Thursday, February 23, 2017

How Languages are Learned by Patsy M. Lightbown and Nina Spada [Third Edition]

(Book Review)

So, I don't know if anyone remembers, but I actually read and reviewed this book once before.  Back in March 2014.

But the version I read and reviewed was the outdated first edition from 1993.
Why did I read an outdated version?  Well, because that was the only version available at my school library, and I was living in Cambodia, so availability of books was a problem.

But, in my March 2014 review, I made a promise that  if I ever tracked down the updated version of this book, I would read it as well.
To quote myself from 2014: "If at some point in the future I manage to track down a newer edition of this book, I will try and read that also."

Well, here we are.

...Actually, this isn't the newest version either.  This is the 3rd edition (from 2006).  The newest and latest edition is the 4th edition (from 2013).  But...this is the only version my school library had, and as I'm currently living in Vietnam, availability of books is a problem.   So this is the version I'm going with.

Aside from the fact that I've always been meaning to track down and read an updated version of this book, I read this book because it was selected for the book club at my school.
A few months ago, I started up a little book club for professional development for teachers at my school.  The first book we read was: Rules, Patterns and Words by Dave Willis .
The discussion went reasonably well, but some of my co-workers felt like it was hard to get through these professional development books without some guiding questions for the reading.  (These ELT books aren't particularly difficult but, let's face it, they're not pleasure reading either.  It's easy to get bored and lose focus if you don't have a purpose for reading.)
It was suggested that the next book for book club be a book that I had already read, so that I could give more guidance and focused reading questions as we read it.
We ended up settling on this book.  (Even though I hadn't read the most current edition, I had read a version of this book, so it fit the criteria kind of.)

And I did my best to set some questions as we read it.

Some people also felt that they wanted more discussion on Facebook to make it feel less isolating to read these books.  (Again, these books aren't really pleasure reading).  So I promised I would try to be a lot more active on Facebook.  (We set up a Facebook page for the bookclub).
I made it a point to try to post something about this book every day on Facebook for the month that we were reading it.
Some of these posts were admittedly better than others.  (There were some days when I legitimately had something interesting to say, and some days when I was just posting for the sake of meeting my commitment.)

In lieu of reviewing this book, I think I'm just going to re-post all my old Facebook posts, and just call it a job done.  (Especially since I've already reviewed a previous edition of this book, I'm going to let myself off easy with subsequent editions.)

Below are all the posts I made to the book club as we read the book.  Some of them sparked some discussion, the majority of them got quietly ignored.  But regardless, I'm going to observe good  Internet etiquette by reproducing only my own comments here.  Any proper names are replaced by XXXXX:

Day 1
​So, we've finished with "Rules, Patterns and Words" by Dave Willis and are moving onto the next book now.
The next book is How Languages are Learned by Nina Spada and Patsy Lightbown.

We're going to try to get some online discussion going on this book as we read it, and I'll try to give some guiding questions for reading.
In order to avoid spamming your work e-mail, however, I'm going to try to do this all here on this Facebook page.

I'm sorry to spam everyone. Anyone who wants out, feel free to let me know, or to leave the group.

