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The multi-track approach

 Language Learning Forum : Learning Techniques, Methods & Strategies Post Reply
30 messages over 4 pages: 1 2 3
s_allard
Triglot
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 3421 days ago

2704 posts - 5424 votes 
Speaks: French*, English, Spanish
Studies: Polish

 
 Message 25 of 30
24 January 2014 at 5:24am | IP Logged 
I'm not familiar with the language teaching in the American school system; My expertise is limited to the
Canadian system. I won't even attempt to give an overview of language teaching in Canada, but I'll say that a lot
of reseaerch has led to major changes in the way French particularly is taught in our school system from
kindergarten right up to university.

But just a few comments. The biggest innovation, and something that addresses many of the issues raised here,
is the development of immersion French whereby children are taught all their subjects in French. In words,
starting at age six, the child experiences French as the language of instruction. What can get better than that?

There are some limitations to Canadian-style immersion, i.e. lack of contact with native speakers of same age,
non-native teachers, lack of French at home, etc. But the results are great and even spectacular if the children
pursue immersion into high school.

For the non-immersion students there are things called core French and intensive French. I won't go into details
except to remind people that French, or all languages for that matter, in the elementary and secondary school
system is a subject just like the others. The goal of French instruction is not to produce speakers of French. The
goal is to enable the students to pass the exam.

If you want to see language instruction for real-world speaking, you have to look at the university level or at the
teaching of languages to immigrants and adults. For example, here in Quebec, people can enroll in a year long
program of full-time studies of French with the explicit goal of learning to speak in order to get a job. The
content is very authentic. Homework can often consist of looking at a current television program and discussing
it in class. These courses works very well. People go from 0 to about a B1-B2 in a year.

We also have many private schools that do an excellent job in both French and English. Everybody emphasizes
language for the real world because that is what the students need.
1 person has voted this message useful



Serpent
Octoglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
Joined 4588 days ago

9757 posts - 15778 votes 
4 sounds
Speaks: Russian*, English, FinnishC1, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: Danish, Romanian, Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Croatian, Slovenian, Catalan, Czech, Galician, Dutch, Swedish

 
 Message 26 of 30
24 January 2014 at 6:11am | IP Logged 
As someone has already replied you before, most countries/regions do a decent job teaching their official language(s).
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s_allard
Triglot
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 3421 days ago

2704 posts - 5424 votes 
Speaks: French*, English, Spanish
Studies: Polish

 
 Message 27 of 30
24 January 2014 at 3:18pm | IP Logged 
I took some time off to reread Farber's book. It really is outstanding despite some datedness. In another thread we
discussed a new book on language learning coming out by a well known polyglot, and there is even another book
coming out later this year I've ordered both books, but I'm convinced that there is probably nothing really that new
to be added to Farber's work. By the way, Farber's book can be found freely as a pdf on the web.
1 person has voted this message useful



mrwarper
Diglot
Winner TAC 2012
Senior Member
Spain
forum_posts.asp?TID=Registered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 3217 days ago

1490 posts - 2500 votes 
Speaks: Spanish*, EnglishC2
Studies: German, Russian, Japanese

 
 Message 28 of 30
31 January 2014 at 6:29am | IP Logged 
Just a few comments regarding some minor points.

frenkeld wrote:
Internet access, modern audio-visual technologies and devices, and internet shopping have certainly had a revolutionary impact on what's available to a language learner today compared to Farber's time.

Many natural language goals stem from the simple fact that text is text and must be read, audio is audio and must be listened to, etc. I've noticed such goals are often neglected, because materials had to be packaged a certain way or make use of a certain technology, and be "multimedia", or "interactive". There's more stuff available, sure, including loads of crap that would simply not have been produced in pre-hype eras. Today there's both more to choose from, and more need to choose carefully.

Quote:
Language teaching has changed too, of course, but [...] I found it quite surprising how traditional the teaching was.
[...]
And what I find rather odd is not just the traditional methods being used in the classroom, but no attempt to direct the students to avail themselves of the wealth of authentic materials [...] Maybe the universities do better, but schools don't seem to be all there yet.

How sad. In 25 years I've been a student in many language learning environments ranging from all-traditional to 'latest and greatest', though, and we were *always* encouraged to put our skills to use -- read, watch films, talk to people... Still my experience is, most of my fellow students would simply not do it, period. I suspect the reasons might be rather akin to why they never went doing long divisions or solving equation systems on their own volition.

