language instruction - oral fluency versus written fluency

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by Robert_Hope, May 1, 2007.

  1. Robert_Hope Banned

    West Midlands UK/London/Paris
    (British) English
    Hi everybody!

    I'm a 2nd year French and German student, currently on a 3 month placement in France.

    I have to say, after studying french for nearly 8 years, I feel let down by the British education system. Although arguably at university I'm for responsible for my own learning, I can't help but notice how good other foreign students are at French (speaking at least) and indeed how good the French are generally at speaking english (including when I'm trying to speak French to them, but that's for another post!)

    Give me an essay to write, and I'm fine. Ask me to have a chat about the weather with a native and I'm stuck!

    Does the British system focus more on written accruacy than on actually being able to speak a languge, in comparison to other education systems? Any comments helpful :)

    Merci d'avance, Danke im Voraus, Thanks in advance!


  2. Primal

    Primal Senior Member

    Québec, Canada
    Canadian English
    It's the same deal here (Canada), I would say. At least for right now (Grade 8) most people are (slightly) better at writing French than speaking it out loud. I would say that it is because it is a lot easier to teach written language than spoken, as the easiest (only?) way to learn a spoken language is simply to speak it out loud, and converse regularly. Even in my French classes, while we are supposed to be speaking French, most people carry on their entire senctences in English.

    [edit]Oh, oops. I guess I didn't read the title. I didn't realise you were looking for a Europian opinion only, but I think I'll leave my post here, if that's OK with you...
  3. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Hi Robert

    Your point was certainly valid forty years ago. I still remember the first time I was required to speak French to a French person. "Have you anything to declare?" asked the French customs official; and all I could do was stammer "anglaise! anglaise!": and that after 5 years of learning French at school.

    I had thought it was different nowadays, and am sad to learn that it isn't. Perhaps we Brits treat learning foreign languages as an intellectual exercise; whereas for others learning English is primarily a way of communicating...

  4. Musical Chairs Senior Member

    Japan & US, Japanese & English
    Reading/writing is always easier than listening/speaking though - so I've always thought about anything other than my native languages. A lot of times when I try to listen, everyone speaks too fast and I can pick out words but I can't make sense of entire sentences. With reading, you can always assume things in context but in spoken language, everything flies.

    I also feel like Europeans know English better than we know European languages.
  5. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Pardon my ignorance, Musical Chairs, but I've been believing for the better part of 60 years that English is a European language. Has the UK moved to Asia?
  6. Musical Chairs Senior Member

    Japan & US, Japanese & English
    Haha sorry!!! I meant European languages that aren't English (French, German, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, etc.)
  7. Coline8 Member

    I think that it's the same thing here ( in France ).
    I've been studying English for 7 years, and for sure, teaching is more focused on the writing!
  8. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    If you can write essays, write some dialogues too - with people talking about the weather - or cars, or girls or ...whatever. That can be fun too and you will be more aware of what you hear, when people talk with each other about everyday things. Soon you'll have no problem with that yourself.

    It is like in boxing or martial arts: You'll fight the way you train.
  9. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    Hi Robert.:)
    The thing is very much the same down here. After learning English for about 11 years I can read and write in it freely, but I don't feel very confident when I have to speak. I guess that's just because I don't have as much practice in speaking as in reading or writing.
  10. jonquiliser

    jonquiliser Senior Member

    Svediż tal-Finlandja
    I believe that no matter how much you practice in the class room, whether writing or talking, once you face a native for the first time, you'll have difficulties understanding. I think that in most languages I've had language classes in, the teaching has been fairly decent, yet once you have to talk for real.. Well, it takes a while for your ears and your mind to get used to listening to that language. Obviously, the more practice you get beforehand, in class or from TV or tapes or whatever, the easier and quicker it will be. But a real life situation always has unexpected elements that you have to deal with - for example, the use of words, slang, accents etc that you aren't used to.

    I don't think this problem was very marked for me, though, with the first time encounter with English, but that I'd say has everything to do with MANY years of ENglish in school, lots of English language TV and films and books (besides school teaching) and whatnot. Still, I did have trouble working out what Liverpool folks tried to say, when I first visited there :eek:. Scots, lovely as they sound, sometimes cause me an extra moment of thinking, too. :). The same with many other accents, in various languages.