Day 2
Some more information on this book:
At the meeting yesterday, it was suggested that we pick a book that I had already read. It was felt by some people that it would be advantageous to have more direction and focused discussion questions to guide the reading, rather than trying to bring everything together at the end. (The previous book I hadn't read before, so I only just finished it a few days before the meeting just like everyone, and so couldn't really offer much guidance as we read it.)
So, this time we're doing a book that I've already read, and I'll try to be more active on this Facebook page as we read it.
I read this book about 3 years ago now. Sort of. I actually read the 1st edition (pub. 1993) just because that was the version at my school's library.
The version on the school's computers is the 2006 3rd edition, which is about 50 pages longer, and presumably more up-to-date. (There is a 4th edition now, I believe, but I don't think the school has it, so it looks like we're stuck on the 3rd edition.)
At the moment the specifics of the book are a bit foggy in my memory, so I can't offer very specific guiding questions. But I'll make a couple general comments:
1) I really enjoyed this book. I found it very well-written, and reader-friendly. In fact, dare I say it, it's the only book that I've read for professional development that I actually enjoyed reading. (Everything else I kind of had to force myself through).
The book is essentially a summary of the last 50 years of research of second language acquisition, but it's written for teachers, not academics, so it's extremely readable. And also very interesting
2) This book is a summary, it doesn't get too indepth on any one theory. But in the years since I've read it, I've used it as a jumping off point to track down other authors. (For instance, after this book introduced me to Krashen, I tracked down Krashen's book and read it.)  [Editor's note: I told a small white lie here.  I'd known about Krashen ever since graduate school, but I didn't want to be seen as bragging about my advanced degree, so I pretended this book was my introduction to him]
There are a lot of big names and theories that are only briefly touched on in this book (Chomsky, Skinner, Vygotsky, Piaget, Krashen, Long, Swan, Rod Ellis) and we could potentially use this Facebook page to provide links to related articles/videos about those big names for more information and further reading. Or would that be too overwhelming?
3) When first I read this book 3 years ago, I was hoping it would tell me the secret of how languages are learned.
Unfortunately, no one can provide that answer. It turns out there's no consensus on how languages are learned. The book can only present different theories, and then balance those theories with showing what the research indicates. (Which the authors do very well).
Perhaps a good guiding question for reading the book would be this:
Before reading, think about your own personal ideas about how languages are most effectively learned. Then as you read, check your own ideas against the different theories, and against what the research shows.
Also: Which theory do you most agree with.

4) Lastly, I think perhaps some culture clashes can occur when our theories of how languages are learned are different than our students theories. (I think this comes up especially in the adult classes, for example when the students expect the teacher to correct all their mistakes). So perhaps another question could be what theories of language learning appear to be dominant among our Vietnamese students?

Day 3
The Great XXXXXX has got me listening to the TEFLology podcast. (If you ever need Podcast recommendations, go to XXXX.)
The quality of TEFLology can be hit or miss, but if you just put it on as background noise in your apartment, you can sometimes pick up one or two interesting things from it.

They have one episode  [LINK HERE] where they interview Nina Spada (co-author of the book). At the very end of the episode (about 26:00 in) they talk about this book, specifically what changed since the 1993 edition, and what new research was incorporated into the later editions.

Day 4
I hope I didn't exaggerate the reader-friendliness of this book. I'm a couple chapters in now, and finding that it's not quite as reader-friendly as I remembered. There are a lot of dense, information heavy prose, and I think some concepts aren't explained very well.
It could be that I had just mis-remembered my earlier reading experience. But I also think I've been noticing that the parts updated from the first edition are the parts where the prose seems the least clear. (If memory serves, all that stuff about the Chomsky position versus the connectionism versus socio-cultural theories were not in the first edition).
I'm beginning to suspect that the first edition of this book must have had a lot of time and care go into the writing of it, but that the updates for the various editions were done in a hurry, and perhaps mandated by the publisher, and crammed into the author's already busy schedules. (That's all just speculation of course.)
Also, I'm thinking I may be seeing signs of poor editing, which may be related to the above point.
The illustrations are nice, but they don't really seem to fit any of the text on the various pages that their on.
Also on page 32, there's this quote: "As we saw in Chapter 1, parents tend to respond to their Children's language in terms of its meaning rather than in terms of its grammatical accuracy."

I don't think that was actually stated anywhere in Chapter 1. Or did I miss something?

Day 5
On page 27, The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker is on the list of further recommended reading books.
I read this book a few years back, and would highly recommend it.
I've not seen it in Saigon, but I did see copies of it in Phnom Penh (at Monument Bookstore...check it out if you're ever in Phnom Penh).
In the meantime, there's an abridged version of the audiobook on Youtube, which you can pop on as background noise in your apartment if you're interested.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0prMBFHtwe8
Steven Pinker is a big proponent of Chosmky's Universal Grammar, and in "The Language Instinct" he makes a very convincing case for the idea that the human brain has some sort of innate capacity to understand grammar.
Pinker mentions a lot of things in support of Universal Grammar that Lightbown and Spada don't. (I guess Lightbown and Spada are trying to balance all the theories equally). But Pinker mentions for example how children create grammar even when there's none in the input--the way the children of pidgin languages make up grammar rules where none existed before.

I'm not sure the cartoon on page 13 was ever explained in the text, but it refers to something Pinker mentioned in his book--when parents attempt to correct the grammar of young children, the children always ignore the correction. (Pinker used this to argue against Behaviorism).

