Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Great Stuff From The Linguist

by AJ

There is an important point here. Obviously it is an advantage for a language learner to live in an environment where the second language is spoken. However, this does not guarantee language acquisition. You must have a positive attitude towards
the language and culture you are trying to learn. You cannot learn to communicate if you rely on a classroom where the focus is on trying to pass tests. Only a genuine desire to communicate with another culture can ensure language learning success.

I became fluent in French by giving up the traditional approach of trying to perfect my grammar. Perfection did not matter anymore, only communicating did. I no longer disliked language learning. I read what I liked even if I did not understand all of it. I spoke with people who interested me, struggling to understand and to make myself understood. I was mostly interested in connecting with the culture. I also started to appreciate the sound and structure of the new language. When you move from an attitude of resisting the strangeness of a language to an attitude of appreciating its unique ways of expression and turns of phrase, you are on your way to becoming a linguist.

I took charge of my learning, and stopped relying on my teachers. The teacher was only one of many resources available to me in a city like Montreal. All of a sudden, with no tests, no questions from teachers, and no grammar drills, my French skills took a great leap forward! I had achieved my first language breakthrough. I could feel the improvements in fluency, comprehension and pronunciation. This made language learning exciting

These are just a few of many fabulous quotes from Steve Kaufmann atThe Linguist Website. I recommend reading the entire excerpt of the book available on the website. I also recommend signing up for his (free) Linguist Club... its an excellent guide to studying a foreign language... truly fantastic.

Steve is fluent in 9 languages, so his insights are based on real world practical experience. What's interesting is how closely they mirror the research on language acquisition.

The Linguist, like the research points to the importance of:
*Meaning & communication (rather than form and grammar)
*Authentic materials (not textbooks)
*Social & cultural connection to the language (not tests and grades).
*Autonomy and Independence (not dependence on teachers and classes)

Besides mirroring the research, these points also reflect my recent experiences with both Thai and Spanish. Two months ago I embarked on a natural exploration of Spanish. Id failed at all previous attempts. This time Ive chucked the textbooks, thrown away the flashcards, and forgotten the language tape drills. Instead Im focused only on enjoyable authentic materials: children's books, graded mini-novels, children's TV shows, graded/easy audiobooks, and movies.

Its been a great experience. Im busy and dont have a lot of time.... but the small amount of time I put into Spanish is paying off. Most importantly, I enjoy doing it... Im developing a feeling of excitement and confidence which is increasing my motivation (the opposite of what textbooks and grammar translation do to motivation). Because I enjoy it, its easy to sustain these "efforts" (which are no effort at all really).

Because of the fun and success Ive had with Spanish, two weeks ago I decided to pursue the same approach with Thai. Id given up on Thai but am now trying again-- with a natural approach. Ive learn the Thai consonants and some of the vowels. Though I dont know all of the vowels yet, Ive already started reading a very easy children's book- mucho fun. As my reading ability improves, Ill continue to buy books.

Kristin and I have also decided to use children's TV shows. Her boyfriend Wat (native Thai speaker) will watch with us and help us understand the language. Ill write about this experience in a month or two... once Ive had time to test it.

Meanwhile, I highly recommend The Linguist website.