UPDATE: Apparently I knew 1,422 words on May 2. Nine and a half months ago.
UPDATE: Apparently I knew 1,422 words on May 2. Nine and a half months ago.
Katie and I gave a talk at the ATEG conference weekend before last.
One of the presenters made the point that most anti-grammar advocates don’t actually oppose teaching students grammatical correctness in written English.
What they really oppose is teaching students the names of grammatical concepts. They’re against teaching labels.
But, she said, when you refuse to teach labels, you deny students the language of language.
To underline the point, she and her co-presenter acted out an extended dialogue in which the only nouns were “thing” or, alternatively, “things.” It was pretty funny. Completely incomprehensible, but funny.
This reminds me of a friend of mine, who was talking about having a hard time, as she gets older, remembering what things are called. It drives her college-age son nuts, she said.
“It’s not a doohickey, Mom!”
She hears that a lot.
I said He should just be grateful you didn’t say thingamajig.
Or thingamabob, even worse.
Half the time the opposition to teaching knowledge amounts to no more than an opposition to teaching vocabulary.
I don’t get that.
People learn vocabulary fast. In fact, vocabulary learning is the one area where adult L2 learners excel. (I’ll find a source for that & post…)
All these people lobbying against teaching content …. they seem never to notice that in real life it’s not fun, not knowing the names of things.
Not knowing, or not remembering. Either one.
I had been wondering whether homeschoolers use dictée. Turns out they do.
Fwiw, many classical homeschoolers do dictee. (Writing with Skill, the writing program by Susan Wise Bauer of Well Trained Mind fame emphasizes it, for instance.)
But it’s more for training kids to hold larger and larger chunks of information in memory.
I do a version of this with my freshmen students. I’ll post an example later. In my case the idea is to help them absorb the phrase-and-clause structure of formal prose. I ask them to write the sentence chunk-by-chunk instead of word-by-word.
I wonder whether dictée exercises are common in foreign language classes.
French L2 classes use dictée. At least, French classes do here in France. I don’t know about French classes in the U.S.
Ed learned French in France, and one of the standard classroom exercises was to listen to a sentence on a filmstrip, then write it from memory. He said it was incredibly hard to do, and incredibly useful, too.
Speaking of, I did my first dictée today.
Someone has posted it on line, so here it is !
Deferred Feedback Sharply Dissociates Implicit and Explicit Category Learning
J. David Smith, Joseph Boomer, Alexandria C. Zakrzewski, Jessica L. Roeder, Barbara A. Church, and F. Gregory Ashby Psychological Science 2014, Vol. 25(2) 447-457
I’ve been mulling this article since the summer of 2014, when it was published. It’s life altering.
Another fabulous resource : Paul Nation’s “Survival vocabulary” lists in 23 languages.
How much language do you need to learn to cope with being a foreign tourist?
There is good news here. With around 120 words and phrases (which would take a total of four hours of deliberate study to learn), you can deal with the most basic requirements. These basic requirements include meeting and greeting people, being polite (please, thank you), going shopping, ordering food, seeking directions, reading signs, finding somewhere to stay, talking about yourself, and controlling language input.
This survival vocabulary is available in over 20 different languages. It is very similar to the word and phrase lists that you find at the back of tourist guide books, except that this one has been well researched. You can find these lists at http://www.victoria.ac.nz/lals/staff/paul-nation.aspx. It is a good idea very early in your language study to make sure that you have covered all the survival vocabulary because this is made up of very useful language items.
I’ve just found this site today — it’s amazing.
I’m not ready for it, but a couple of months from now — look out !
That said, I should probably add that I have no idea how it works, or whether it has a spaced-repetition algorithm.
Still, the images are so much fun that the site’s ability to hold my interest is enough to make me use it.
I mentioned the other day that I’m using 3 language apps: Duolingo, Lingvist, and now Memrise, too. Eventually I’ll get around to Glossika (because John McWhorter likes it), though maybe not till I’m putting more time into Spanish.
And, of course, one of these days I’ll actually use Gabriel Wyner’s Pronunciation Trainers, which I should have done before I did anything else, but didn’t.
I bought them.
I didn’t use them.
One day I will be an Anki person, but that day is not this day. (Wyner has an app coming out in August, so, yes, I will be adding another app to the queue.)
Anyway, my thinking in fanning out among apps was that I didn’t want the words I learned to be stuck inside Duolingo. I wanted them to generalize to the real world.
I don’t know whether failure-to-generalize is a real concern, but I did find an interesting passage on decontextualized vocab learning in Paul Nation’s What do you need to know to learn a foreign language?
The most important deliberate learning activity is using word cards …. You need to take control of this very effective activity and keep using it to learn new vocabulary and even more importantly to keep revising previously met vocabulary. You may find that some teachers advise against using this strategy largely because of the belief that all vocabulary learning needs to occur in context. They are wrong. It is important that there is vocabulary learning in context through meaning-focused input, meaning-focused output, and fluency development, but it is also important that there is deliberate decontextualised learning through the use of word cards, because such learning is very efficient and effective. Some people also believe that because word card learning involves first language translation, it encourages thinking in the first language rather than the foreign language. Research however has shown that in the beginning and intermediate stages of language learning the first and foreign languages are unavoidably stored together. Using bilingual word cards is a very effective deliberate learning strategy that you should use.
He’s right, and the original op ed made the same point.
The Foreign Service Institute actually has a ranking of languages in terms of difficulty for English speakers, along with an estimate of how long it takes to reach S-3/R-3 proficiency (which I assume means Speaking and Reading proficiency measured on a scale of 0 to 5).
Looking at the chart now (I’ve seen only abbreviated versions in the past), I notice that they seem to consider French quite a bit more difficult than Spanish, at least in terms of the time they estimate it takes to go from 0 to S-3/R-3. That’s certainly the way it seems to me.