Day 6
On page 34, Lightbown and Spada claim that audiolingualism came out of Behaviorism.
This has long been the accepted narrative-- that audiolingualism came out of Skinner and Behaviorism
But the most recent episode of TEFLology, however, disputes this. It appears that the origins of audiolingualism do not actually come in a straight line from behaviorism.

The folks at TEFLology reference Russell Mayne's writings on the same subject:
http://malingual.blogspot.com/2015/03/the-myth-of-neat-histories.html
Russ Mayne writes that a lot of the traditional narratives (that audiolingualism came out of Skinner, and that Chomsky's critique of Skinner killed audiolingualism) don't actually hold up to strict scrutiny. It's an interesting read.
Update, Geoff Jordan takes issues with Russ Mayne's version:

https://criticalelt.wordpress.com/2015/12/05/call-that-evidence-russ-mayne-on-chomsky/

Day 7
On page 36, Lightbown and Spada write that "One model of second language acquisition that was influenced by Chomsky's theory of first language acquisition was Stephen Krashen's Monitor Model"
A few months back, Russ Mayne was on twitter questioning whether Krashen ever explicitly stated that his theories were based on Chomsky.
https://twitter.com/ebefl/status/733945425783336963
"There seems to be a link between UG and krashen's work, but does Krashen explicitly state that anywhere? Am I imagining it?"
No one was able to point to a direct reference.
(I've read at least one of Krashen's books myself, and in that book Krashen never explicitly mentions Chomsky as his influence).
PS
Someone in reply to Russ Mayne's question said "Why don't you just ask Krashen yourself? He's on twitter". As a result of reading that exchange, I started following Krashen on twitter.
https://twitter.com/skrashen
And as a result of following Krashen on twitter, I found out about Krashen's blog, which I also started following
http://skrashen.blogspot.com/
Krashen is retired now, so most of the stuff on his blog is more political than linguistic these days. (His most recent post was about Betsy Devos http://skrashen.blogspot.com/2017/01/response-to-whos-afraid-of-betsy-devos.html)
But there are still some interesting studies cited from time to time. Here's one that cites research that a learner acquired Mandarin by watching cartoons and lots of TV shows
http://skrashen.blogspot.com/2016/11/compelling-ci-actfl-2016.html

Day 8
So, I'm hoping we can get some good discussion going on Krashen (either on this Facebook page, or when we meet up again on the 22nd).
I suspect we all have our own intuitive feelings about which theories of language acquisition work or not, so it might be interesting to share our gut reactions to some of these theories--like Krashen.
In my case, I spent 3 years working at a conversation school in Japan, where the students only studied conversation. (We were specifically forbidden from teaching them grammar). Many of the students developed a very high rate of spoken English speed, but with absolutely appalling grammar. It gave me a huge headache.
For a long time after that experience, I was very pro-grammar instruction.
When I first heard about Krashen's theories, I thought: no, that can't be right. They need the grammar. They NEED the grammar.
But then, teaching in Cambodia, I had the frustration of teaching teenagers from a textbook that was entirely structured around grammar points. And it was a disaster.
Not only were the teenagers bored out of their minds, but they just didn't get a lot of it. I spent a lot of time drilling them on reported speech (because it was on the test), but after all that time and energy, not one student was able to perform the required grammatical inversions on the test.
At the same time, some of my colleagues in Cambodia were big into extensive reading. (The extensive reading craze is separate from Krashen, but heavily influenced by his theories).
They were always citing all of these amazing studies about how students in extensive reading programs actually picked up much more English than students who studied traditional grammar. (Look up some of these extensive reading studies. It's amazing).
In addition, input was just a lot more interesting than grammar. As one of my colleague's told me: "People don't study a foreign language because they want to learn grammar rules. They want to have access to the movies, books, songs, and poems."
As a result, I've evolved my position on this. I think students still need to consciously study grammar rules, but they should only study the grammar rules after they've absorbed everything they can from the comprehensible input.
For example, in our context I think J1s and J2s should be being exposed to a lot of the grammar structures that won't come up until J3, J4, J5, etc.  [Editor's not: J1 is equivlanet to level 1, etc]
Example: Irregular past simple isn't introduced until English World 3, but J1s and J2s should be getting it in the input. "Will" future doesn't come until English World 4, but J1s, J2s, and J3s should still be getting it in the input
That way they've had the opportunity to build up a passive understanding of the language point long before their expected to practice and produce it.
To that end, I try to spend a lot of time in my classes on some sort of input activity (watching movies, reading stories, etc).
All that being said, however, I will admit to some mixed feelings about using comprehensible input in class. In the back of my head I have a few doubts.
Doubt 1: the theory behind spending a lot of classtime on comprehensible input is based on the assumption that the students aren't getting a lot of input outside of class. However, if I knew my students were already doing a lot of reading and listening outside of class, then perhaps class time could be better served by doing something else.
Doubt 2: Comprehensible input is only valuable if the students are engaged with it. If I put on a movie that they're not interested in, then it's a waste of classtime.
And Doubt 3:
Doubt 3 comes from the TEFL Show podcast. (Different than the podcast I linked to before--that was TEFLology. This is the TEFL show. There's like a bunch of these things popping up now.)
They do a really interesting podcast on Krashen and his theories, which is worth checking out.
https://theteflshow.com/2015/12/21/krashens-theories-of-language-aqusition-do-they-still-have-value-in-the-elt-classroom/
One of the things that stuck with me from this podcast is that research apparently shows to get any benefit, learners need 6 or more hours of comprehensible input a week. And we only teach them for 4 hours.
(Although, I guess there's always summer school).

