Teaching a language to a linguophobe

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Ciarán12
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Teaching a language to a linguophobe

Postby Ciarán12 » 2015-03-07, 17:02

I may soon need to teach Irish to a friend of mine looking to join the police force here as he needs to pass an Irish interview to be accepted.

He doesn't speak a single, solitary word of Irish or basically any other language other than English. He hasn't a clue how languages work and has no knowledge of grammatical concepts of any kind. He is about as difficult a person to teach a new language to as you are likely to find (with his one saving grace being that he will be willing to learn, even if somewhat begrudgingly).

How do I approach this? What is the simplest format to teach a language in when you can't go into any grammatical detail, but where you still want it to be effective?

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Re: Teaching a language to a linguophobe

Postby Levike » 2015-03-07, 17:26

Mainly just focus on words and vocabulary.

And when explaining grammatical stuff, just speak to him like to a baby.
But try to avoid grammar, teach him only the very-very-very essential parts of it.

Ex: When teaching conjugation:

Try explaining to him that in English there's a difference between "make" and "makes"
and that the "-s" in the second one shows you that it's a "he" or a "she" making something.
So if English words change in order to show you who's doing something
then Irish words also do it, but they may be even more expressive.

In my Polish class back in Warsaw it was pretty bad whenever the teacher said "accusative",
instead of simply saying "the word looks different when it's affected by an action".

Side question: Why does a policeman have to know Irish?
Nem egy nap alatt épült Buda vára.

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Re: Teaching a language to a linguophobe

Postby ireland » 2015-03-07, 18:45

As an "alright" speaker of Irish I would say for starters to teach him the basics, such as "hello", "how are you", "my name is", etc. Then I would just tell him that the verb always starts a sentence unlike English, so instead of "I ran" it would be "Rithím" or "Rith mé" rather than "mé rith". Teach him more vocab that he is likely to use as a police officer, maybe even words such as "shoot" or "knife" rather than "coffee" or "cat".

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Re: Teaching a language to a linguophobe

Postby Ciarán12 » 2015-03-07, 19:07

Levike wrote:Mainly just focus on words and vocabulary.

And when explaining grammatical stuff, just speak to him like to a baby.
But try to avoid grammar, teach him only the very-very-very essential parts of it.

Ex: When teaching conjugation:

Try explaining to him that in English there's a difference between "make" and "makes"
and that the "-s" in the second one shows you that it's a "he" or a "she" making something.
So if English words change in order to show you who's doing something
then Irish words also do it, but they may be even more expressive.


Yeah, I was thinking of that too. I'll try, but even then I'm afraid he might not understand it easily.

Levike wrote:In my Polish class back in Warsaw it was pretty bad whenever the teacher said "accusative",
instead of simply saying "the word looks different when it's affected by an action".


Hah, I'm pretty sure he would just get up and leave immediately if I dared to say "accusative" to him!

Levike wrote:Side question: Why does a policeman have to know Irish?


So they can deal with people who speak Irish. The state is obligated to provide services to Irish speakers.

ireland wrote:As an "alright" speaker of Irish I would say for starters to teach him the basics, such as "hello", "how are you", "my name is", etc. Then I would just tell him that the verb always starts a sentence unlike English, so instead of "I ran" it would be "Rithím" or "Rith mé" rather than "mé rith". Teach him more vocab that he is likely to use as a police officer, maybe even words such as "shoot" or "knife" rather than "coffee" or "cat".


Well, for one thing, I don't think he knows what a verb is and I think if I tried to explain it to him he would start to despair of ever learning the language. But also, my main concern is that I want to bring him up to the point of being able have a conversation as quickly as possible. He only needs to be able to talk about whatever is going to be asked in the interview, so I'm hoping I can skip any unnecessary "basic" vocab like household items etc that are unlikely to be of immediate use to him. It's hard to anticipate exactly what will be asked though.

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Re: Teaching a language to a linguophobe

Postby kevin » 2015-03-07, 19:56

Ciarán12 wrote:How do I approach this? What is the simplest format to teach a language in when you can't go into any grammatical detail, but where you still want it to be effective?