But something that pisses me to no end is the never ending pressure to change teaching methods without ever having a look at how that turns out. Language learning results have been mostly bad throughout history. The assumption that the problem lies in the methods naturally leads to changing them, cool. However, we've been seeing the 30-year 'language teaching revolution' cycle go on for, like forever, even if fortunately some schools escape it. The conclusion I yet have to see be drawn by a significant number of people (or maybe the key people) is what common sense dictates -- if no approach seems to work particularly well, the problem lies somewhere else.

s_allard wrote:
[...] I'll say that a lot of research has led to major changes in the way French particularly is taught in our school system [...] The biggest innovation, and something that addresses many of the issues raised here,
is the development of immersion French whereby children are taught all their subjects in French. In words, starting at age six, the child experiences French as the language of instruction. What can get better than that?


I won't argue this might be working in Canada, but it is a complete disaster in many other places. Even if French is, relatively speaking, a minority language there, it is to be easily found -- for those who want to find it. That makes it both more accessible and easier to reinforce for learners than foreign languages in most countries, and I think that's the key to the difference.

The fact that we bother to instruct children indicates in itself that they can't cope with or manage a number of subjects sufficiently well on their own. It only stands to reason, then, that putting linguistic hurdles in the way of instruction will make their progress slower. That is my experience*, and I think somebody from Sweden? actually cited studies concurring with that. English-immersion instruction ends up with some Swedish students being marginally better at English and considerably worse at everything else. I'm sorry because I like languages, but if I were forced to choose, I'd consider other subjects more important.

* In Spain we have a new system known as 'bilingual', where half the time instruction is imparted in an immersion environment. Since our schools most resemble little prisons, this 'bilingual' system has the marginal benefit of separating those children who can cope with the extra effort from those who are forcefully kept in and would only help to keep the others from making progress.
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WoofCreature
Diglot
Groupie
Canada
Joined 2517 days ago

80 posts - 118 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
Studies: German, Portuguese, Norwegian

 
 Message 29 of 30
31 January 2014 at 7:25am | IP Logged 
mrwarper wrote:
Just a few comments regarding some minor points.

I won't argue this might be working in Canada, but it is a complete disaster in many other places. Even if French is, relatively speaking, a minority language there, it is to be easily found -- for those who want to find it. That makes it both more accessible and easier to reinforce for learners than foreign languages in most countries, and I think that's the key to the difference.

The fact that we bother to instruct children indicates in itself that they can't cope with or manage a number of subjects sufficiently well on their own. It only stands to reason, then, that putting linguistic hurdles in the way of instruction will make their progress slower. That is my experience*, and I think somebody from Sweden? actually cited studies concurring with that. English-immersion instruction ends up with some Swedish students being marginally better at English and considerably worse at everything else. I'm sorry because I like languages, but if I were forced to choose, I'd consider other subjects more important.

* In Spain we have a new system known as 'bilingual', where half the time instruction is imparted in an immersion environment. Since our schools most resemble little prisons, this 'bilingual' system has the marginal benefit of separating those children who can cope with the extra effort from those who are forcefully kept in and would only help to keep the others from making progress.


As someone who is about to finish an entire primary school education in the French Immersion program, I felt the need to comment on this. S_allard is unfortunately being a bit optimistic with his assessment of the French that the program produces, at least in my province. I am one of the better students in my grade and I only speak at a B2 level. I will soon be finishing my thirteenth year in the program and I have been able to take many more classes in French than most students in my province are able to. In most schools, most classes are switched to English in high school, around 15 years old. In my case I've been able to take most of my science and math courses in French. But in my province, being far from Quebec, there is little use for French and there's very little extra exposure caused by it being an official language, so this may be different in other provinces.

But it has been showed by numerous studies that though we perform worse than our monolingual peers in grade 3(age 8) during our first year of English instruction and the first year of government testing, within a year or two we perform as well or even better than them in reading, writing and mathematics.* Performing better may not necessarily have anything to do with learning a second language, but it definitely doesn't hurt us.

That said, I have certainly known people who weren't able to cope with the language and had to be switched to English classes. My own sister was one of the worst cases as she actually had to repeat a grade when she switched. But in the majority of students I have seen, being taught in another language only helps.

* http://www.ccl-cca.ca/CCL/Reports/LessonsinLearning/LinL2007 0517_French_Immersion_programs.html
http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/81-004-x/200406/6923-eng.htm
6 persons have voted this message useful



s_allard
Triglot
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 3421 days ago

2704 posts - 5424 votes 
Speaks: French*, English, Spanish
Studies: Polish

 
 Message 30 of 30
31 January 2014 at 1:11pm | IP Logged 
The fundamental idea behind Canadian-style French immersion is very sound: introduce the language as soon as
possible and make it the language of instruction. This by the way is exactly what those very expensive private
French lycées around the world do, and with excellent results.

Canadian-style immersion does have its limitations, as I mentioned myself, and is not for everyone. I certainly do
not think that it produces perfectly bilingual graduates. But it gives students a big leg-up which will serve them
well later in life. A B2 level at the 13th year in the program is not bad. Think about the students in the more
traditional French programs who are probably at A1, if that.


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