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polygloto.com
Posted: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 6:17:43 AM
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When learning a foreign language, you can usually think of one of the following:

- hiring a qualified tutor,
- buying a coursebook with a CD or even DVD,
- attending a regular course,
- choosing an appropriate course online.

Of course, the most effective proves to be a mixture of the above. For instance, you can have two lessons with a private tutor a week and additionally revise the grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation using the materials available online. I wonder what your experiences are.
Klaas V
Posted: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 6:30:10 AM

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You left out the most natural way of learning a foreign language: Start a conversation with someone who speaks this language from birth on. Ideally enter the country. My wife did to learn Dutch. Now I'm doing the same with Italian (including some words in the local dialect...)
polygloto.com
Posted: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 6:47:49 AM
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Well, I agree with you. That is a perfect situation; you make friends with a native speaker and pick up new words and expressions during daily conversation. In this way one does not have to revise the grammar on and on. Talking to a native speaker together with written language practice can bring a brilliant effect.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 6:59:21 AM

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My expeiences of learning a foriegn language ammount to being forced, despite all argument, to study Latin and French at school. I promptly forgot it all. Brick wall

It was only 40 years later, when I came into contact with a lot of French and Italian people who didn't speak good English - I had to drag to the surface my French and Latin vocabularies, and I found it actually came quite easily out of the depths.

On the contrary, my daughters, when they were aged about eight and nine learned French within a few weeks. A family of french people with five daughters (who did not speak English) moved in nearby, and went to the same school. All the local girls started using French as a 'secret language' they thought their parents and teachers did not understand. It was effortless. Dancing
polygloto.com
Posted: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 7:17:37 AM
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Right, being forced is one of the most ridiculous things that a student may deal with at school. One studies for hours and then it appears to be a sheer waste of time as you forget almost everthing.
Here we come to the next aspect... can studying a language at school be effective? Can students really learn how to communicate in a foreign language if they concentrate mainly on taking exams and writing tests?
jmacann
Posted: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 7:52:14 AM
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Well, written language practice does play a part in the language acquisition process -but cannot substitute contact with speakers.
Klaas V
Posted: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 8:08:39 AM

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polygloto.com wrote:
Right, being forced is one of the most ridiculous things that a student may deal with at school. One studies for hours and then it appears to be a sheer waste of time as you forget almost everthing.
Here we come to the next aspect... can studying a language at school be effective? Can students really learn how to communicate in a foreign language if they concentrate mainly on taking exams and writing tests?


Being forced is one thing. Happened to me with English. The result is what the native speakers/writers can see here and now. Pretty basic, isn't it? I had the luck of having a great teacher. My brother had a native Englishman. More lucky.
thar
Posted: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 8:21:07 AM

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Don't you guys think the dotcom poster name is suspiciously spamlike?

Feed a freedelfian, starve a spammer?

ellana
Posted: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 8:26:47 AM
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As an ESL tutor, I always start with learning a language has communication as a goal and that entails reading, writing, grammar, listening, speaking clearly (pronunciation vs. accent)and practice, practice, practice, preferably with a native speaker. It's the sum of the parts.
asornunez
Posted: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 12:13:08 PM
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Think ...Anything is possible nowdays...but the issue is very interesting!!!
leonAzul
Posted: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 3:47:45 PM

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polygloto.com wrote:
Right, being forced is one of the most ridiculous things that a student may deal with at school. One studies for hours and then it appears to be a sheer waste of time as you forget almost everthing.
Here we come to the next aspect... can studying a language at school be effective? Can students really learn how to communicate in a foreign language if they concentrate mainly on taking exams and writing tests?


If students are passing exams without getting involved in the learning process, then the teacher is doing it wrong. It is up to the instructor to provide a good example with their own enthusiasm for and proficiency in the language and culture. There will always be a percentage of students who just don't want to get it, but for everyone else genuine enthusiasm is positively infectious.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 4:02:22 PM

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leonAzul wrote:
Quote:
There will always be a percentage of students who just don't want to get it, but for everyone else genuine enthusiasm is positively infectious.


Very true!

I think also that, if the purpose for studying the language is explained, more students would be interested.

When I was taught Latin, I thought it was so I could understand the priest on a Sunday, and had no other use. Pray It was only years later that I found I understood English better and could 'figure out' quite a bit of written Italian and French.
Of course, no true Englishman would want to learn French - those bloody Normans would get even more uppity - remember St Crispin's Day!
Briton
Posted: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 6:06:22 PM

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As usual, I agree with everything DragOnspeaker has said. Shhh

I would make an addition: the method of teaching.

In the far-off days of my schooling, I was too young to realise that, as a true-blue English person, I should not want to have anything to do with the French. Therefore it seemed acceptable that I was interested in learning the language.

In our ordinary French class, while I did not feel forced, I found it very difficult focused as it was on the grammar and vocabulary found in instruction books. Frequent tests and exams raised the anxiety levels to such an extent that it was hard to get good marks.

It was only when I had individual classes with a kindly, old French lady could I relax and enjoy my lessons and finally learn. Conversational French followed and the vocabulary and grammar fell into place.