    I think it's to be expected that there's a lot of emphasis put on writing in language class - I think it is generally, or at least for many, easier to learn a language if you learn it's written language. That said, many people remember better "auditively", and anyway, it is as important, if not more, with a good command of the spoken language. I remember having lots of conversation tasks, oral presentations, audio tasks (listen to a tape and answer the questions type of exercises), occasionally watching TV or films in class... And also dealing superficially with variants of the language in question (in English the AmEs, BrEs, AussieEs etc...).
  11. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    Yes, that's perfectly true!
    When I'm watching a movie in English, I normally need some time to get used to the way the characters speak. But by the middle of the film I can understand most of the dialogues.
    And the first five minutes of a conversation are usually spent on getting used to your vis-a-vis's manner of speech.
  12. Benjy

    Benjy Senior Member

    Milton Keynes, UK
    English - English
    I'm doing a bit of a weird course (combined honours maths + french).
    Half my credits are French. Of which half actually involve study of the language for the purpose of communication (the rest is a choice of sociolinguistic/dialectology type modules or history/litterature type models).

    If I were studying just French (at the same institution), the language communication requirement remains unchanged, so the emphasis would be 75% history/lit./phil./linguistic and only 25% language.

    Of the "language" credits the weighting is 75% written exam 25% oral exam.

    All that to say that speaking the language will only account for
    6.25% of the actual degree.

    You receive just under one hour a week contact time for oral practice (always with a native speaker but that's not the point really..).

    No wonder we suck in general :(

    That is exactly the problem
  13. Robert_Hope Banned

    West Midlands UK/London/Paris
    (British) English
    Thanks for all the responses!

    I am quite happy for non european comments (thanks Primal!), they are just as constructive. I said "european" as it's what I've noticed here in Europe.

    Quote, Loob, "Perhaps we Brits treat learning foreign languages as an intellectual exercise; whereas for others learning English is primarily a way of communicating..."

    Yes, I think this sums it up! I was approached by a homeless person today (in France) and after trying to tell him I spoke no french (shame on me!) he tried to speak to me in English and German!

    Since learning French in France, I have done loads on basic grammar (missed through GCSE, A-Level etc or stuff I'm rusty on) and also a lot on phonetics (In French, the difference between the sounds of on, an, en, in etc) which I have never covered before. Maybe I'll be able to say "bonjour" without people replying to me in English soon!
  14. Calamitintin

    Calamitintin Senior Member

    Le Neubourg, Haute Normandie
    France, St Maix les bains, 79
    Haha, I've the same problem in Germany, just a "Hallo" and I'm answered in French :(
  15. winklepicker

    winklepicker Senior Member

    English (UK)
    You only really get to learn the language the people speak when you visit the country. Check out that wonderful book called Merde! The Real French You Were Never Taught at School.
  16. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    According to a US specialist of education I read a decade ago (Kraken?), you've got to let your brain do the job. Let it get used to the new language, and after some time, it will come up with all the basic skills you need. You can't control the process, and trying to speak too early will only ingrain your mistakes.
  17. Robert_Hope Banned

    West Midlands UK/London/Paris
    (British) English
    That's interesting. So rather than feeling inadequate for lack of speed in spoken French, I should be waiting for it to "sink in" and then be perfect?

    Did anyone ever cover phonetics when they learned a language? After 8 years I've started to this week (in France, I am learning French)!


  18. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    I can only aggee with the quote in the previous post. It is a common mistake that the "best" way to learn a language is just live where it is spoken a learn by trial and mistake. Even if this were possible - or even if this can really be done by a few extremely talented geniouses - why should I try to invent the wheel that has already been invented? I don't need to explore the grammar of a language - somebody has done this already and this is basic knowledge I can learn out of books faster.

    And if it were really the best way to learn, why do we have so many immigrants who have lived in our countries for decades and still cannot speak in such a manner that we understand them, or who just ignore polite questions because they simply do not understand us?

    And the phonetics question: I covered phonetics, but it was not part of any curriculum where I learned. I think it is very stupid that so few teaching institutions pay so little attention to phonetics because once you've grasped what it is all about it makes it a lot easier to learn and improve by yourself.
    I mean, the only real difference between learning to pronounce words right and any other psychomotoric learning process, like playing football, boxing or throwing spears, is that you cannot see all body parts involved in the action. You can watch a good boxer - you can see how his body is moved forward with the power of his rear leg, you can see how his right hand moves from cover position forward in a straight line performing a cross etc. Most of what happens is something you can see an try to imitate and see if it works with your body.

