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Total Immersion is a Crock!

  Tags: Immersion
 Language Learning Forum : Learning Techniques, Methods & Strategies Post Reply
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Farley
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 Message 25 of 40
02 July 2007 at 1:05pm | IP Logged 
TerryW wrote:

What level French had you attained when you started FIA?

I may eventually go back to FIA, but not without getting some basics down first.


Terry, I’m curious is this rant about total immersion or French in Action? You have a point about suitability of the FIA. The problem with the course is not that it does not have a script; it is that it was designed for full time students with a university instructor and therefore has some “features” that make it difficult to adapt to self-study. For example in order to get a lesson, using the course as designed, a student would spend 8 hours of class and homework using the video, audio, text and workbooks. So much for a “on the go” course.

At minimum to use the course for self study you will need some type of an ice breaker course – let’s say around 500+ words – just pick one. You will also want a good dictionary, grammar reference and the FIA text and workbooks. You can get by without the audio CDs provided you supplement with another audio course or practicing with a native speaker.   And if you are like me and don’t have to time to do all the class room elements of the course, you will need a part-time or on the go course as a backup.

John

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Farley
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 Message 26 of 40
02 July 2007 at 1:12pm | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:
In my opinion there is nothing gained by avoiding the translations.


For total immersion I would agree, but under a guided immersion course I think there much to be gained. The trick is that it largely depends on the quality of the instructor. A generous use of two way dictionaries and grammar/textbooks, I don’t think, invalidates a good guided immersion curriculum.

John

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Iversen
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 Message 27 of 40
02 July 2007 at 4:50pm | IP Logged 
Farley wrote:
Iversen wrote:
In my opinion there is nothing gained by avoiding the translations.


For total immersion I would agree, but under a guided immersion course I think there much to be gained. The trick is that it largely depends on the quality of the instructor. A generous use of two way dictionaries and grammar/textbooks, I don’t think, invalidates a good guided immersion curriculum.


Even with a good teacher I fail to see what harm a sneaky peek in a dictionary can do, - if cheating can help you to understand what the teacher or your textbook says, then cheating is the right thing to do. If I have read your last remark correctly you do agree on this point. It only become a problem if you or your teacher start talking in your mother tongue instead of the target language, but there is no reason that a peek in the dictionary should be blamed for that.

I would like to add a little history from my own school days: when I was 15-17 years old and studied at the local 'gymnasium' (grammar school, high school, lyceum) I also had classes in French. Our teacher was a firm believer in the immersion method, but the class was following the mathematical line - so they were not very motivated to learn languages.

For two and a half year this teacher - one of the most brillant teachers I have ever met - tried to learn this class French by the total immersion method, and he used all the tricks in the book plus a couple more. But he failed. So just half a year before the final exam he blew us all off our feet by suddenly speaking Danish to us for the first time ever. He told us that quite frankly most of us had learnt close to nothing until that point, and almost all of us were going to fail miserably unless he did something drastic.... so from now on he would do a strictly traditional course. No more modern antics, just old-fashioned black schooling with translations, grammars, dictionary and all that stuff that he otherwise tried to avoid.

The very same teacher succeded in teaching this miserable bunch of half-boiled mathematicians enough French to pull most of us through the final exam just three or four months later. We learnt more in the last short period than we had learnt through 2½ years of entertaining, but fruitless immersion.

My belief in pure immersion has never been the same since then.


Edited by Iversen on 02 July 2007 at 5:09pm

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victor
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 Message 28 of 40
02 July 2007 at 5:08pm | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:
I would like to add a little history from my own school days: when I was 15-17 years old and studied at the local 'gymnasium' (grammar school, high school, lyceum) I also had classes in French. Our teacher was a firm believer in the immersion method, but the class was following the mathematical line - so they were not very motivated to learn languages.

For two and a half year this teacher - one of the most brilliant teachers I have ever met - tried to learn this class French by the total immersion method, and he used all the tricks in the book plus a couple more. But he failed. Then just half a year before the final exam he blew us all off our feet by speaking Danish to us for the first time ever. He told us that quite frankly that most of us had learnt close to nothing until that point, and almost all of us were going to fail miserably unless he did something drastic.... so from now on he would do a strictly traditional course. No more modern antics, just old-fashioned black schooling with translations, grammars, dictionary and all that stuff that he otherwise tried to avoid.

