7 Common Myths About Language And Learning


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Powerpoint for a lecture delivered online via GoToWebinar on 3 Sept 09. Full recording available on http://training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk/webinars.

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  • Children are their own source of stimulus
  • There are also many things that children have to learn (and have trouble with) that adults already know
  • These people are theoretical linguists but reading them will teach you something about language. Reading Chomsky will only teach you about Chomsky’s theory of language.
  • 7 Common Myths About Language And Learning

    1. 1. training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk 7 Common Myths about Language and Learning Dominik Luke š Dyslexia Action [email_address]
    2. 2. training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk Overview <ul><li>Children learn languages quickly and effortlessly </li></ul><ul><li>Some languages are more difficult than others </li></ul><ul><li>We need to speak correctly and clearly in order to avoid misunderstandings (Language is the ideal tool for communication) </li></ul><ul><li>Children need to go to school in order to learn to speak English properly </li></ul><ul><li>Knowing grammar will make it easier to learn other languages </li></ul><ul><li>Bilingual people speak two languages perfectly </li></ul><ul><li>Chomsky's linguistic theories are of great importance to language teaching </li></ul>
    3. 3. MYTH 1 Children learn languages quickly and effortlessly training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    4. 4. Poll <ul><li>A six-year old child and a sixty-year old adult will both have 2 hours of foreign language classes a week for a year. Who will be better at the end of the year? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Child </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Adult </li></ul></ul>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    5. 5. Is child language acquisition “miraculous”? <ul><li>10 words a day, 200 words a month, 5,000 words, 60,000 words? What does it mean? </li></ul><ul><li>What else do children need to learn? </li></ul><ul><li>How do they learn it? Where’s the stimulus? </li></ul>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    6. 6. Language in the crib training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk “ What color -- What color blanket -- What color mop -- What color glass ... Not the yellow blanket --- The white ... It't not black -- It's yellow ... Not yellow -- Red ... Put on a blanker -- White blanket -- And yellow blanket -- Where's yellow blanket ... Yellow light ... There is the light -- Where is the light -- Here is the light.” “ Big and little -- Little Bobby -- Little Nancy -- Big Nancy” “ Anthony take the -- Take the book ... This is the -- This is the -- Book... That's a -- That's a -- That's a kitty -- That a Fifi here ... Mommy get some --- Mommy get some -- Soap.” Weir, 1962, Language in the crib
    7. 7. Are adults so slow? The winners <ul><li>Four-year BA student: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>12 classroom hours / week </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>12 hours of self-study / week </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>4 week summer school every year </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1 year in country </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Read 19 th- century literature </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The army method </li></ul><ul><ul><li>6 hours of drills a day </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t learn, don’t get promoted </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t learn, people die </li></ul></ul>The real life <ul><li>Expat executive </li></ul><ul><ul><li>2 hours tutoring a week </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Local spouse </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>High demand job </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Everyone speaks English </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Night class attendance </li></ul><ul><ul><li>6 hours a week </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Stressful job </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sense of identity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Good enough </li></ul></ul>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    8. 8. Bottom line <ul><li>Children do nothing else but learn a language during acquiring their 1 st languages. They have time to learn the languages gradually and develop idiomatic fluency. But not in a classroom setting. </li></ul><ul><li>Adults can apply considerable cognitive and metacognitive resources to language learning. However, the context of their learning is generally such that they do not generally achieve native-like fluency or full grasp of the figurative substrate of the language. </li></ul>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    9. 9. Take away message <ul><li>Language learning is hard and it takes time! </li></ul><ul><li>In fact it’s really, really hard, and it takes lots and lots of time and frustration!!! </li></ul>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    10. 10. MYTH 2 Some languages are more difficult than others training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    11. 11. English is an easy language… training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk … to learn badly.
    12. 12. Czech is not a difficult language… training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk … it’s just hard to learn it.