Day 9
p.43-44 talk about Mike Long's Interaction Hypothesis.
What do you guys think about it?
I think it sounds great for one-on-one or small group conversations, but it's difficult to manage with large classes.
But does anyone remember XXXX? He was a big fan of Mike Long's interaction hypothesis, and he would use it in his J2 and J3 classes.
I never had the opportunity of observing him in action, but the way he described it to me it sounded really cool.
He had this activity he called circle time (possibly the name comes from Jumpstart classes? I don't know)
He would divide the class into two circles. He would take one circle and the TA (Teaching Assistant)  would take the other. And then he would just talk to the kids. He would start out with a very simple question, like "Do you have a brother?" and then gradually increase the complexity of the questions accompanied by plenty of gestures and rephrasing and negotiating for meaning. (e.g Older brother or younger brother? What does he look like? Does he have long hair or short hair? How old is he? etc.)
Inspired by this, I tried it out in my own J2 and J3 classes. After a couple lessons, I decided that things would work smoother if I would first prime the kids with some phrases and vocabulary focused around the topic, and then do the interaction, so I created a bunch of PowerPoints.
(Here, if anyone is interested).
The PowerPoints are just meant as an introduction. Once we sit in the circles, I don't insist that the kids speak exactly the same language as in the PowerPoints.
I did this for about half a year, and it was always a bit of a disaster. The students had a very difficult time sitting nicely in the circle. They also had a difficult time with the concept of turn-taking in a conversation, and would often talk over each other. Or start fidgeting around or fighting.
I asked Tristan what how he kept order in his classes when he did it, and apparently it was never an issue for him. He said he never had any problems.
With me, though, it was always a little mini-disaster. But I kept it going for about half a year anyway because I figured that if some useful language got negotiated, it was worth having the classroom management briefly fall apart.

Day 10
What did everyone think about the chapter on individual differences?
I thought the authors did a good job of describing some of the problems with the research on page 55-56, but I think they could have been even more critical.
I've read at least one person who thinks all research on motivation and language-learning is suspect, because all research on motivation relies on self-reporting, and self-reporting is never reliable. (People say often report what they think they should, instead of what they really feel. Or people don't really understand their own motivation. Or people report what they think the researcher wants to hear. Or on a Likert scale different people will have different criteria for motivation.)
This guy was also saying that quite often the questions researchers use to measure motivation are very clumsy (something Lightbown and Spada go into a little bit).
He was of the opinion that basically all research on motivation and language learning is essentially worthless.
Research on attitudes is similarly suspect.
Your thoughts?

Day 11
p.57 talks about Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences.
p.59-60 are about Learning Styles
If anyone is interested, there's a researcher named Russ Mayne who has been on a campaign against pseudo-science in English Teaching. He's been writing and presenting about how the theory of Multiple Intelligences and Learning Styles are pseudo-science--ie they're always presented as if they were scientific fact, but there has never been any scientific research to back up any of their claims.
You can watch a video of his talk at IATEFL British Council here. I personally found it really interesting.
https://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2014/session/guide-pseudo-science-english-language-teaching
I don't think his published academic papers are freely available, but he does have some thoughts on his blog about Learning Styles here.
http://malingual.blogspot.com/2012/10/learning-styles-facts-and-fictions.html
What do you guys think? Are learning styles and multiple intelligences a real thing? Or is this just pseudo-science?

