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Winging it - the key to successful language learning?
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 13 Mar 2005
Posts: 3292
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Mon Nov 26, 2012 7:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sasha wrote:
Plenty of reading skills relate to dealing with unknown lexical items - a skill which is more important to develop than use of quick-fix translations.

Remind me to dig out my copy of Keith Folse's Vocabulary Myths. IIRC there's quite a nice demonstration in it of the inadequacy of context in determining the meaning of assumedly unknown items in a text.

I haven't had time to more than browse a lot of this thread, but personally I'm not really that interested in slight grammar errors or even "fossilizations". What I'm more interested in are the sometimes yawning gaps in the students' language stock - gaps that are there simply because few or no coursebooks fill them adequately if at all. (I suppose the onus is now on me to mention a few of the missing items - might chime in on that other thread asking about stuff that is or isn't covered in textbooks. All I can suggest for now is, take an advanced learner dictionary like the Longman, open it at practically any page, and start making notes of the things that could be really interesting or useful but aren't covered in the textbooks you've used).

The honest reaction, if we weren't being paid as teachers, might be to tell the more conversationally incapable of students to simply go home and study some more (or to knuckle down to intensive teacher-led instruction (with L1 for instructions is fine, IMHO)). As it is however, we have to let them sprint before they can crawl.
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Teacher in Rome



Joined: 09 Jul 2003
Posts: 1286

PostPosted: Mon Nov 26, 2012 8:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
All I can suggest for now is, take an advanced learner dictionary like the Longman, open it at practically any page, and start making notes of the things that could be really interesting or useful but aren't covered in the textbooks you've used).


Yes, completely agree here. I come across lots of gems in dictionaries when I'm researching for materials writing. Of course, can't think of a single one right now, but the point is there's so much of language that is never presented in textbooks (or, to be fair, tested in exams.)

There's so much inventiveness and creativity in language use (among L1 and L2) that never gets mentioned. There's so much chance that a learner in an English-speaking country will come across words and expressions used naturally in conversation, but which are never presented because "they are too old-fashioned" or "too idiomatic". A case in point. A student of mine went to London and bought a packet of cigarettes. The newsagent asked him which brand, and my student said "a packet of ten, please". To which the newsagent replied, "oh, thrifty". My student was delighted - thrifty is a word that had come up - but not in his coursebook.

Quote:
The honest reaction, if we weren't being paid as teachers, might be to tell the more conversationally incapable of students to simply go home and study some more (or to knuckle down to intensive teacher-led instruction (with L1 for instructions is fine, IMHO)). As it is however, we have to let them sprint before they can crawl.


Mmm. There are all sorts of strategies that "conversationally-incapable" students can use to narrow this gap. But what is a conversationally incapable student, anyway? One who is shy? One who sticks only to pre-taught phrases? One who can't take cues from non-linguistic factors? One who will prefer to mumble or one who just doesn't like much conversational interaction?

I think that just getting on with the task (buying cigarettes, explaining your national dance - whatever that conversational aim is) with a willing conversation partner puts a student in the position of needing to communicate, and the partner with the need to understand and respond. And if the learners aren't burdened with phrases they need to crowbar in, but have the freedom to improvise (and adaptability to respond to improvisation or the unexpected) their output can be surprisingly successful.
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 13 Mar 2005
Posts: 3292
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Tue Nov 27, 2012 1:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I looked in my Richards & Schmidt and found the following definition:

Conversationally-incapable students: those who before they are capable enough will try and/or be forced to have a too-ambitious conversation even if it kills them...along with you the teacher. Often an unfortunate but quite predictable product of rushed, over-ambitious, or plain wishful CLT.
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Kofola



Joined: 20 Feb 2009
Posts: 159
Location: Slovakia

PostPosted: Tue Nov 27, 2012 5:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I haven't had time to more than browse a lot of this thread, but personally I'm not really that interested in slight grammar errors or even "fossilizations". What I'm more interested in are the sometimes yawning gaps in the students' language stock - gaps that are there simply because few or no coursebooks fill them adequately if at all.


Perhaps we all understand error correction to mean different things? For me, error correction isn't about correcting slight grammar errors, but is a major tool for showing learners how language is actually used in context (whether that be written or spoken). For instance, I use it when learners produce perfectly grammatically correct sentences, but they haven't taken the opportunity to use a collocation just learnt or something that just sounds much more natural or perhaps the register is slightly off. I then invite them to produce something that would be more appropriate for the setting.

Many classroom contexts provide opportunities to deal with things that are not in the coursebooks (if you use them), esp. social English e.g. when learners say 'I'm here a minute', when they mean 'Won't be a sec'/'Back in a minute'/ 'I'll be with you in a moment". So, error correction might actually lead into a 20 minute discussion on the use of time phrases in different situations or provide a context-rich environment in which to look at the use of 'will' in English.
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HLJHLJ



Joined: 06 Oct 2009
Posts: 1205
Location: Ecuador

PostPosted: Tue Nov 27, 2012 5:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

fluffyhamster wrote:

Conversationally-incapable students: those who before they are capable enough will try and/or be forced to have a too-ambitious conversation even if it kills them...along with you the teacher.


Isn't that what happens in the real world? I've had outrageously over-ambitious conversations with people when we've barely shared any common language at all. Surely anyone who has traveled abroad without knowing the local language has done similar?
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 11061
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Wed Nov 28, 2012 11:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

fluffyhamster wrote:

Remind me to dig out my copy of Keith Folse's Vocabulary Myths.


Fluffy dig out your copy of Keith Folse's Vocabulary Myths.
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iain



Joined: 09 May 2007
Posts: 15
Location: northern italy

PostPosted: Fri Nov 30, 2012 9:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's worth thinking about what we really mean when we say we are ‘correcting’. It’s one thing if we're trying to remedy a problem in the sense that our perception is that students simply ‘learnt wrong’ for whatever reason. Whatever was supposed to have been taught evidently hasn't been learnt: the ‘done that’ box has been ticked but the results are faulty. Correction here can risk becoming a bit of a tedious task – like following your teenage kids around the house tidying up the mess they make and turning off the lights they leave on.

It's another matter if we see correction as part of an on-going teaching process – and this is the way we approach things here. Things, on the whole, can’t get learnt on a single contact – even if they are well taught (although ‘facts’ can get learnt in this way). When learning takes place gradually over time (but irregularly according to the difficulty of what’s being learnt) ‘mistakes’ aren’t problems, they are evidence of the state of learning - and the teacher can choose how (and if) to best intervene. ‘Correction’ can only stand a chance of being effective if we see it in the medium / long-term and we make a point of being consistent (and not giving the impression we are disappointed in some way). Clearly, frequency has a big role: if the new language seldom emerges in lessons or there is no real focus on it, the conditions for effective learning are not really there.

We sometimes need to stand back and remind ourselves that we’re wishing there was a magic wand we could wave. Magic spells:
- Correction does the trick.
- Students are imaginative and daring.
- We can teach students all the wonderful and useful words and phrases that are ‘out there’ in the ‘real world’. Discovering them ‘out there’ can be a joy – it’s not (necessarily) the fault of the teacher or the coursebook for having decided to omit them in the classroom.
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 13 Mar 2005
Posts: 3292
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Sat Dec 01, 2012 4:04 am    Post subject: