Communicative approaches to language learning

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Re: Communicative approaches to language learning

Postby kevin » 2018-04-18, 17:01

That sounds interesting, though I'm not sure how you can combine a course (which has a fixed order) with real conversation (which needs a partner for conversation and probably doesn't follow the order of the course).

Anyway, I've never done any Portuguese, so maybe if you actually get somewhere and I can find some motivation... Not sure if I'm the kind of guinea pig you're looking for, though.

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Re: Communicative approaches to language learning

Postby IpseDixit » 2018-04-18, 17:54

After thinking it over, I'd say I've probably been too categorical in my statements. I guess sooner or later you'll have to accept the other person's mistakes because it's impossible to correct everything without either one going crazy.

I'm still not sure it's a good move to overlook major mistakes just so you can communicate from the get-go. At the beginning, I'd content myself with simple convos where you try and make the other person say simple sentences.

But then again, I have no actual experience in this field.

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Re: Communicative approaches to language learning

Postby Car » 2018-04-18, 18:15

That sounds interesting, Ciarán, but I don't understand how the leaving space stuff is supposed to work if it's a course.
Please correct my mistakes!

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Re: Communicative approaches to language learning

Postby Ciarán12 » 2018-04-18, 20:36

kevin wrote:That sounds interesting, though I'm not sure how you can combine a course (which has a fixed order) with real conversation (which needs a partner for conversation and probably doesn't follow the order of the course).


Well, the course most certainly will require learners to have conversations with a partner, I don't really believe it's possible (for most people) to learn effectively without that. In the course I'm going to try to provide in each lesson 3 things: Phrases (to be memorised and which will be used as templates), Vocabulary (to substitute into the phrases) and grammar points (to be used to manipulate the phrases as needed). There will be dialogues in order to give you a basic idea of the contexts in which expressions are used, but really you'll only get that from experience talking to natives, watching videos and listening to real speech. The dialogues are just a nod in the right direction where needed.
Also, I intend to go and find lots of short, simple videos which demonstrate the vocab, phrases and grammar that I'm trying to teach and the "homework" will be to watch them and look out for those phrases. Preferably watch them a few times and try miming along with them.
Another "homework" assignment will be to go and have a conversation about a specific topic with a native speaker. So, for example, if in one lesson we deal with "the family", you're homework will be to go and talk to a native about your family and ask them about theirs.

In a real conversation, obviously it could move out of the "comfort zone" of the learner because the topic might move on or some other vocab might be used. There's nothing to be done about that really, but the things that the learner doesn't understand won't hurt them, they'll still benefit from the practice at the things the are able to say/understand.

kevin wrote:Anyway, I've never done any Portuguese, so maybe if you actually get somewhere and I can find some motivation... Not sure if I'm the kind of guinea pig you're looking for, though.


You're most likely not the best candidate for this approach, but that's a good reason to try it on you so I'd be more than happy to have you try it :)

IpseDixit wrote:I'm still not sure it's a good move to overlook major mistakes just so you can communicate from the get-go.

I think it's about where we draw the line of "major" mistake. Kevin mentioned an example earlier of "Tá sé fear" as an example of something major in Irish that would have to be explained early on even if that's a difficult point of grammar to learn at first. The sentence means "He is a man" but should be rendered "Is fear é", because "Tá sé X" and "Is X é" have a similar semantic difference to PT-BR "Ele está X" and "Ele é X" or ES "(Él) está X" and "(Él) es X", but the syntax (as you can see) is quite different, so teaching it to beginners isn't easy.
I think it's about finding a balance between what is considered a major mistake and what would be overwhelming for the student. I mean, if you try to demand too much at them beginning, they just give up, and then they don't speak any of the language, and I can't think of any mistake so major that it's better that the knew nothing of the language than that they continue to make the mistake, so I'd be inclined to err on the side of "if the student feels overwhelmed, fuck it, don't bother with that point".

IpseDixit wrote:At the beginning, I'd content myself with simple convos where you try and make the other person say simple sentences.


At the very beginning, I agree that that's about all that's actually possible. But I'd recommend getting to some kind of usable, independent stage as soon as possible. Nobody is learning a language just so they can keep having the same set conversations all the time.

Car wrote:That sounds interesting, Ciarán, but I don't understand how the leaving space stuff is supposed to work if it's a course.


Basically, it's a course made by someone who doesn't really believe in courses :) I think courses can be a good starting point, but the aim of the course should be to get you to that critical stage of independent learning through actually using the language. The first reason I'd leave spaces is that learners need to learn how to use a dictionary and good online sources for figuring out phrases the come up against "in the wild" later on, so good to start having them do it from the beginning. The second reason is that any course book might teach you words you never need to use, so I'm trying to keep the proscribed vocab as generic as possible and have the learners think about what kinds of things they want to be able to say and look up the words to say that. I want them to plan these first few conversations they are going to have in their minds before they do it, so I want them to think about what they'll say and gather the necessary vocab. There will be guidance - I will give them, say, 50 words in a lesson (for example, it could be about household terms) and say "Think of 10 nouns not listed here for things in your house and look them up in Portuguese and add them to this list. Think of 10 verbs for things you do around the house and add them to this list. Think up 10 adjectives for how to describe the nouns you chose and add them to this list."
For the phrases, it would be similar, I might give them 20 phrases to memorise and ask "Think of 5 things you might want to say in your conversation about your house with your partner and try to work out how to say them in Portuguese. During you conversation, check with your partner if you got them right."

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Re: Communicative approaches to language learning

Postby Car » 2018-04-19, 19:40

Interesting approach. How much do you want to teach in your course, BTW?
Please correct my mistakes!

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Re: Communicative approaches to language learning

Postby Ciarán12 » 2018-04-19, 20:19

Car wrote:Interesting approach. How much do you want to teach in your course, BTW?


Well, I've already combed through my copy of Routledge's Modern Brazilian Portuguese Grammar to find the grammar points I want to cover. Next I will need to decide what vocab to teach, I'll probably consult frequency lists for that and then organise them thematically. For the phrases, I'll probably start with what's most natural given the vocab and grammar points, although I might consult phrase books for ideas also. I was thinking I might record some conversations of myself and my fiancée so I can analysis them for what kind of phrases get used, so that might be another approach.
In terms of quantity, I'm not exactly sure yet, but it's probably not going to be a short course if the aim is to teach you a enough to be conversant by the end. I'd say at least 2-3 thousand words and maybe 500-1000 short phrases. That's a guess at the moment though.

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Re: Communicative approaches to language learning

Postby Karavinka » 2018-04-22, 5:49

I think it's OK to just start out with the simpler (or shorter) phrases that you could remember and repeat, even though you may not understand why the phrase is said that way at first. Incorrect is something else, but simplified should definitely be fine.

And just taking the sentences, phrases and expressions at face value first makes the grammar easier later: if you feel like "I think I've seen this before" you're more likely to do better than if you feel "this is totally new."

I'm not a big fan of communicative approaches, but I've certainly had positive experiences with Michel Thomas method and so long as you know what you're doing (which usually is not the case with most language partners) I think it certainly can work.
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