Day 12
I found the section on learner beliefs (p.66-67) to be interesting.
"...learners, particularly older learners, have strong beliefs about how their instructions should be delivered..."
This is so true, isn't it?
Particularly in Vietnam (more so than other countries I've taught it) the adult learners are more vocal, and more quick to complain when they think the teacher is doing it wrong.
In my experience, the main area of conflict seems to be error correction. The Vietnamese learners want all their errors to be corrected, and they seem to prefer immediate correction rather than delayed correction.
Am I just imagining this, or does this jive with other people's experience?
Again, this is what Lightbown and Spada write (p67). "...virtually all students expressed a desire to have their errors corrected while very few teachers thought this was desirable"
Now, for the purposes of provoking some discussion, I'm going to play devil's advocate and get a little bit controversial here.
The TEFLology podcast has a great interview with Adrian Holliday in which he talks about some of the culture clashes which happen when our Western teaching methodology doesn't match the teaching methodology of the culture.
https://teflology-podcast.com/2015/04/22/tefl-interviews-9-adrian-holliday-on-appropriate-methodology-and-social-context/
He has an example of his own teaching days during the hey-day of audiolingualism, when a student asked him for a grammar explanation, and he told the student that this wasn't the way to learn English (because grammar explanations where frowned on in audiolingualism). Only much later in life did he realize that this wasn't an absolute fact of nature, but simply a reflection of the trends current in Western teaching methodologies at the time, and that it was wrong to just dismiss the learner's beliefs and assume we know better.
Now let me get a bit more controversial: The CELTA course can be dogmatic, because the CELTA acts as if all their methodologies are based on the way God himself wants you to teach English. But in actuality, in the wider field of second language acquisition, there's no consensus on anything. Virtually everything you learn on the CELTA is in some state of debate.
Case in point: it's not actually a scientific fact that delayed error correction always works best, even in fluency activities. There are researchers who believe that immediate correction is more effective, because the learner is more attentive to the error if you catch them at the time they are making it. Also, some researchers think that delayed correction is only useful for building metalinguistic knowledge of how the system should work, but not useful in correcting and forming good habits.
See, for example, this article here:
http://epi.sc.edu/ar/AS_4_files/Ellis,%202009.pdf

So, here's a question: When the students ask for more immediate correction, and we tell them that we know better than they do because we have a CELTA, are we being disrespectful of their beliefs?

Day 13
I have to confess, I was a little disappointed that the section "At What Age Should Second Language Instruction Begin?" (p.73-74) didn't talk more about the difference between learning English in an immersion environment, and learning English in a foreign language classroom.
They mentioned the distinction briefly on p.74, but I think they could have gone into more detail.
I'm not sure if it will confuse things to bring in information from other books, but ...
An interesting book that touches on this distinction is "Understanding Second Language Acquisition" by Lourdes Ortega.

Ortega mentions that when moving to a foreign country, in a total immersion environment, adults actually start speaking the foreign language faster than children do. (Lourdes Ortega, p. 16-17) Children get off to a much slower start, and have a much longer silent period than adults. However, once they do finally start speaking the language, they do eventually catch up to and surpass the adults. So after 10 months, the initial advantage of the adults is beginning to disappear, and after 5 years’ time, the children have surpassed the adults in fluency (Lourdes Ortega, p.16-17).
In a foreign language classroom, which is what we do, the younger learners not only start out slower than the adults, but they actually never fully catch up to them—or at least, studies show that even after 5 years studying in a classroom, children are still behind the adults (Ortega, p. 17).
Why this is isn’t exactly clear. Obviously one reason might be that there just aren’t enough hours of exposure in a foreign language classroom to equal the hours of exposure a child gets in an immersion setting. Another reason is perhaps that the way foreign languages are traditionally taught, with an emphasis on grammar rules, tends to be something adults are better capable of dealing with than children.
Lourdes Ortega says, “This [the ability of adults to do better than children in foreign language classes] may have been in part an artefact of instruction or tests that demanded cognitive maturity and involved metalinguistic skills, because adults may be able to use cognitive and metacognitive abilities and strategies to learn many aspects of the L2 [foreign language] initially faster.” (p. 17)
Anyway, I mention this because I think it's important to keep in mind that children in a foreign language classroom progress much slower than adults for a couple reasons.
One reason is to manage our own expectations. (At one of my previous schools, I asked why the children were expected to learn more grammar points in one term than the adults were, and I was told that it was because they were younger so they could pick it up faster.)
And also to manage parents' expectations. (I think a lot of Vietnamese parents expect their kids to be making faster progress than is realistic.)