    13. 13. What makes languages hard to learn? <ul><li>Grammar? Vocabulary? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>FSI says Swahili easier than Finnish; Swedish easier than German. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lingua francas: Latin, Russian, Swahili, Arabic, Chinese, English </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Comprehensible input </li></ul><ul><ul><li>English, Swahili, French, Spanish – lots of comprehensible input available </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Native speakers used to learners </li></ul></ul>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    14. 14. Bottom line <ul><li>Children take the same amount of time to acquire any language (even several at once) </li></ul><ul><li>Adults find the context of language learning more conducive for some languages than others </li></ul><ul><li>Role of cognates and cultural expectations is also important but not straightforwardly predictable </li></ul>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    15. 15. MYTH 3 We need to speak correctly and clearly in order to avoid misunderstandings (Language is the ideal tool for communication) training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    16. 16. Poll <ul><li>How many meanings are there in &quot;A man walks into a bar…&quot; </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Regularly; entering an institution </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>As I watch; entering an institution </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Regularly; colliding with an object </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>As I watch; colliding with an object </li></ul></ul>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    17. 17. training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk go 1 verb ( goes , went , gone , going ) usually intr 1 ( often go about or by or down , etc ) to walk, move or travel in the direction specified. 2 to lead or extend • a path that goes across the field • The road goes all the way to the farm . 3 ( usually go to somewhere ) to visit or attend it, once or regularly • go to the cinema • go to school . 4 a to leave or move away; b ( only as exclamation) said by someone signalling the start of a race: begin the race! 5 to be destroyed or taken away; to disappear • The old door had to go • The peaceful atmosphere has gone . 6 to proceed or fare • The scheme is going well . 7 to be used up • All his money went on drink . 8 to be given or sold for a stated amount • went for £20 . 9 to leave or set out for a stated purpose • go for a ride • go on holiday • gone fishing . 10 tr & intr to perform (an action) or produce (a sound) • go like this • go bang . 11 colloq to break, break down, or fail • The old TV finally went • His eyes have gone . 12 to work or be in working order • get it going . 13 to become; to pass into a certain condition • go mad . 14 to belong; to be placed correctly • Where does this go? 15 to fit, or be contained • My foot won't go into the shoe • Four into three won't go . 16 to be or continue in a certain state • go hungry . 17 said of time: to pass. 18 said of a story or tune: to run • How does it go? 19 ( often go for someone or something ) to apply to them; to be valid or accepted for them • The same goes for you • In this office, anything goes . 20 colloq to carry authority • What she says goes . 21 ( often go with something ) said of colours, etc: to match or blend. 22 to subject oneself • go to much trouble . 23 to adopt a specified system • go metric . 24 tr to bet (a specified amount), especially at cards • went five pounds . 25 colloq to be in general, for the purpose of comparison • As girls go, she's quite naughty . 26 to exist or be on offer • the best offer going at the moment . 27 very colloq to say • She goes, 'No, you didn't!' and I goes, 'Oh, yes I did!' . noun ( plural goes ) 1 a turn or spell • It's my go . 2 energy; liveliness • She lacks go . 3 colloq busy activity • It's all go . 4 colloq a success • make a go of it . be going on for something colloq to be approaching (a specified age) • She's going on for 60 . from the word go from the very beginning. give it a go colloq to make an attempt at something. go all out for something to make a great effort to obtain or achieve it. go and ... to be so unwise or unfortunate as to ... • They've gone and got lost . go great guns see under gun . go it alone colloq to manage or try to manage without help, especially when in difficulties. go native to assimilate oneself to an alien culture or to the way of life of a foreign country. go slow to work slowly so as to encourage an employer to negotiate or meet a demand. See also go-slow . have a go colloq to try; to make an attempt. have a go at someone to attack them verbally. have something going for one colloq to have it as an attribute or advantage • You have a lot going for you . I could go something very colloq I would like it; I could do with it; I need it • I could really go a pint of cold beer . no go colloq not possible. on the go colloq busily active. to be going on with colloq for the moment • enough to be going on with . Polysemy from the word ‘Go’
    18. 18. Ambiguity and polysemy are the norm: The Church noticeboards <ul><li>Sunday morning sermon: 'Jesus Walks on the Water‘ Sunday evening sermon: 'Searching for Jesus.‘ </li></ul><ul><li>Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands. </li></ul><ul><li>Don't let worry kill you off - let the Church help. </li></ul><ul><li>Miss Charlene Mason sang 'I will not pass this way again,' giving obvious pleasure to the congregation. </li></ul><ul><li>For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.  </li></ul>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    19. 19. Importance of context <ul><li>Complete the sentence: “A man walks into a bar …” </li></ul><ul><li>Write the following three words: “In this book, …” </li></ul><ul><li>Write the preceding three words: “…in this book.” </li></ul>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    20. 