The very same teacher succeeded in teaching this miserable bunch of pupils enough French to pull most of us through the final exam just three or four months later. We learnt more in the last short period than we had learnt through 2½ years of entertaining, but fruitless immersion.

My belief in pure immersion has never been the same since then.


But the objective of the entire class is to pass the final exam, so an immersion course that doesn't teach students how to write the exam isn't likely to be very successful. What I find these days is that language courses aren't meant to teach people languages, they're just meant to fulfil certain curriculum requirements, almost mechanically, line by line. The education system considers the job done when those requirements are fulfilled.
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Iversen
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 Message 29 of 40
02 July 2007 at 5:15pm | IP Logged 
The final exam was an oral examination on a text that you had something like 15-20 minuts to study. It was not a written test where you should demonstrate your knowledge about certain specific points of grammar. As far as I can se it this kind of examination should be eminently suited to students who had been taught through immersion.

However half a year before the examination this particular bunch of pupils just hadn't learnt to speak enough French to order a croque-m'sieur even if their life depended on it - but a few months with dictionaries and grammars and translations did the trick. I find that impressive...


Edited by Iversen on 02 July 2007 at 5:18pm

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Volte
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 Message 30 of 40
02 July 2007 at 5:23pm | IP Logged 
Another example of immersion would be what my sister went through when we moved to Switzerland. Due to a number of outside circumstances, I continued studying in English, while she started to study in Italian.

This was very close to total immersion; she spoke English at home, except with my grandmother (who doesn't speak English), and sometimes my father. Her schooling was entirely in Italian. She was 11 when this started. It still took her years to become comfortable in the language, and her Italian is definitely not as good as her English, although her Italian is significantly better than mine. She's a smart person, and she studied extremely hard.

I also knew an American girl, when I was in high school, who studied for a year in the German part of Switzerland. At the end, she was conversational in both German and Swiss-German, but she said that she had serious shortcomings in how she spoke both.

On the other hand, people who study with non-immersion, but good, methods for a year or two can write better, and use tricky grammar points (ie, many uses of the subjunctive in Italian) better, or so it seems, from the few people I've met who seem to pick up languages very effectively.

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HTale
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 Message 31 of 40
02 July 2007 at 7:25pm | IP Logged 
Perhaps this can be resolved in one sentence:

"Different strokes for different folks"

On a more serious note, I find the best combination for me is a bit of both. I'm currently learning French using the FIA method, and using audiobooks in the process. However, Tachelhit, a form of Berber, is proving difficult due to the lack of resources. However, the grammar, dictionary method works perfectly fine for me, because of the background in Arabic. I can already say basic things to my dad like "I'd like the loaf of bread please", or "I'm going out".

It very much depends on the transparency of the language. I feel that if the language isn't transparent at all, then there definitely needs to be an input/output enviornment close to an immersion enviroment, (or if at all possible, actually be in one), to get used to idiom use, pronunciation etc. Of course, there should always be a lifeguard about; a transcript, dictionary, etc.

But remember, the majority of people drown because they panic in deep water. If you panic in an immersion environment, you are almost certain to drown. If it seems way beyond you, grab that life buoy.

(sorry for a perfect example of an over extended analogy...)


Edited by HTale on 02 July 2007 at 7:25pm

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Farley
Triglot
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United States
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681 posts - 738 votes 
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Speaks: English*, GermanB1, French
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 Message 32 of 40
03 July 2007 at 8:55am | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:
Even with a good teacher I fail to see what harm a sneaky peek in a dictionary can do, - if cheating can help you to understand what the teacher or your textbook says, then cheating is the right thing to do. If I have read your last remark correctly you do agree on this point.


Yes I completely agree. I could not imagine learning a language without a bi-lingual dictionary and a few phrase books – regardless of the teacher. My point was the good guided immersion programs are depended on the quality of the teacher and are difficult to find – but very useful when you find them.    

Iversen wrote:
My belief in pure immersion has never been the same since then.


Thanks for that recount! My experience was somewhat opposite. I had two years of traditional university German and could not speak a word when I arrived for a short tour in Germany back in the Cold War days. I managed to master the basics of conversation after a month of exploring the surrounding area in my off time, armed with little more than pocket dictionary and a phrase book. My beliefs in immersion became firmly fixed as result.:)


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