theory became believable and dominated the attitudes that others had toward learning a new language.

Competence and performance were distinct to the grammatical theory structure that Chomsky embraced. It is obvious that individuals learning a new language will make mistakes when it came to how sentences were structured.

This has nothing to do with competence as long as they had the understanding of grammatical sentences.

Different types of grammar progress by the continued use of the language. When expressing language in written form, grammar has many formal rules that the student has to abide by.

Conclusion
Students learn prescriptive grammar in elementary school, which gives them a better idea of the different grammatical rules to apply in a sentence structure. Prescriptive and descriptive grammar are opposite in nature because one is how language is and the other is how language should really be.

Language Learning - The Communicative Approach

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Communicative Language Teaching (CLT hereinafter) is a paradigm for teaching foreign languages in which it is explicitly stated that language is a medium for communication and not an end in itself. That language is a medium for communication might seem a no-brainer, but CLT asserts that traditional methods of teaching language proceed as though they were oblivious to that fact.

Communicative Language Teaching, or CLT as it is sometimes called, is not so much a formalized method as a loosely grouped collection of techniques. It departs from traditional methods which rely upon repetitive drill of grammar and vocabulary. CLT proponents claim that these exercises are meaningless to students, leaving them frustrated and failing to achieve any degree of mastery over the language they are trying to learn.

Also known as the communicative approach, CLT was first developed in Britain during the 1960s and 1970s as an effort to make language study interesting and relevant to young children. Communication was achieved in the classroom through interactive means like role playing and games. In CLT, students are taught not to fear making mistakes, since they can learn from them. Slang is permitted, and media like newspapers, magazines, and telephone books are used, along with textbooks. Ideally, grammar is still taught, but not as systematically as in the traditional approach.

In a traditional French classroom, the teacher might drill students by having them repeat the phrase, “What are you doing this weekend?” (“Qu’est-ce que tu fais ce week-end?”). Students could learn to parrot the words without ever learning about anyone’s weekend plans. Conversely, a teacher using CLT might start a conversation in Friday’s class about the upcoming weekend. He could tell the class about his own plans, thereby introducing new vocabulary. He might pull out a copy of a French newspaper, flip to the theatre section, and facilitate a discussion of the different movies that are playing.

In one sense, CLT is to language study as the Suzuki Method is to learning a musical instrument. With the Suzuki method, as in CLT, students are able to enjoy even the earliest lessons. They learn to love music first, and mastery of reading music comes later. CLT and Suzuki both provide timely gratification that leaves students wanting more.

Critics of the communicative approach accuse CLT proponents of being dogmatic, dismissing other language learning models as useless. Recently, however, CLT teachers have been more willing to take an eclectic approach. In spite of its critics, CLT has gained widespread acceptance in the world of language study because it is fun. CLT can succeed, as long as teachers don’t completely jettison the need for the structure provided by grammar.

If you want to incorporate CLT into your language learning program, strive for moderation and don’t neglect the merits of other methods. CLT, in the hands of a balanced teacher, can bring new life and joy to the classroom. Its vitality makes it an important contributor to the lexicon of language learning approaches.

Language Learning - CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency) Learning Approach

Friday, June 26th, 2009

CALP -Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency hereinafter referred to as CALP

With the CALP approach, students have to be able to master the language.

This type of language acquisition and learning is more formal learning than the basic and informal BICS (Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills hereinafter referred to as BICS). Teachers will describe students in terms of CALP and BICS  depending on their language adeptness.

Students that develop more in BICS, which is more conversational fluency, may not be strong in CALP because it is more academic in nature and requires more cognitive skills.

For a child to master CALP, they have to be able to learn how to listen, speak, read and write their second language.

CALP is an essential part of academic learning and students need this to be successful in school. It requires learning over time to gain proficiency in specific academic studies that are prerequisites of passing a grade.

The learning curve

It takes between five to seven years to learn CALP and can take up to even ten years if the child does not have teacher and parent support or previous schooling in the development of the language they are trying to learn in. Catching up with their peers in a classroom setting might be more difficult than socializing using BICS.