20. Importance of negotiation and guessing <ul><li>What's that? </li></ul><ul><li>I'm sorry I didn't quite catch that </li></ul><ul><li>Sorry? </li></ul><ul><li>Ah, yes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Michael Macintyre (Comedian) </li></ul></ul>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    21. 21. Bottom line <ul><li>Ambiguity is the norm. </li></ul><ul><li>Understanding language would be impossible without context and negotiation (repair) strategies </li></ul><ul><li>Most of the exhortations towards “clear” communication really asking for “proper” communication. </li></ul>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    22. 22. MYTH 4 Children need to go to school in order to learn to speak English properly training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    23. 23. Poll <ul><li>Which of the following is NOT correct? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>I and John are great friends. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Me and John, we're the best of friends. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>There's great friendship between John and I. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Why? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ with John and I” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>but NOT “with I” </li></ul></ul>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    24. 24. How many languages? <ul><li>And then he goes like ... I'm not doing that. </li></ul><ul><li>Subsequently he refused to perform the requested task. </li></ul>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    25. 25. Is “thenee” a word? <ul><li>Can you use it in a sentence? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ antheneesez” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ And then he says” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>From what language is “amana”? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ amana'ave some mustard” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Not “I’m going to” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Not even “I’m gonna” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ amana” </li></ul></ul>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    26. 26. Context again! <ul><li>Demetri Martin: </li></ul><ul><li>Joke 1 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ I'm sorry and I apologise are the same.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Except at a funeral.” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Joke 2 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Sort of” mostly means nothing. Except when you say it with </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ You’re going to live!” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ It’s a boy!” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ I love you” </li></ul></ul></ul>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    27. 27. The codes and their switching <ul><li>To friends: “Cut it out mate” </li></ul><ul><li>To parents: “Stop it mom!” </li></ul><ul><li>To other childrens’ parents: “Thank you Mrs Strong” </li></ul>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    28. 28. What does this say? <ul><li>&quot;2 b, r nt 2 b dat iz d Q wthr ts noblr n d mnd 2 sufr d slngs & arowz of outrAjs fortn r 2 tAk armz agnst a C f trblz, & by oposn nd em?&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;To be, or not to be: that is the question: / Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer / The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, / Or to take arms against a sea of troubles / And by opposing end them?&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-413866/Exam-chiefs-ridiculed-allowing-text-speak-English-answers.html#ixzz0Q3VtPWAt </li></ul>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    29. 29. From sigla to text-speak Etc. & e.g. # vs. CU L8 LOL B4 training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    30. 30. Bottom line <ul><li>In many respects, children need to learn a second language (code) at school. </li></ul><ul><li>We are all multilingual (codal); We use different codes for different occasions. </li></ul><ul><li>School doesn't teach people to communicate their ideas better; it teaches them to communicate their education. </li></ul>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    31. 31. MYTH 5 Knowing the grammar of your own language will make it easier to learn other languages training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    32. 32. Poll <ul><li>“ She write books” At what level does this error stop for Russian learners of English? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Beginner </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lower Intermediate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Intermediate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Upper Intermediate </li></ul></ul>
    33. 33. The English -s <ul><li>“ She write good books“ </li></ul><ul><li>Why do intermediate-level learners of ESL make this error even if their language has much more complex morphology? </li></ul>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    34. 34. Tenses <ul><li>Czech = 3 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Past </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Present </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Future </li></ul></ul><ul><li>English = 14 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Past </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Perfect </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Simple </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Continuous </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Simple </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Continuous </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Present </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Future </li></ul></ul>
    35. 35. How many grammatical terms do you need? <ul><li>Technical terms: noun, verb, adverb, adjective, preposition, pronoun, subject, object, vowel, consonant, tense, suffix, prefix, voiced/unvoiced, idiom </li></ul><ul><li>'Natural' terms: word, sentence, text, meaning, dictionary, grammar, pronunciation, error/mistake, command, question/answer </li></ul>