    Fine. You can hear Robert de Niro talk. You may be able to imitate the intonation, but what his tongue is doing inside his mouth to make the sounds come the way they do, you cannot see.
    A beginner in languages can really only guess how he should make this or that sound that was supposed to be the "r" in "Brooklyn", the "Ü" ind "Düsseldorf" or whatever. And some may never learn because nobody shows them the basic tool to train it: Phonetics.
  19. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    There is an interesting case I heard a couple of years ago and told by the man himself.

    He is a German Jew whose family had converted to Lutheranism in the 19th century. He was 12 when the Nazis started their campaigns against Jews. For instance when his mother died, they had to seek a Protestant pastor of Jewish origin to perform the funeral because the others refused.

    Seeing this his father decided to send him to a branch of the family in Italy. His Italian uncle thought it wiser to send him to a Catholic boarding school in France near the Swiss border.

    He didn't speak French so just lived the life of the other boarders until, several months later, one morning, he woke up speaking fluent French. His comment was somehow like this: "It's as if I had been dipped in a dye bath, and I had come out in another colour."
  20. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    Yes, phonetics is important. In our first year at University we only were learning how to pronounce English words correctly (we already had Intermediate level, so our teachers could focus on pronunciation rather than grammar or what have you).
    And once I learnt how to speak English correctly, it became much easier for me to read and write in English.
  21. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    Yes. You'll know you are on the right track when you start dreaming in the new language.
  22. Benjy

    Benjy Senior Member

    Milton Keynes, UK
    English - English
    Facinating though this pedagogical wandering is, for the sake of on-topicness and other such rot I would appreciate it if we could stick to the question posed at the start of the thread :)

    Differences in the way languages are taught in Britain and on the continent.

    Thanks for your kind attention :)
  23. serena dd

    serena dd New Member

    Italy, Italian
    Well, I'm Italian, and I have been studying English, French and German for so many years that I could be dubbed The expert of the matter....
    I'm joking,obviously... even if I still love languages, Italy made me pass a bad time with them...

    I mean.. I could swear you that Italy is the least country where I'd go for learning languages,if I had another life. Our teaching methods are archaic.

    My French is terrible, I can't help saying "r" instead of that damn French R, and I'm still wondering why they have those upsetting accents wherever they could put them!!!

  24. Primal

    Primal Senior Member

    Québec, Canada
    Canadian English
    Despite the fact that you cannot see what someone is doing to create a sound, once you hear the way that a word sounds, I find it a lot easier to use better accent for at least those words. For example, when I was in Quebec, (which I don't do often enough) I asked the receptionist at our hotel how to say pillow in French. She told me, oreiller and now I, in my opinion, say that word, with a better French accent. It has also made me think about how I am pronouncing other words. So, even if you cannot see how someone is making a sound, knowing how is sounds certainly helps a lot.

    We do not get to know how to properly pronouce words, because our teachers were tought French in the same "English" way that they are teaching us, so their accent is just as terrible. I wish that we could have more people native of French places come to teach us French in school. Last year we had a teacher from Quebec, and I am sure that it helped the way that I speak French a lot, if not more than what she actually tried to teach us.
  25. Qcumber Senior Member

    UK English
    The argument that you cannot see how phones are produced is irrelevant. The baby who learns its mother tongue, and was conditioned to it in its mother's womb, cannot see either how people in its environment articulate the sounds of their language. Yet, it will speak in due time.
  26. karuna

    karuna Senior Member

    The planet Earth
    Latvian, Latvia
    Actually not all children learn it automatically. In Latvia there are always some children even at the first or second grade who have difficulty pronouncing r sound. And I have met adults, all native speakers from birth, who are unable to pronounce ķ sound at all.

    Technical knowledge how the toungue or lips work can give general idea but usually it is not very helpful. In such cases a speech therapist can help by asking a child to read or pronounce special phrases. For example, ras krupim grāvī grūti. Like the toungue twisters which are difficult to pronounce these phrases are complete opposite with the r placed in positions where it is easy and natural to pronounce this sound. This method is also sometimes applied in teaching the pronunciation of sounds in the foreign language.
  27. Austinese Member

    USA, English
    It's a very common experience to feel confused, frustrated, and incompetent when one tries to make the transition from being a student of a particular language to being a competent speaker and listener.