CALP is more than just being familiar with the content of the vocabulary. It does need certain skills that include classification, comparison, evaluation and making inference.
The difference between BICS and CALP is that BICS is contextualized in specific social situations while CALP is more context reduction. A textbook is used to teach the student and this kind of academic language is necessary for CALP. As the student increases in age the tasks for academic context becomes more reduced.

The more context reduced the academic language becomes, the more demand there will be for cognitive learning. This is why college work is much harder than middle school or high school because new concepts, language and ideas are presented to student simultaneously.

Jim Cummins, who created the Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills approach to language, thinks that in the event of comparing two languages, there is a familiar basic proficiency known as CUP. This means that the same skills and concepts that children learn in their native language will be carried over to the second language.

Conclusion

Teachers that use CALP know that it is far more advanced than BICS. They also know that BICS is easily adaptable and students that have knowledge of Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills are not necessarily good at Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency.

Language Learning - CALLA - Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA)

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

CALLA - Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA)

Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA) was created specifically for students that spoke and wrote limited English. Anna Uhl Chamot and J. Michael O’Malley should be credited for the program. CALLA enables students to become more proficient so that they are able to take part in content directed instructions.

The cognitive model of learning is used to help students to comprehend and retain language skills and concepts of the content being taught.

There are three modules of CALLA, which include learning strategies, development of academic language and a related curriculum. Many public schools incorporate this into their ESL programs.

It specifically assists students that are forced to learn English as a second language in order to survive in the American public school systems.

The method involves an instructional model that helps teachers know how to implement learning strategies so that students can grasp the concepts much easier and faster.

The goal and focus of CALLA is to afford students the opportunity to learn a new language independently and to become self-regulated as learners by consistently dominating the various strategies of learning in a classroom setting.

The Main Goal

The main objective and goal of the Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA) for the student is to be more effective in the learning process is:

• To place value on what the student previously knew as well as the experiences of their culture, and using this knowledge in their academic learning of a new language.
• To develop an awareness for the language that they are learning
• To learn the content and skills necessary to be successful in their future academic pursuits
• Choosing an appropriate strategy of learning that also can enhance both their study skills and academic knowledge
• To develop the ability to work in a group setting successfully.
• Using specific tasks that require hands-on instructions to learn
• To develop motivation for academic studies and the confidence to complete a successful academic program.
• Doing a self evaluation of their learning progress and making plans on how they can become more efficient.
• Be capable of independent learning

It needs to be noted that CALLA is used in about 30 district schools in the United States and also in other countries.

Conclusion
Teachers using CALLA must first prepare the students for learning using this strategy and to do so they must find out more about their background and take a look at how students previously approached an academic task.

The teachers will then incorporate the right learning strategies for a specific task. Students will then practice the strategies on those tasks. The teachers will then evaluate how well they worked, encourage more practice and add the use of other strategies to nonverbal tasks.

BICS - Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

BICS - Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills hereinafter referred to as BICS

BICS is conversational ease attained by language learners who are just beginning to learn a new language and this is less challenging than Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency. It is actually what some would refer to as “surviving the language.”

This basic form of language calls for communicating with others on a face to face level using gestures and it relies on the particular situation. It is easy and quick to learn this kind of language, but not adequate enough to be used in a classroom for academic studies because it does not require cognitive skills

This type of language skill is best used in social settings where there is a lot more interaction with people. This is similar to the kind of language communication that preschoolers and toddlers first learn.

Taking it for granted

Jim Cummins is to be credited for the research of BICS as it relates to language acquisition. It can take up to three years for students to adjust to BICS in a second language.

Therefore, Cummins suggested that students who master the aspect of BICS should not be put in a classroom setting that demands more cognitive skills and assume that they will do just as well.

Conversational fluency in a second language does not necessarily mean that students will perform well academically in the same language. This is why CALP is combined with BICS that completes the full learning phase to operate confidently in a second language.

With BICS, there are parts of the communication process that include routine gestures and exchanges even while eating, playing and dressing. These are automatic modes of communication that represents the familiar aspects of social conversation.

Children that can master the art of BICS will be able to identify word and phrase combinations that are new to them and still be able to use them to produce short sentences or single words.

Second language learners use BICS skills to interact with their peers on the playground, on the school bus, in class, at home, on the telephone, at parties and while playing sports.