Day 14
Chapter 4 on Learner Language
Was anyone else surprised that learners pick up the irregular past tense verb forms before the regular ones? It seems, counter-intuitive, right, because the rule is so much easier for regular verbs.
I don't think the author's ever explained why this is. (Or did I miss it?) But I'm guessing this is just because irregular verbs are much more frequent in the input. And they are apparently more frequent because they come from the old Anglo-Saxon, whereas regular verbs were later additions to the language.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_irregular_verbs
The folks at The Ling Space also make an interesting point. They point out that only words that are frequently used preserve their irregular form. If a word becomes used less frequently, then people don't hear the irregular form so much, and because they don't hear the irregular form so much they will start to regularize the past tense. So by that logic, an irregular verb has to be more frequent in the input, or the irregular form will not survive.
https://youtu.be/5hibYoYwGko
(By the way, The Ling Space youtube channel is really interesting. I've learned tons of interesting things off of their videos. Check them out if you have time. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdZcGRaBV-VRRyU4t6Ur0mw )
I also personally think (and this is just my own speculation) that irregular verb forms are much more noticeable in the input. For example in my experience learners often don't even hear the soft /t/ sound at the end of the consonant cluster in a word like "looked", so they won't even notice it has been changed to the past tense. Whereas it is much easier to notice when "go" changes to "went"
Many textbooks, however, teach the regular past tense forms first. I suppose the logic is that the rule is easier to teach with regular verbs, but sometimes I wonder if we shouldn't teach the irregular past first, since this is what learners naturally pick up first anyway.
For example, in English World, the regular past tense is taught in English World 2, but the students don't get to the irregular past tense until English World 3.
What do you guys think? Should we teach the irregular past tense before the regular past tense?

Day 15
p.83-85 Talk about the Accuracy Order.
(Also known in other books as the "Order of Acquisition" or "The Natural Order").
This is yet another thing that Lightbown and Spada don't go into a lot of detail on. (I guess it's hard to talk about everything in a survey book like this.)
But there's been a lot of debate about what the accuracy order means for language teaching.
Lightbown and Spada present a rather soft view of the accuracy order, but I've seen it presented more forcefully by other authors--i.e. some authors take the view that learners absolutely cannot master the grammatical items lower down on the table until the top grammar points have been mastered first.
So, for example, if you're trying to teach your students the 3rd person singular "s", but they haven't yet mastered the irregular past, then you're wasting your time.
If we take this view, then the English World books are a problem, because they don't follow the Accuracy Order at all.
It's also a problem for the P-P-P approach to teaching, because the P-P-P approach assumes that you can take any discrete grammar item, present it, practice it, and have learners use it in free production by the end of the lesson.
Growing awareness of the accuracy order has been one of the main criticism of the P-P-P approach in recent years. (See: A Potted History of PPP

https://academic.oup.com/errors/error.aspx?aspxerrorpath=/eltj/article-abstract/doi/10.1093/elt/ccw055/2447419/A-potted-history-of-PPP-with-the-help-of-ELT)
A couple points should be made, however.
First of all, no one knows exactly why the accuracy order exists. It depends which of the theories of language learning you agree with. (From chapter 2 of this book). But if you follow the information processing approach (p.39-40) then the theory is that conscious attention is limited, so in free production the human brain can’t consciously attend to all the grammar structures at once. The human brain will focus on one grammar structure until that structure becomes so automatic that it no longer requires conscious attention. And then the human brain will move on to the next grammar structure.
And, for whatever reason, the human brain tends to prioritize the grammar structures in the order of acquisition.
Rod Ellis, in his book, SLA Research and Language Teaching points out that if this is the case, it means that the order of acquisition is only a problem when it comes to free production. Learners can still be taught to understand the grammar point receptively. And they can still do certain types of controlled practice activities in which they have time to focus their conscious attention (i.e. paper and pencil grammar exercises).
But it does, however, mean that the free production part of the lesson is likely to fall apart if you try to force the students to produce a grammar point they are not ready to acquire.
At least, that's the theory.
But what has everyone's experience been? Has the textbook ever prompted you to teach a grammar point that the students just didn't seem ready to acquire yet? Or have you ever had to prepare the students for certain grammar points on the test, but the students just couldn't do it?