    36. 36. Predictions? <ul><li>Czechs learn more grammar (240 terms) than Albanians (about 60), their English should be better. </li></ul><ul><li>Linguists know more grammar than physicists, their English should be better. </li></ul><ul><li>Why is that not the case? </li></ul>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    37. 37. Bottom line <ul><li>Knowing grammatical terminology only helps in very specific metacognitve learning tasks in the early stages </li></ul><ul><li>Research shows no long-term impact </li></ul><ul><li>Most of the advanced grammar terminology doesn't translate between languages </li></ul>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    38. 38. MYTH 6 Bilingual people speak two languages perfectly training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    39. 39. And what language is this? <ul><li>The second formulation (or Formula of the End in Itself) holds that &quot;the rational being, as by its nature an end and thus as an end in itself, must serve in every maxim as the condition restricting all merely relative and arbitrary ends.&quot; The principle dictates that you &quot;[a]ct with reference to every rational being (whether yourself or another) so that it is an end in itself in your maxim&quot;, meaning that the rational being is &quot;the basis of all maxims of action&quot; and &quot;must be treated never as a mere means but as the supreme limiting condition in the use of all means, i.e., as an end at the same time.&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>From Wikipedia entry on Kant </li></ul>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    40. 40. … but to learn enough to read Der Spiegel might take years. training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk You can learn enough German to read Kant in a summer… Milan Machovec, Czech philosopher
    41. 41. The functional language <ul><li>Language consists of functional areas / domains with specific codes of communication </li></ul><ul><li>How much is enough? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>perform a function </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>achieve objective </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>produce acceptable text </li></ul></ul>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    42. 42. Common …lingualisms <ul><li>L1 speak to parents; L2 main medium of communication </li></ul><ul><li>L1 speak and write; L2 write academic articles (but not order food) </li></ul><ul><li>L1 native speaker; L2 business interactions </li></ul>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    43. 43. Bottom line <ul><li>Multilingualism is the norm around the globe </li></ul><ul><li>Bilingualism should be the central approach to language (We are all bilingual) </li></ul><ul><li>Knowing a language is not an ON/OFF state </li></ul><ul><li>Very few people are fully functionally bilingual </li></ul><ul><li>In fact, very few people are fully functionally monolingual </li></ul>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    44. 44. MYTH 7 Chomsky’s linguistic theories are of great importance to language teaching training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    45. 45. What do you associate with Chomsky? training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    46. 46. <ul><li>Projection principle: Lexical properties are preserved in generating a sentence </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ John hit the ball” vs. “John hit ___” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Pro-drop parameters: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Head initial: “Mary swims” / “In cinema” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Head final: “Swims Mary” / “Cinema in” </li></ul></ul>Universal grammar: Innate principles and acquired parameters training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    47. 47. What Chomskeans don’t have much to say about… <ul><ul><li>Language change </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Politics of language </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Language education </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Poetic and literary language </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Conversation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Differences between spoken and written language </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Discourse </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Metaphors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Meanings of words </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Text, stylistics, genre, register </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Bilingualism </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Second language learning </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Translation (except machine translation) </li></ul></ul>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    48. 48. Bottom line <ul><li>It doesn’t matter whether Chomsky is right or wrong </li></ul><ul><li>Chomsky’s primary concern is to study language in a scientific manner (using his formalisms) and excludes everything that cannot so be studied. As a result: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Much of the issues of generative grammar are incomprehensible to lay people (including non-Chomskean linguists) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>And he and his followers don’t have much to say about the things we most want to know about language </li></ul></ul>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    49. 49. Where to go <ul><li>MAK Halliday is the linguist whose work had a truly profound influence on language teaching and curriculum design </li></ul><ul><li>Linguists you can read and learn something about language: William Labov, George Lakoff, Michael Hoey, Leonard Talmy, Norman Fairclough, Dell Hymes, Edward Sapir </li></ul>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk
    50. 50. Thank you <ul><li>More information about upcoming online events: </li></ul><ul><li>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk/webinars </li></ul>training.dyslexiaaction.org.uk