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Archive for the ‘Second Language Learning Methods’ Category

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.

Second Language Learning Methods - Communicative Approach

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

The communicative approach to learning a new language makes the teacher the facilitator. The interaction between student and teacher is paramount as well as collaborative learning.

This type of learning uses techniques that help to convey the ideas, thoughts, feelings and information to reach others.

Using content based approach (CBI), it takes the focus off of the language and its structure, but rather on the acquisition of skills or a specific knowledge. An example of this would be teaching someone to repair a computer using French as the language of choice. The student will learn to communicate in French as well as the learn how to repair the computer.

This approach has both the teacher and the student engaging in the process of selecting and organizing the content of the curriculum.

The most critical aspect of this approach is the negotiation for meaning. The Task-based approach is carrying out certain task using the target language. An example would be to have students shop for a specific item. The teacher would first instruct them in the target language how to do this and then have them essentially do it.

Notions and Functions

The idea of communicative learning is broken up in notions and functions called Notional Functional Syllabus. A notion is a specific framework of communication and function is a particular purpose for a speaker in a precise context.

As an example, the notion of shopping would require a variety of language functions that relate to asking the price or an item, being able to bargain for the product and identifying the features of the product.

Students use the target language in different context and the main focus is to help the student find meaning rather than the development of grammatically structures or the acquisition of proper pronunciation.

To be competent and proficient as a communicative speaker of a foreign language, it requires the learner to apply the knowledge of formal and sociolinguistic features of the language.

By linking the classroom learning to outside of the classroom using student’s personal experiences helps the student to take a broader approach to learning. This is why the classroom is used as a means of more interaction through working in groups and pairs as opposed to individual participation.

Conclusion

The communicative approach is only deemed successful if the teacher understands the student. The goal is to have students speak the language fluently enough for native speakers to understand what they are saying.

Second Language Learning Methods - Direct Method (Berlitz)

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

The Direct Method of learning a language involves a non-communicative way that uses target/L2 language, which is a step by step and limited process that considers the correct translation to be of the most importance.

The method was developed by Maximilian Berlitz, who migrated from Germany to the United States in 1872. His initial intention was to teach different languages using the traditional grammar approach. However, hiring a French assistant changed his perspective entirely.

The Berlitz Story

Berlitz hired an instructor to teach to his students, but when he hired the assistant, he found out that the Frenchman did not speak any English. However, when Beriltz had to go on sick leave, he left the Frenchman, Nicholas Joly, in charge of his classroom and asked him to do his best teaching language to the students.

Surprisingly, Berlitz came back to the classroom expecting a disaster and found out that his students were actively interacting with Joly and had progressed even further than they would have done learning the material using a nontraditional method.

The teacher communicated with the student through miming and gesturing. Grammar is not the essential goal because students were later able to discover grammatical rules on their own.

It was at this point that Berlitz realized that the innovative technique used by Joly was more successful and stimulating. The process used the target language of native speakers.

There are different levels of learning Berlitz’s direct method, which includes certain initial assessments to see where the student fits in:

  1. The Functional level: limits communication in its simplest form both orally and by listening.
  2. Intermediate level: conversing in English and understanding familiar topics of discussion.
  3. Advanced Intermediate level: competent communication and comfort with speaking the English Language in a professional and personal setting.
  4. Advanced level: speak English proficiently
  5. Native Speaker: Speak English naturally or at a professional level

The underlying principle of using the target language will enable the student to use inductive or deductive reasoning for identifying grammatical rules without having to provide an explanation of the rules that are used. The Berlitz method combines both the direct and the audio-lingual approach combining listening and speaking and later reading and writing.

Conclusion

The academic and intellectual world may see this method as being quite unusual and nontraditional. However, the direct method is considered by many to be more adaptive and popular with students who wanted to learn a foreign language without having to be too concerned about grammatical translation.

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.