24 weeks for Spanish, 30 for French.
600 to 750 “class hours” in all.
Quite a few of my students are L2 writers, and now that I’ve immersed myself in language apps I’ve been thinking even more than usual about the challenge of needing to be fluent in a second language in order to go to school, find work, etc. Those of us born in Anglophone countries are incredibly lucky not to have to do what my students must do–if only in terms of the opportunity cost. The hours my L2 students spent learning English can’t be spent learning something else.
I should stress that I’m not remotely saying English-speaking students should stick to English and leave the language learning to other people.
Not at all !
I think English-speaking students should learn other languages, and should do so as early in life as possible. (This was a chronic bone of contention in my erstwhile school district, where parents have spent decades lobbying for early foreign language instruction and still don’t have it.)
I’m saying only that any child who is born into a family of native speakers of English has an advantage in not having to learn English as an adolescent or adult.
At first glance, English looks an easy language to learn. Anything that is not obviously male or female is “it”. There is no need to worry about the gender of “phone” or “stapler” or “stupidity”. (Lloyd’s List, the shipping newspaper, stopped calling ships “she” in 2002.)
Adjectives remain the same regardless of the gender of the associated noun: a brave woman, a brave man, a brave new world. Apart from the -s in the third person singular present tense (“she sings”), verbs do not change, no matter what their subject is (“he ran”, “they ran”).
The word “friend” remains the same whether you say “he’s my friend”, “hello, my friend”, “I kicked my friend” or “it’s the house of my friend”. In Greek, as I discovered in my Piraeus days, these require an array of noun endings, which differ depending on the gender of the friend.
But there are aspects of English that are devilishly complex. The spelling fails to provide consistent guidance to pronunciation. Consider “cough”, “through”, “bough”, “though” and “hiccough”.
There are the irregular past tenses: arose, became, fell, swore, and many more.
There are also phrasal verbs — verbs followed by prepositions, with wild swings in meaning. Learners have every right to feel put out when they put up someone for the night, only to discover that they can’t put up with them. They may want to put off learning English for another time.
They certainly are for me.
In the Post last Friday: a highly enjoyable list of supposedly cringe-worthy phrases you’re probably using in the office ! (Note punctuation placement, please.)
re: cringe-worthy, I dissent.
There’s nothing wrong with expressions like “heavy lifting,” “win-win,” “paradigm shift,” “elephant in the room,” etc. All of these mots mean something real. That’s why people use them.
That said, I do agree that neither “Give 110 percent” nor “There’s no I in team” have much to offer in the way of communicative oomph.
I also admit to being tired of hearing “going forward” and “reach out.” Blech. My feelings on the subject are neither here nor there, however. Both expressions still mean what they mean, and people will continue to use them.
One more thing. “Boil the ocean“
What is that?
If I have to ask, then you’re probably not using “boil the ocean” in the office, at least not often enough for “boil the ocean” to have become cringeworthy.
In short, WAPO has published a perfectly fine list of things to say at the office — so perfectly fine that if I were teaching a course on Business English for L2 speakers, I would advise my students to commit it to memory.
Here’s my beef with the list.
The word toolkit, which people demonstrably are using way too much in the office, (not to mention in book titles) is not on the list of cringe-worthy things people spend too much time using in the office.
I was thinking I could end this post with some kind of reference to boiling the ocean, but I guess not.
Haven’t watched this yet, but 6 seconds in, Damon, of Damon and Jo, says “r” is the hardest letter to pronounce in any language.
Is that true?
I kinda hope so, seeing as how both the Spanish ‘r’ and the French ‘r’ have been the bane of my many years of non-fluency in both languages.
The other morning, coming off a Duolingo Spanish session, I rolled my r perfectly twice. It just happened. A perfect Spanish r, perfectly rolled.
Then I couldn’t do it again.
I don’t know whether it’s the best or the most efficient way to learn a foreign language. John McWhorter likes Glossika, which I assume means he likes Glossika better than Duolingo. It’s possible Duolingo involves too much translating from English to French and back again. I don’t know.
I wish I knew the literature on L2 learning.
In any event, I feel as if I’ve finally found an incontrovertible, absolute argument for the Wonders of Education Technology, a subject on which I have heretofore cast a No Vote: using a language app, you can hear what the words you’re learning sound like.
Plus the supposed convenience of education apps actually is convenient where Duolingo is concerned, and in a way that matters. I’ve never managed to stick with a MOOC, or watch more than one lecture from The Great Courses (which actually are great, as far as I can tell), but I’ve found it easy to return to Duolingo 25 days in a row. Duolingo is so compelling that it was one of my few daily habits that did not crash during the blackout.
Speaking of which, C. just talked to his co-teacher in Mt. Vernon … her electricity is off, and her brother, who works for Con Ed, says it will be days before it’s back on.
She has two young children.
Meanwhile, the lights just flickered off, then flickered back on.
The suspense is killing me.
Duolingo and I are having a disagreement about whether I’m doing fine or well.
Probably another Midwest thing.
Alright, I’ve just watched the Orientation video for the famed French in Action class. I am left with two thoughts:
Which brings me to my first question: how does one say “Great!” in French?
Pascaline: Hi, Catherine, how are you?
Pascaline: Hi, Catherine, how are you?
(Is it rude to say Great! (or Good!) in French? With the exclamation mark?)
That’s my second question.
But I’ve hit a snag:
The plan seems to be for me to carry on learning (or “strengthening“?) Lessons 1, 2, 3, and 4 until a time to be determined, and not by me.
Maybe you have to know when to say bonne soirée before they let you learn the French word for bread.
Is there a Missing Manual for Duolingo?