Obviously there are no native Latin speakers Whistle but the principle is the same.

polygloto.com
Posted: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 7:19:27 AM
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As a teacher I have noticed that many people feel enthusiastic about studying a language once they have finished school and are not forced to pass any tests any more. Then, they are able to acquire knowledge much faster.
Clearly, the advantage of having a private tutor is indisputable. And what is your opinion on online courses? Do you find it more useful to revise the grammar with a traditional coursebook or is it better to do some interactive exercises online?
leonAzul
Posted: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 9:24:49 AM

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polygloto.com wrote:
As a teacher I have noticed that many people feel enthusiastic about studying a language once they have finished school and are not forced to pass any tests any more.


How did those students get the notion that the point of a course of study is to pass a test? Why are they not aware that the tests are there as a progress indicator, and not a measure of self-esteem? What is preventing them from understanding that the whole point of an education is to acquire the skills necessary for effective learning, and not merely to stuff their heads with facts that are quite likely to be outdated before they are memorized? "Whose responsible this?" [sic]



This all reminds me of a very silly pun.

"Knowledge for the pupils: Show them a light and they will follow it anywhere."

polygloto.com
Posted: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 10:20:46 AM
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Well, as a teacher of those adult students. I should have added that Brick wall

leonAzul, believe me, there are many outdated methods that are still used by many teachers either due to lack of sufficient knowledge about the methodology of language learning or just because of sheer laziness. They give students long lists of vocabulary to be memorized and inform them about the date of the exam without practising the words in contextBrick wall
leonAzul
Posted: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 4:26:49 PM

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polygloto.com wrote:
Well, as a teacher of those adult students. I should have added that Brick wall

leonAzul, believe me, there are many outdated methods that are still used by many teachers either due to lack of sufficient knowledge about the methodology of language learning or just because of sheer laziness. They give students long lists of vocabulary to be memorized and inform them about the date of the exam without practising the words in contextBrick wall


I should also clarify that my questions were not directed at you personally. Just by taking the time to interact with us here, you have already demonstrated that you find this situation to be unsatisfactory. It is with a great deal of frustration that I see schools and teachers who are genuinely committed to the education of their students crippled by superficial structures and goals imposed by ignorant supervisors and administrators whose highest aspirations are to hold on to their wages.

There certainly is a time and place for rote memorization. Yet anyone quickly loses interest if they don't also have the opportunity to discover how to put it into practice.
excaelis
Posted: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 9:11:02 PM

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I taught at a school that emphasised spoken, rather than written English.

I think this is the best approach because it enables communication rather than theoretical competency in that language. I'm sure it must be very discouraging for students who have passed tests of grammar and vocabulary in a language to attempt to speak to native speakers of that language only to find out that they can't order a meal with any certainty.

At some point ( as an adult learner ) you have to learn the mechanics. However, you don't have to be a mechanic to drive the car. Too many language schools are focussed on passing tests rather than teaching a language. Romany knows.
Marissa La Faye Isolde
Posted: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 9:31:40 PM
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I don't think a child--or for that matter anyone--can learn anything form someone who doesn't really like and respect you, or who is resentful or bored with what they teach. I think people, especially children, can sense when a teacher is disinterested and not really committed, and whether he or she truly enjoys and even loves what they teach. Most people know when someone who is supposedly trying to teach them something, or if when you come to them for help, their mind is someplace else treat you as if you are a nuisance who is annoying them.
polygloto.com
Posted: Thursday, December 8, 2011 4:23:30 AM
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That's true, you cannot convey the knowledge in an interesting way if you are not enthusiastic about it!

When it comes to children, I'm really fond of a TPR method. It's a pity that while it's pretty popular in kindergarten, it is often neglected by teachers in primary schools.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Thursday, December 8, 2011 7:09:44 AM

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I have what may seem a stupid question: What is TPR?

I know that the teacher I remember best from school (45 years ago and more) is a maths teacher who refused to let us memorise a formula until we had individually explained to him why that formula worked (in some cases, he gave us a little help!). He was interested in the fact we were learning to 'think with' the data, rather than just remembering it for a test. Dancing
Jyrkkä Jätkä
Posted: Thursday, December 8, 2011 7:28:30 AM

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almostfreebird
Posted: Thursday, December 8, 2011 8:32:14 AM

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I always thought the story about how Schliemann learned languages was fantastic, and still think it is.

In this age you can use Internet and if you find a way to use it as effectively as possible, it would be better tool than school; but you would also need strong motivation whatever it is.

Conversation with a native speaker or a nice tutor would be fun, but contents of the conversation would be very limited.

Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Thursday, December 8, 2011 10:27:38 AM

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Thanks JJ!

TPR sounds fun and useful as a start, to my eyes, but would need reinforcing by other methods,(as the reviewer said, it could cause the student to sound rude, as a lot of TPR consists of imperatives). Anxious

I think the best method (but not always very practical) would be 'total immersion', where the student is surrounded in life by bi-linguals who generally use the second language, but are always willing to explain. It takes a bunch of good friends. Whistle

EDIT: - I just read an account of Schlieman's method - it looks good and was obviously workable for him, but it would need a lot of interest and self-discipline. It would teach the USE of the language, rather than a lot of grammar rules (which always have exceptions!).
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