Not wanting to teach any formal grammar reminds me of Duolingo. For me personally, that's the part I hate about it and I compensate with looking things up other sources, but for him it might just be the right thing.

In any case concentrating on phrases for the start (and I guess explaining their literal meaning) is probably the right thing to do.

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Re: Teaching a language to a linguophobe

Postby linguoboy » 2015-03-07, 20:34

Ciarán12 wrote:Well, for one thing, I don't think he knows what a verb is
"action word"

Ciarán12 wrote:But also, my main concern is that I want to bring him up to the point of being able have a conversation as quickly as possible. He only needs to be able to talk about whatever is going to be asked in the interview, so I'm hoping I can skip any unnecessary "basic" vocab like household items etc that are unlikely to be of immediate use to him. It's hard to anticipate exactly what will be asked though.
Do neither of youse know someone who's taken the exam before?
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons

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Re: Teaching a language to a linguophobe

Postby Ciarán12 » 2015-03-07, 20:49

linguoboy wrote:
Ciarán12 wrote:But also, my main concern is that I want to bring him up to the point of being able have a conversation as quickly as possible. He only needs to be able to talk about whatever is going to be asked in the interview, so I'm hoping I can skip any unnecessary "basic" vocab like household items etc that are unlikely to be of immediate use to him. It's hard to anticipate exactly what will be asked though.
Do neither of youse know someone who's taken the exam before?


I don't, he might. I'll get him to give me as much info as he can on the subject matter likely to come up so we can focus on that.

Also, he needs to pass the oral exam with over 50%, so complete precision is not necessary, I will be willing to ignore grammatical details I think aren't worth the effort to learn, the main goal is for him to understand the questions and be able to give an intelligible response. I'm thinking that teaching set phrases (without breaking them down too much) and just drilling them is probably going to yield the best results for what he needs. Like, if he can simply say "deeahgwitch" or "gurvmahahgut" without understanding that it's "Dia dhuit" and "Go raibh maith agat" and why it means what it means that will suffice.

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Re: Teaching a language to a linguophobe

Postby Levike » 2015-03-07, 20:52

When will this exam take place?

If in less than half a year then you might have to help him intensively.
Nem egy nap alatt épült Buda vára.

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Re: Teaching a language to a linguophobe

Postby Ciarán12 » 2015-03-07, 21:01

Levike wrote:When will this exam take place?

If in less than half a year then you might have to help him intensively.

He recently took a written exam, it's only if he passes that that he will have to do this oral exam, so he's not 100% sure yet. I would imagine it will be in less than half a year from now if he does get through though. I realise this is not going to be an easy thing for him to do, but it is worth a shot and I'm going to help him as best I can.

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Re: Teaching a language to a linguophobe

Postby Just Passing Through » 2016-01-24, 21:10

Ciarán12 wrote: He hasn't a clue how languages work and has no knowledge of grammatical concepts of any kind. He is about as difficult a person to teach a new language to as you are likely to find (with his one saving grace being that he will be willing to learn, even if somewhat begrudgingly).


Grammar
In my experience, most native speakers would be very hard-pressed to present a valid summary of the grammatical concepts underlying their own language ... and this includes university graduates ... and I suspect that your friend, like most of us, has "learned by inference" the rules of grammar for speaking English and that he speaks his native tongue with a very high level of skill.

Even a Moron...
I am showing my age here, but this story reminds me of the introductory remark that was once included in the Berlitz Teach Yourself textbooks and that, for understandable reasons, no longer appears. I am working from memory here, but it went something as follows, "So you want to learn a new language? Don't be discouraged, even a moron speaks one!" Okay, you're offended. Or, maybe you've been sensitized to reacting as if you're offended. The point that the editors of the Berlitz method were trying to make was that, if you can learn one language (your native language), then you can learn another. Your friend is quite capable of learning a second language and he is blessed with having a good attitude and a great buddy!

