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Language Learning Methods Not Taught In Traditional Settings - Articles Surfing

Typically scholastic language instruction consists of classroom endeavors that group together people of various level of aptitude or relatively short term intensive exposure to a language in an immersion setting, like a summer abroad program. These methods of education are valuable in their own right and many academic institutions cannot venture far from these traditional styles of language teaching, but there are other methods and exercises often overlooked or deemed unimportant in the light of traditional instructional settings by language instructors.

Basic elements of language studies will most certainly always include reading, writing, speaking, and listening of the target language. What is many times understated or not made clear is how to do these things. Explaining study methods that help internalize linguistic building blocks can be the key to assisting a student in reaching a level of fluency beyond that of a high novice after two or three years of instruction.

Reading sentences in a new language, for instance, may take on a different order of perception than what English speakers are used to undertaking. Tibetan is a post-positional language such that descriptive parts of main phrases tend to be backwards from a similar passage in English. Glancing at a sign or billboard in Lhasa may be more productive if the reader learns to start from the end of the writing and work backwards first, or better yet, read the first word or topic syllables and then switch to the end of the sentence or phrase and work backwards until all of most of the sentence elements have been comprehended. It is not always necessary to have full comprehension of a sentence or phrase to get the general meaning. The goal eventually should be to have full comprehension, but gathering a general meaning first and then working on deeper associations later work better to internalize the reading process.

Script of languages similar in some ways to English may be easier that scripts that are farther in base from English, but learning either can be accelerated with visual aids. Traditional Chinese characters are pictographic in nature and if the meanings of the sections of the characters are taught, it is much easier to remember how to write familiar characters and recognize or make educated guesses at new ones. German or Spanish words may have familiar basic elements and mental pictures of the English term can help the student retain new words. When script of a language is completely unlike English, but is alphabetical, transliteration can be used to link words with English ones, or various student derived pictures can be drawn or conjured to relate the two words. One common trick that works wondrously is placing tags in the target language on objects in the student's environment or picture oriented flash cards. Many computer based language courses utilize similar visual association to enhance language learning.

Daily conversation with native speakers is always the ultimate learning tool. This, of course, is not always available, so listening and repeating exercises often take the position of the next best choice. Again, many computer programs are being used to bring allow the student to interact with a native speaker via video and audio files in lieu of direct contact. Other great tools include children's songs, films, and television programs in the target language. Students that watch or listen to media in the target language, even merely as background sound, may internalize the language more completely and rapidly than student who do not.

Perhaps the most important tactic rarely taught in a classroom setting is the art of trying. No student will have a full vocabulary available to them to complete complex thoughts in their target language at the beginning of their studies. What all students do have is the ability to use what they do have to find a way around the stumbling points presented by a small word base. For instance, if a student does not know the word for 'dog' but does know the word for 'cat' and a negative in the language, even if it is the wrong one, they can try to say something about the 'non-cat'. It may be met with laughter or confusion, but more likely the native speaker will correct the student and fully comprehend the meaning being conveyed. In reverse, if the student hears a sentence that contains a structure 'the BLANK there is red' and the only object is site that is red is a book, then the student can infer that the unknown word is a book and can either ask to make sure or mentally file away the word to look it up later and listen for it again in another conversation. A student should also not be afraid to ask a native speaker to repeat something they have said. Repetition is a fantastic basic tool and sometimes overlooked in language acquisition. These types of comprehension techniques will lead to a fully vocabulary and an increase in listening and speaking comprehension, which is the ultimate goal for all language students.

While many classroom settings and immersion courses will cover the basic building blocks of language, using these learning techniques, in conjunction with the traditional teaching of languages will promote a student's accelerated internalization of their target language.

Submitted by:

Quentin Yu

Quentin YuPercussionist/EthnomusicologistHonolulu, HI, USAhttp://quentinsreviews.bravehost.com/language.html



Copyright © 1995 - Photius Coutsoukis (All Rights Reserved).


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