Get 55% off with our best holiday deals. Today only!
Choose Your Language
Blog

Archive for August, 2009

Language Learning - Submersion

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Submersion is the sink or swim method to learning a second language. Students who have acquired the language naturally and those learning the same language are put in the same learning environment and required to learn as much as they possibly can.

This approach does not provide any structural support to learning a second language. The student is pretty much on their own. An assumption is made that students will either fail or pass the learning acquisition model.

Only one type of language is used in the classroom or environment where students learn. Students, however, are provided with examples of the language, but are not given any kind of individual instruction in the language. They have to figure it out on their own. The student’s native language is not included and teachers are not able to familiarize themselves with the student’s culture and language.

There are some disadvantages to this approach as students may feel inferior intellectually from their peers. They may also be less motivated and have low self esteem as well as frustration and anxiety.

An example of “submersion,” or “sink or swim,” method of learning a new language in a classroom setting is when the teacher uses English as the main language and not being aware that a Spanish student is in the class. The Spanish student is left to fend on their own and either quickly learn the language or fail the class.

There are a few public schools in the United States that host submersion programs as a way to get students who speak a different language to learn English faster.

The submersion program offers students little or no help with the expectation that these students who speak a different language will use their language acquisition skills in a native language to learn a new language if they are placed into that environment.

Conclusion

In actuality, there are only a few schools that participate in programs like this because they realize that if you put a native Spanish speaking student into a classroom with English speaking students and expect them to learn the material without any assistance, it just would not work. The sink or swim method is not suggested by many linguist as being the best method for second language acquisition.

Language Learning - Silent Way (Gattegno)

Monday, August 24th, 2009

The Silent Way was created by Caleb Gattegno and is the instructive approach to teaching a foreign language. The primary objective is for students to work independently as learners of a new language.

It allows students to develop their own theoretical models of learning a second language. Students are encouraged to use their mental abilities to decipher the meaning of a new language.  Expression of thought and feelings are created in the classroom among fellow students. The student trades their time for experience.

The student’s native language gives them leverage in learning a new language and they are given room to learn how to speak in the new language. It is the nonverbal aspect of their native language which includes sounds, gestures and writing that helps the student to identifying with a new language.

Gattegno used his model on certain observations and he thought that students did not learn because teachers did not teach. Instead, teachers need to do a study of how students learn and to do that experiment on themselves.

Gattegno used himself as an example and even though he was a teacher, he wanted to know how students learned so he became a learner and that is when he realized that awareness is the only thing that teachers can educate when it comes to humans.

His learning model claimed to be more approachable to teaching a second language because it was based more on awareness than on offering knowledge to the student. For every learner that Gattegno studied, no matter what age they were, he found one common principle and that is students were gifted and intelligent. They brought a strong will to learn, a lifetime of experiences of managing challenges and they were also independent.

Most of the methods of teaching using the Silent Way came from understanding how students learned. Included in this approach was the style of how the teacher corrected the student and how the teacher used silence to validate the student. The teacher wouldn’t give any answers that the student could not find out on their own.

A lot of people think that communication is the only tool to learning a new language. However, Gattegno does not seem to think that communication is the only key ingredient. He observed that communication called for the person communicating to convey their ideas and the student listening must be willing to submit to the message before giving a response.

Conclusion

Learning a second language is expressing thoughts and feelings, ideas, perceptions and opinions and student can do this effectively with their teacher. They will be able to develop criteria for right and wrong by exploration of the two boundaries.

Therefore, it will require making mistakes, which is a part of the learning process. If teachers can study the art of learning and realize that mistakes are good for the learning process, they will appreciate when students do make mistakes.

Language Learning - Learner Internal Factors

Monday, August 17th, 2009

There are many reasons that people choose to learn a second language. We may be planning to travel or looking for a job overseas. We may learn a second language from our family or while we are at school. Some people tend to learn language quickly while others struggle. Have you ever wondered why this is?

Within the field of linguistics, our level of competence in learning a second language is referred to as learner internal factors. Input is the exposure to the second language, and instruction is the method by which we are taught. Two people with exactly the same exposure to a second language will learn at completely different rates. While one learner may walk away from a lesson taking in all that they have learnt, another may leaving having recalled nothing.