    I heard somewhere that competency in the language comes about, sometimes suddenly, after living in the foreign land for several months, while at the same time, working diligently on improving one's skills in the language. After such a period, one begins to understand the natives with far less effort and can express oneself with much greater ease. People who have told me about this phenomenon say that it seemed as if "all of a sudden" everything became much easier, as if their minds had been transformed fundamentally during one night's sleep.

    The sudden onset aspect of this brings to my mind the "S" shaped learning function, which shows that progress in acquiring some skill is not always steady and incremental. According to the function, learners struggle initially for some time and make little noticeable progress. At some point, however, there is a rapid and sizeable increase in one's level of competence.

    A think that the typical duration of this "incubation" period is about six months. But all of this is hearsay as I haven't experienced this phenomenon myself.
  28. Grosvenor1 Member

    Scottish, resident in England, language English
    I am not certain the methods are different in Britain compared to continental Europe. It is the motivation that is key. Native English speakers are hamstrung in many cases by the assumption that they do not need to bother with foreign languages because "everyone speaks English". They are also sometimes prone to think speaking a foreign language is a major intellectual feat that most mortals cannot achieve.

    I went on a school trip to France nearly 30 years ago. During the trip, I entered a souvenir shop. I asked the shopkeeper in bad French and with the wrong tense when the shop would close, because I wanted to come back later. I had to repeat myself before the shopkeeper understood me. When I left the shop, one of the others on the school trip said to me in an amazed tone, "How did you do that?"

    He had probably had several years of compulsory schooling in French. But actually getting out a couple of sentences in the language and understanding the response was, to him, an amazing feat.
  29. Siberia

    Siberia Senior Member

    UK-Wales - English
    Well, I'm glad I can differ from what others have said. I went to a grammar school where I studied languages for A level and I can say that after 30 years I am still able to use what I learnt in school. Though our main teachers based their programme on grammar and translation, they were flanked by native speakers with whom we could converse in the language and it is there that I learnt to speak and not be afraid of making mistakes while trying to "get it out". I still make mistakes but lessons with the native speakers gave me a lot of confidence. Do these language assistants still work alongside non-native language teachers in British schools?
  30. Grosvenor1 Member

    Scottish, resident in England, language English
    There were foreign language assistants at my school, from France and Germany (late 1970s, start of 1980s). There was also a small language lab, which was something of a novelty in British schools in the 1970s.
  31. CrisMcCartney New Member

    España (español)
    I'm from Spain, and here the English level is really bad, in school, they teach you grammar and vocabulary (not very well), but they dont evaluate pronunciation
  32. Kurisuru Senior Member

    UK - Wales.
    To my knowledge, countries where minor languages are spoken (for example, Scandinavia, the Baltic States, the Netherlands) the televisions broadcast a good deal of Anglophone media with subtitles in their own language, and the youthful population read a lot of English magazines, etc. They also talk among themselves in English.
  33. ayupshiplad Senior Member

    Scotland, English
    Excuse me if this is patronising, Serena DD, but your English is sooo cute :)!

    Anyway, back to topic! I'd say language teaching in Scotland at Standard Grade, Int 2 and Higher is pretty poor. You could really do a Higher language and pass without sitting half of the papers. However...try doing a Scottish Advanced Higher without developping a serious competancy in your target language! The Advanced Higher language courses are brilliant, and really make you think "What on earth have I been doing for the past 5 years?!" Speaking is fairly important here, for our exam we have a 20 minute discussion about History and Litterature...for example in German I'll have to talk about the themes in Der Besuch der Alten Dame and what my views are on how succesful the reunification of Germany yes, you really do become fairly competant at speaking to be able to do that! It counts for 25% of our overall mark, alongside reading, a translation, 2 writing papers and a listening.

    So I would agree that our language teaching is poor in general, until you get to AH where it becomes an utter beast:D!
  34. Suilan

    Suilan Senior Member

    Germany (BW)
    Germany (NRW)
    Robert asked about phonetics. I cannot imagine it NOT being taught at school. It's the first thing we do. I took English, Latin, French in school and Spanish at Uni, and it's always the first thing you learn and the teacher always pays attention to it in later classes. We did the English r and th forever and the one student in our class who didn't master it until 10th grade did get picked on for it (and for other things that he mostly deserved being picked on about...).