Children that immigrate to the United States, for example, can learn English through the BICS process a minimum of six months and a maximum of two years. The younger they are when they arrive in the United States, the quicker they will be to adapt to their new language and social surroundings.

Conclusion

The mistake that teachers and administrators make is to think that once the child masters BICS and socially interacts with other students, they will be just as strong academically.

Language Learning - Total Physical Response Revisited

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Total Physical Response, or TPR, is a method developed by Dr. James J. Asher to teach foreign languages through a kinesthetic, movement-based paradigm. TPR was developed by observing the way babies learn language from their parents.

Before a baby learns to talk, she first learns how to respond physically to simple commands, like “Stop!”or, “Look at Mommy.” The child’s physical response assists her to internalize the commands, and subsequently helps her crack the code of her mother tongue. When this has occurred, the child learns to reproduce the language spontaneously. TPR seeks to reproduce this learning process in the classroom.

TPR is very compatible with what mainstream educators refer to as the kinesthetic learning style. Kinesthetic learners absorb new information best when they are in motion. Students whose primary learning style is kinesthetic frequently struggle in a traditional classroom, because most teachers prefer quiet, well-behaved children to students who jump out of their seats and fidget.

However, as educators become more familiar with various learning styles, special accommodations are more and more often given to kinesthetic learners. A pre-school teacher shows children how to form letters by having them trace the letters in sand. An elementary teacher tosses a ball to a child who tosses it back as they take turns counting by twos. Total Physical Response is very kinesthetic, as its major premise is that babies process language through movement and that older students can do the same.

TPR became popular with some educators during the 1970s but has failed to gain acceptance in the mainstream. Critics of TPR believe that it relies too heavily on imperatives–in other words, giving students commands to perform a certain action. What is the use, they argue, of knowing only how to give commands in the target language? TPR may be difficult for shy students, and a TPR classroom may seem loud and unruly. However, for kinesthetic language learners, TPR could be a lifeline. Proponents of TPR claim that it works well for students from a variety of ability levels, including those who have learning disabilities.

Although TPR is probably not adequate on its own to teach fluency in a second language, it might be useful for teachers to stick into their back pockets and pull out on occasion as a compliment to other teaching models. The kinesthetic aspects of learning should not be ignored, because everyone has some degree of kinesthetic intelligence. Certainly, knowledge of Dr. Asher’s research into language assimilation can only be an asset to any language teacher, whatever his or her primary mode of instruction.

Language Learning - Total Physical Response Learning

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

To assist with learning a second language, Dr. James Asher invented the Total Physical Response method. The concept assumes that learning a second language is an internal process which requires a long listening and comprehension period.

Looking at the example of how children learn their first language by naturally communicating with their parents, it is safe to say that they respond physically to the parent while they internalize and absorb the language until they are fully able to speak.

When the child gets through this process of internalizing and breaking the language barrier code, then language becomes unprompted and natural. This method of learning is what the Total Physical Response (TPR) method incorporates when it comes to teaching adults a second language. The method institutes different classroom tactics that add to the rate at which students adapt to this second language faster.
In the classroom, the teacher becomes the parent and the student becomes the child in the example of how children learn their first language from their biological parents.

The student is required to respond physically to the words of the teacher. The student’s participation is paramount in the success of learning a second language. The teacher may use simple teaching methods such as “Simon Says,” or story telling where the student acts out the story.

The advantages

Learning a second language can be a boring process depending on the method used. With TPR, participants have to move around and interact with teacher and classmates and it makes it less boring and learning becomes more enjoyable.

The use of imperative moods, which is a mood that communicates a direct command or demand, is expressly used in TPR as a means to get students to come out of their comfort zone. An example of this would be to have the student respond to commands such as “Sit Down, and “Get Up.”

Students will use this as a stepping stone to adapting to their new language in a more active way and the commanded actions help them to retain the knowledge of these phrases and words if asked to do it again.

Conclusion

It is evident that TPR is not the traditionally way to learn any language, but this unique method makes learning a second language simpler, fun and adaptive because of its intense participation. It is already been proven to work for babies that learn their first language.