Age is a major factor in language learning. Children seem to learn a second language much more easily than adults, and usually reach a high level of fluency as well. For this reason, many elementary schools have second language learning built into their curriculum. While it has not been proven conclusively, it is evident that a crucial period for language learning occurs before puberty, when we have a much greater aptitude for language learning.

Research has shown that those who have learnt a second language already will make better progress with subsequent language that they learn. The brain works like a muscle, so to speak, the more we exercise certain parts of it the stronger and more efficient they become. By learning languages, we utilize the parts of the brain involved and improve our own aptitude.

Even personality can have an effect on how someone learns a language. Of course, motivation has an effect. The more motivation you have will change the amount of effort that is placed into language learning. It has also been shown that people with generally low levels of anxiety and stress make for better language learners. Those who are extroverts tend to do better at language learning than introverts. This is thought to  be because extroverts have a lesser fear of failure and are more willing to ask for help.

Language Learning - Learner External Factors

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Have you ever stopped to consider how we learn second languages? If you are considering taking up a second language, knowing the process of how we learn can make you a more competent student as well as speeding up the process of learning at the same time. The way in which we learn our second language is different to how we learn our first. As we grow older our cognitive functions develop, giving us better skills to learn new things. As a child we are exposed to our native language, or languages, all of the time, whereas second language acquisition may be limited to just one or two hours a week.

Learner External Factors are the ways in which we are exposed to a second language and how we are effected by these outside forces. To better understand how we learn, linguists have studied the different ways we come across information on second languages.

Social effects can have a large impact on second language learning. If for example, you come from an Italian background but speak only English, you may encounter a large amount of encouragement in regard to learning Italian from your family and community. Discouragement can also occur, for instance after the September 11 attacks, the number of students studying Arabic dropped dramatically in many western countries due to the stigma attached to the Arabic language and culture after the attacks.

Input and intake are terms used within linguistics to describe exposure to language learning and the amount of information retained. Input is information the learner receives about the second language, usually direct exposure to the language itself. For example, if you spent an hour in a class learning Spanish, this would count as input. Intake is the information you remember. Linguists believe in order to maximize intake, input level should be slightly more than the learner is able to take in. Next time you are in a class and don’t quite feel like you understand everything, don’t worry. It’s the best and fastest way to learn. A good way to maximize intake is through interaction with native speakers. This ensures the language us have learnt is usable and also helps to build vocabulary.

Pedagogical techniques, or teaching methods, have also bee extensively studied. The way we are taught can drastically change how much we learn. It is believed by many specialists in the field that current techniques are not as effective as they could be.

Language Family

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Languages change and evolve all of the time; words become disused, new words are created and given new meanings. Many forces can change the shape of a language. In Italy, geography changes the language, across the country several dialects are spoken, which have evolved differently in different regions. Time also changes a language, the English we speak today is worlds apart form the Olde English spoken a thousand years ago, or even the English of Shakespeare spoken four hundred years ago.

Some parts of a language will change, but many features will remain the same. Because of this we can trace a language back thousands of years to its original roots. Languages belong to families. Many languages may have common roots, that is an original language from which they were derived.

To return to the example of the dialects of Italy, it’s possible to trace back through time to find its roots. Today in Sicily, people speak Sicilian and Italian. It is important to note that the advent of television in the 1960s meant that many people who would only have learnt Sicilian have since learnt Italian. The Sicilian Dialect most likely was derived from Italian settlers, who came from mainland Italy and settled there at some point in history. Because of the geographical separation from the mainland, over time this Italian evolved into the Sicilian they speak today. The Italian language was derived from Latin in a similar fashion. Many other languages share their roots in Latin, such as French, Spanish and Portuguese. This is what’s known as a language family.

If you decide to learn a second language that is in the same family as your first language, you may find it easier than learning a language from a different family. For instance if you speak English, which is part of the Germanic language family, you may find learning Dutch, Danish or Norwegian easier than a language form another family.

The language from which other languages stem from is known as the Proto-language. German and Latin are both proto-languages. It is not always possible to trace a proto-language. In some cases the speakers of this language did not write and leave any records of what they spoke. In such cases, linguists do their best to reconstitute such languages from what evidence they find.