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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.

Immersion Programs - Language Learning

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

During the 1960s, Canada experimented with the French Immersion Program to allow students to understand their French culture, tradition and its language; both French and English.

Immersion programs can be either a full or partial instruction of a second language. A full immersion is more effective because of the intensive curriculum. The second language is the medium used to teach students and more time is spent on this especially in the early years of a student’s schooling. This includes both reading and the language arts.

Partial immersion cuts the time spent in half learning a second language. Language arts and reading are partially taught in English and the other half in the second language.

Teachers that use these immersion programs expect to accomplish one or all of the items listed below on a long term basis:

1.    To develop the student’s level of proficiency
2.    To create a positive attitude toward the native language speakers and their cultures
3.    Develop the student’s English Language skills dependent on their age and expected abilities.
4.    Acquiring skills and content knowledge according to the curriculum and the objectives of the school board

The success of an immersion program has to do with how much administrative support is offered. The support of the community and parents are also helpful. Teachers have to be qualified and must have the right teaching materials for the second language. Developmental staff training and time given to teachers for preparation of instructional materials are very important.

Total immersion programs give the students more exposure to the language to make them more proficient. Some students may find it too much and so teachers will make recommendations to move students to a less intense program. It is not easy to find a total immersion teacher and so schools will usually promote the partial immersion classes. Some parents don’t think that students can learn a second language just as well as their own.

Partial immersion programs does not need as much special teachers. Schools can utilize the services of one teacher for two partial immersion programs for two half-days. In some cases, it makes the parents feel more at ease that their children are not spending all day learning a curriculum in a second language other than English. The proficiency level, however, of part time immersion students is far less than those for students in the total immersion programs.

Conclusion

In an immersion program, the second language is not the subject matter, but only a tool used to teach students how to become proficient in another language other than their own.

Language Learning - The Culture Adaptation and Culture Shock Cycle

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

The Culture Adaptation and Culture Shock Cycle affect individuals who have come from another foreign country and are being introduced to a new cultural experience with the intention of returning to their own home culture. This means that they have to adapt to new language, new culture and new people.

These individuals have to go through seven different phases altogether with both the cultural adaptation and culture shock cycle combined. This will include:

1.    Pre-departure anxiety
2.    Honeymoon arrival
3.    Initial culture shock
4.    Adjustment period
5.    Mentally isolated
6.    Return anxiety
7.    Re-entry shock

There are some that will go through an acceptance phase where they feel welcomed and possibly will like some of the country’s customs and activities.

In the honeymoon arrival phase, there is some excitement of being in a new country, but also some anxiety and trepidation resulting from their pre-department anxiety and uncertainty.

If they are not satisfied with the culture of the new country, they will inherently reach a crisis period where the initial culture shock sets in. They are disappointed and feel mentally isolated. They may be experiencing problems with the adaptation process and start getting irritated, angry and sometimes outright rude.

If they are in a position to get their problems solved or feel like making the best of a bad situation, they will go into the adjustment phase and try to get rid of the negative thinking by accepting what they cannot change.

The time may come for them to return to their home country. Some will go through the return anxiety phase and the fear of what will happen once they get back home.

The re-entry shock phase follows as they return home to their country. In this phase, readjustment may be difficult and they may feel unaccepted.

Culture Shock

The five specific stages of culture shock are:

1.    Excitement at first
2.    Crisis
3.    Adjustment
4.    Acceptance and Adjustment
5.    Re-entry shock

There is limited communication for individuals that have to experience these five phases. This is why it is important for them to accept, adjust and adapt to their new surroundings.

Things that natives take for granted are very difficult for these individuals. Such things would include, meeting a new person on the street, shopping, or accepting an invitation to go somewhere.

A lot of them rely on facial expressions and gestures, which can be quite frustrating.

The different phases last as much time as the individual adapts to their new surroundings.

For example:

Honeymoon phase – will last about two weeks and up to six months
The crisis stage may last for up to three months

Conclusion

Some of the symptoms which individuals use or display as their coping mechanisms could be drinking, homesickness, crying, anger, anxious, impatient, over eating, or disgust. Making the best of an unusual situation in unfamiliar territory can be quite a challenge for most people.

Language Learning - Comprehensible Input 2 of 2

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Research shows that students learn better when they are afforded the opportunity to practice the language that they are trying to learn. They also have to practice at the level that they are comfortable with. This is referred to as Comprehensible Output.

However, Comprehensible Input is much more complex. It has to do with how students hear and understand instructions that are above the level of language that they are learning.

Here is an example:

Someone who may be learning English as a second language could be told to “Pass the book to Emily,” and be able to understand quite alright.

If the teacher would change the sentence to reflect a slight variation such as “Open the book for Emily,” then this new information would be added to the student’s comprehension of the language.