    Even our Latin teacher paid strict attention to our pronunciation and insisted e.g. that /c/ has to be pronounced as /k/ even though the students who sang in the Choir had to sing it like /ts/ in front of i and e. And boy did he bother us with which syllable needs to be stressed.

    Same with French un, en, on, un. Later, at Uni, in English/linguistics, the challenge became to avoid adding the glottal stop to the onset of a syllable-intial vowel. And in Spanish we were told forever that we had to lisp. And me, who normally produces a uvular r, was told I needed to pronounce my r with a flap of the tongue.

    At German schools, participation in class counts as one third of your mark in grades 5-10, and 50% in grades 11-13 (at least it used to in "my" time.) At Uni, only homework, tests, essays, and presentations count.

    I was lucky that for three years at school I had a great French teacher who was married to a French and spent all his vacation in France (and probably his Uni years too though I never asked) -- he spoke French like a native (and he always spoke French in class. Not a word of German.) At Uni we had a Spanish native for Spanish classes and a French native for French classes. Even though I took only a few Grammar classes in French (mostly to meet people; I did not need any French for my degree), I understood the teacher better than the students who actually studied the language -- thanks to my old teacher.

    Even so, I could not speak a word at first when we went on vacation to Southern France last year (nine years after my last French class). My husband just opens his mouth and talks. I envy that. Me, I first need to look up in my mental dictionary the words I want to use and finish conjugating before I open my mouth, (and I get terribly embarrassed if I make a mistake or mispronounce a word.) The landlady thought I didn't speak or understand any French, so when on the third day or so my husband was outside and I had to talk to the lady, to avoid awkward silence, she clapped her hands over her head and beamed at me and exclaimed: "Elle parle! Elle parle!"

    P.S. It's easier to learn a language while in the country and surrounded by people who don't speak your language. Several friends of mine went to England for a year during Uni and admitted that most of the time they spoke to Germans or other foreigners.

    P.P.S I don't agree that you should not speak as soon as you can string two words together. You just should not stop listening.
  35. SDLX Master

    SDLX Master Senior Member

    Lima, Peru
    Spanish - Peru
    I really wouldn't put it like "easier" or more "difficult than". The skills involved in language learning never click in the same way to all kinds of people. In your case, it is easier to deal with reading and writing, whereas other people find themselves more comfortable by listening and speaking.
    You can even find those who love a randomized combination of them skills, no matter how weird it may sound to put them together, i.e., people who love speaking and reading or listening and writing.
    In a nutshell, what I'm saying is, no matter what language we deal with, the learning skills will always be picked up by people at a different pace. ;)
  36. Lugubert Senior Member

    Some Swedish reflections, starting somewhat before my first school exposure to foreign languages.

    I was primed. Father was a sea-captain, and from a fairly early age I understood that knowing foreign languages might be useful in some circumstances. Father was quite fluent in English, and had a fair command of German, and additionally during the years picked up lots of more or less useful phrases in for example Spanish and Japanese. Mother had had German, English and a sprinkling of French, in that order, in school.

    My first foreign language was English, in grade 5. Having chosen my genetic background carefully, I did well. In those days, there was no TV or any other mentionable extracurricular exposure to other languages. English was there until leaving high school at 19, grade 12. Despite not having been to England, I was fairly fluent.

    Grade 7 introduced German. Continued to 11. The thought that languages could be used for conversation and/or in a country where they were spoken seemed not to have reached our teachers. When I first had a stay in Germany, I was fairly frightened of speaking, lest I should err on some important grammar feature. One day, I spotted a native making an obvious error. From that exact moment on, I spoke fairly fluently. What made kind indigenous people say was the reeason they spotted my non-nativeness, was that my grammar was toooo correct.

    French, grade 8 to 11. Linguistically sound, but still, despite my translating professionally on most any conceivable technical subject, my spoken French is lousy. Nowadays, youngsters seem to prefer French (or even Spanish) to German, and the curriculum is more centered on expressing oneself. A niece of mine and a young friend are very fluent in English, know very little German, and have a very good working knowledge of French.

    I declined the offer of grade 11-12 Spanish for other selections. No problem; a free university course and two trips to the Canary islands took care of that.

    I took the science stream. Other high school students could choose a heavier load of modern languages, and/or Latin and classical Greek.