Resources for Learning Irish
From my search of the Internet, there does not seem to be a wealth of resources for learning Irish. Nonetheless, I would make the following suggestions:

Travels with Teango
I suppose that I could re-type all of the links from the attached website and claim credit for having done the research, but that would be cheating and I have always been too lazy to cheat. So, here they are: https://teango.wordpress.com/a-list-of-resources-for-learning-irish/.

Self-Study Courses
Let's be honest here, most adults embark on their self-study language-learning journeys as either "self-improvement projects" like losing a few extra pounds of flab, or versions of "I'd just like to have a conversation with the waiter" during their next holiday ventures. Since learning a second language represents a much greater challenge than they anticipated, just as losing the flab does, most adults abandon their self-study language courses long before completion. Publishers are quite aware of this and, in response to the "true" market demand, they offer introductory courses that include perhaps 1,000 of the most common "transactional" vocabulary items, a bear hint of the underlying structure of the language, while studiously avoiding the crisis-provoking word "grammar", at best two dozen elementary situational dialogues recorded on 2 CDs, and they contain very few materials for actually practicing the target language. They are, in a word, superficial. From my search of the Internet, these seem to be most palatable materials:

Pimsleur Irish
Simon & Schuster offers what could best be described as an "appetizer" to the Irish language. Given the very limited range of the 10-lesson course, even at the present price of 42 $US, it is a little pricy. Nonetheless, as a "confidence builder" for a willing if somewhat reluctant language-learner, it is worth considering. Note carefully that this "appetizer" contains very little vocabulary.

Teach Yourself Complete Irish
Generally speaking, the "Teach Yourself" series is well-regarded. A truly industrious student should be able to achieve a CEFR A1 Level with this course. The challenge will be to find additional, progressive, practice materials. Refer to "Teango" above.

Living Language Irish, Complete Edition
Generally speaking, the "Living Language Complete" series is well-regarded. A truly industrious student should be able to achieve a CEFR A1 Level with this course. The challenge will be to find additional, progressive, practice materials. Refer to "Teango" above.

Living Language Spoken World Irish
The Living Language "Spoken World" series aims for a higher level than the "Complete" series. The dialogues are, from the very beginning, of a more complex nature than the latter course. The vocabulary moves beyond the mere transactional. The explanations of grammar assume that the learner actually wants to understand the structure of the language. The course includes 6 CDs as opposed to the customary 2 CDs. I would guess that the level achieved on completion would be somewhere around CEFR A2. Nonetheless, as before, the challenge will be to find additional, progressive, practice materials. Refer to "Teango" above.

Learning Irish (Yale Language)
The Yale University Press is noted for supporting serious efforts in language-learning. Based on the university's reputation and the Amazon Customer Reviews, I would consider this little package and, despite the advice of at least one customer, I would track down the audio cassettes that were recorded to accompany this baby.

Some Additional Sources
Please note that I have not studied Irish and that I have no plans to do so. Still, I came across the following sources of information:

HTLAL (How-To-Learn-Any-Language) Discussion Thread
Quite an interesting exposé! http://how-to-learn-any-language.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=25204
And yet, another! http://how-to-learn-any-language.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=29318&PN=44

Duolingo
Ya can't beat free! Well, you can, actually. https://www.duolingo.com/

Speak Irish Now
They say that their book makes learning Irish easy. http://www.speakirishnow.com/books.html?gclid=CJm-3Om1w8oCFVEYHwodDXkEhg

Erin's Web
Sans commentaire: http://www.erinsweb.com/gaelic1.html

Learn Irish Gaelic
Ditto: http://www.learnirishgaelic.com/

Transparent Language
Double Ditto: http://www.transparent.com/learn-irish/

If I come across other materials, I will append them to this post.

A Bridge, Perhaps Not Too Far, But Definitely Off in the Distance
From my personal experience, and from that of many language enthusiasts on the Internet, passing an "Oral Exam" in a second language means that the candidate possesses a skill around the CEFR B2 level. For your friend to achieve such a level, he is going to need a lot of input in terms of access to both audio and printed materials and he his going to need a lot of output in terms of practicing the language with native speakers. On your marks, get set, ...


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