The teacher would have to give the student the new material that will utilize any previous knowledge that the student had.

As long as the student understands the message, the teacher would have accomplished the task of equipping the student with what is needed to learn the new language.

Comprehensible Input, formerly known as the Input Hypothesis, was initiated by Stephen Krashen, who was a linguist and instructor. Krashen uses the equation i+1 to explain how people move from one point of understanding language to the next.

The “i” in the equation would refer to previous language competence and the additional knowledge of the language that we have that depends on situations and experiences. The “1” in the equation would be representative of newly acquired knowledge.

There are two levels of learning new language using the Comprehensible Input method. One is the beginning level and the other is the intermediate level.

In the beginning level, most of the time in class is used for verbal input that is comprehensible. Teachers have to make sure that their speech is modified so students can understand. Teachers should not force the student to speak at this level. Emphasis on grammar is only initiated for students who go to high school or are adults learning a new language.

In the intermediate level, it is more confined to mostly academic subjects for comprehensible input. More of the focus is on the meaning of the subject than the form of the subject.

Conclusion

Comprehensible input is a not based on the natural order of teacher, but students will be able to comprehend the natural order by receiving the input.

Language Learning - Mnemonic Devices

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

Mnemonic devices are powerful tools for learning a foreign language. A mnemonic device is a word or sequence of words or images used as an aid to memory. The idea behind mnemonics is that meaningful information is easier to remember than arbitrary data. Words in a foreign language actually are not arbitrary, as they follow rules that are unique to that language. However, they can seem arbitrary to someone who is unfamiliar with the language system.
Word linking is one common mnemonic. This involves connecting words in your own language to words in the foreign language you are learning. For example, you could remember the Latin noun mensa, which means “table”, by picturing a table with a lot of men sitting around it. Or the Latin verb pugnare, which means “to fight”, could be associated with an image of a fighter with a pug nose in the boxing ring.

One ancient technique for remembering information is called The Roman Room. To use this mnemonic, imagine a room you know. Associate objects you visualize in the room with the information you want to remember. For example, to remember the French word for “boat”, bateau, associate bateau with a baseball bat learning in the corner of your room. To recall lumiere, the French noun meaning “light”, you could picture a weaver’s loom next to the lamp, beside the bat. Then you could imagine an elegantly dressed chap wearing a hat sitting at a table by the lamp to help you remember chapeau, the French word for “hat”.
Often the sounds of words you are learning can themselves remind you of similar words in English. These related words are called derivatives. Using derivatives as a mnemonic can be so easy, it almost feels like you are cheating! Illustrating with the same words from the example of the Roman Room technique, you could remember lumiere by thinking of the moon, shining with a luminous, golden light. And a chapeau is just a cap with a few extra letters added.

The practice of using of mnemonics is not without criticism. One drawback to mnemonics is that, if you can’t remember the device itself, it is useless. However, it is widely accepted that mnemonics are helpful tools for learning, because of the fact that mnemonics are not arbitrary data but are, instead, meaningful information.

When it comes to mnemonics, use whatever works for you! Any mental image you can conjure to help you remember a new word is fine, as long as it is vivid in your mind’s eye. The better you can visualize it, the easier it will be to remember.

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 - 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.

Language Learning, Language Teaching and Liguistics (Applied) - What’s the Connection?

Friday, June 12th, 2009

Scene #1 - A linguistics professor at university precedes a lecture by posing the question:
Name one benefit of Dr. James J. Asher’s Total Physical Response (TPR) method?

Scene #2 - A middle school teacher decides to try something new with her Spanish class. A flash of brilliance hits her! She takes the class to the Home Eco. class, and she has them bake a cake by giving instructions in Spanish! The baked cake, well, it missed the mark on taste, but the lesson was a hit with the class.

Scene #3 - A self-study Spanish student finds Simon Says in Spanish on YouTube. He hits the play button, and starts following instructions in Spanish. He puts his finger on his nose, his hand on his head, and you get the idea.

At the university they’re talking about the Total Physical Response method, and at the middle school classroom and the home of the self-study student, students are applying it. But chances are the teacher and self-study student don’t know name of the method they are applying. And at the university, chances are most of the students in the university linguistics class won’t see it applied.

It’s almost as if they’re separated by semantics. The teacher and students know what they’re doing is helping them learn, but are not familiar with the method’s history. And the linguists know the benefits and drawbacks, but in theory alone.

Bridging the Gap?<

On this blog we’ll discuss three main topics: learn learning by the student, language teaching by the teacher and applied linguistics. The goal is to help students and teachers understand the methodology behind our teaching style, and provide information for linguists on the results of the implementation of different techniques.

This is a work in progress, so we’re looking forward to your feedback and ideas.