    Swedish contemporay school is complex and exceedingly varied. Lots of immigrant kids get additional tuition in their home languages (free, of course) from grade 1, and I have had Swedish university classmates who had chosen Chinese in high school.
  37. Musical Chairs Senior Member

    Japan & US, Japanese & English
    Well, most people learning a foreign language here would agree. With my native languages, it's much easier for me to understand people speaking and to speak because that's what I learned first, to understand and to speak. I can be half asleep and still talk without thinking, while reading and writing take a lot more effort comparatively speaking. Wouldn't you agree that speaking and understanding Polish are easier than writing and reading Polish, because it is your native language? I thought this was always the case with native languages.

    With foreign languages taught in schools, reading/writing starts from the beginning and stays an important part of the course. I think especially with languages that share the same basic alphabet (like English, Spanish, French, etc.), reading and writing are easier than understanding/speaking. Since I already have an idea how French words would sound out in English, it's easier for me to understand writing because most sounds that correspond to the letters are very similar. It's easier for me to speak than to understand because I can speak at the rate I want using the words I already know, while if I'm trying to understand real French people speaking, they speak in a rhythm that I'm not used to, using words that I don't know.
  38. CrisMcCartney New Member

    España (español)
    In Spain, it's the other way round, in school, they seldom teach you understanding and speaking, it's always grammar and vocabulary so you can get an A and when you have a conversation with an English-speaking you understand only some words, it's shameful
  39. Musical Chairs Senior Member

    Japan & US, Japanese & English
    This is exactly what I'm saying. The language you are learning in school is not your native language and that is why understanding/speaking are harder.

    Edit: To say it another way, wouldn't you say that understanding and speaking Spanish are much easier in comparison, than reading and writing?
  40. Txiri

    Txiri Senior Member

    USA English
    Very interesting.

    I knew Spanish quite well before I took on Italian, and then an opportunity arose for me to spend some time (a couple of months) in Italy. My classroom Italian had only been for a year.

    I spent a lot of time with a couple in Rome who were friends and both had a great sense of humor. I also spent a fair amount of time while there, transcribing the lyrics to songs by Lucio Dalla ...

    We had taken a trip to the Adriatic coast, and I kept listening to them speak, and intervening in my own way, but it gave me constant headaches. Not real headaches, but exceptional states of mental tension. We were on our way back to Rome in a vehicle, and met up with an incredible traffic jam,and I had one of those experiences where suddenly the veil was lifted: I was understanding most of what they were saying, and amazingly I could participate more normally in the conversation. We were watching drivers try to maneuver better position to inch forward, and a line from Dalla´s song "Disperato erotic stomp" came to mind: "Ma l´empresa eccezzionale, dammi retta, é essere normale" I threw it out there, they laughed, and for me, it was sort of like what you say, I came out another color.
  41. Txiri

    Txiri Senior Member

    USA English
    Okay, I apologize for the previous diversion from topic, but it so rang a bell ...

    I was for a long time, a professional instructor of language. I taught Spanish in the university during the 70s, 80s, and 90s, and English in Spain during the 80s.

    When I returned to the USA in the late 80s, having taught and studied Spanish in the USA for some years already, I was incredibly enthused with language instruction methods already in place in Spain. I had an idea for a textbook! Not very long after my return, however, the language department where I worked put a person into place as in charge of elementary language instruction, and she instituted into practice what I believe they called at that time, "proficiency models".

    The students in proficiency instruction are introduced to the language at the first moment. It doesn´t matter how much they understand, the important thing is to expose them. I would, for example, even on the first day, even with absolute beginners, give them the lyrics to a song sung in Spanish, with the page of lyrics cut into strips every third line. It was a puzzle, they had to put together. We´´d stop the exercise when any one student had all the lyrics in place. (Lucio Dalla method of learning ha ha)

    It was a way of showing them, that even on the first day of class, they could have some understanding. They could also already pick out some cognates ...

    I believe the fault has been, in the English and American systems of teaching language, that historically we expected students to do drills and learn from that. I did, but if I had a dollar in my lifetime for every person I have ever met who said to me, I studied Spanish, too, but I don´t know how to say anything but, "Where´s the bathroom?", I might be well off today ...

    I think pedagogical trends in the USA changed, largely, in the 90s, but I certainly can understand, can sympathize with, the criticisms leveled toward language instruction.
  42. Chaska Ñawi

    Chaska Ñawi modus borealis

    an old Ontario farmhouse
    Canadian English
    What he said.

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