Day 16
Vocabulary p.96-100
More episodes from TEFLology that are relevant to this section.
Interview with Paul Nation here:
https://teflology-podcast.com/2015/12/23/tefl-interviews-16-paul-nation/
(Paul Nation was mentioned on page 98).
Interview with Batia Laufer on Vocabulary Acquisition here:
https://teflology-podcast.com/2016/04/13/tefl-interviews-19-batia-laufer-on-vocabulary-acquisition/
(She also talks Paul Nation's in her interview).

Day 17
More thoughts on vocabulary. From page 100:
"Bhatia Laufer (1992) and others have shown that it is difficult to infer the meaning and new words from reading unless one already knows 95 percent or more of the words in a text"
Actually in other workshops, I've heard the figure quoted as even higher--that the learner has to know about 98% of the words in order to infer the meaning from context.
When selecting reading materials for our students, it's difficult to get this figure with exact mathematical precision, of course. But a rough rule of thumb (something that was used at my old school) was the 5 finger rule.
This is especially useful when you're helping the students select books from the library for extensive reading. The student reads the first page of the book, and every time they get to a word they don't understand, they count it off on their fingers. If they get to 5 fingers before the end of the page, then that book is likely to difficult for them, and they should choose another book. (For the Oxford and Penguin Graded Readers, the books are marked by level, so for those books they can just go down one level, and try again.)

Day 18
From page 106:
"One of the controversial issues in pronunciation research is whether intelligibility rather than native-like ability is the standard that learners should strive for."
As with everything in this book, they didn't go into a lot of detail on this, but I think we could get a lot of discussion out of just this last paragraph on page 106.
What do we do in our classrooms? Do we try to focus just on intelligibility, or do we focus on trying to get our students to sound native-like?
A couple of things I question:
Those pronunciation exercises (often included in textbooks) where we drill students on ellipted forms--e.g. gonna or wanna instead of going to and want to.
I often think: Is this really necessary for the students to produce? I mean, they need to know it receptively, of course, so they can pick it out of the speech stream when they talk to a native speaker. But do we really need to drill the pronunciation of it? If they use the full form "going to" instead of "gonna", they'll still be perfectly intelligible.
Also, some of the intonation exercises in the textbooks I wonder about. Do our learners really need to speak with perfect-native like intonation, or is it enough to just master the basic articulation?

Day 19
More thoughts on Pronunciation (from page 106 again).
P. 106 briefly mentions Jennifer Jenkins as someone "who argues for acceptance of language varieties other than those spoken in the language's country of origin."
Jennifer Jenkins has been creating a lot of controversy. She argues that since English is now a global lingua franca, it's unreasonable to expect all the world's people to talk exactly like British or Americans, and has instead proposed a new phonology for English as a global language. For example, Jennifer Jenkins proposes that we no longer teach the /th/ sound, because it is difficult for many people in the world to pronounce, and instead replace it with other sounds like /f/ and /v/.
For more information see here;
https://elfpron.wordpress.com/2013/11/21/what-is-the-lfc/
What do you guys think about this proposal?

Day 20
Chapter 5: Observing Learning and Teaching in the Second Language Classroom
I'll be honest, I didn't get much out of chapter 5.
A lot of it was describing how research takes place in the classroom, which I'm not sure is of value unless we are training to be researchers.
I felt like it also went on for a bit too long.
How did you guys find it?

Day 21
p.138
The authors write: "Although the communicative language teaching has come to dominate in some environments, the structure based approaches discussed in chapter 5, especially grammar translation, remain widespread."
The "some environments" was never identified, but I'm guessing that this was referring to Western teaching philosophies, while the implication was that grammar translation was widespread outside of the West--i.e. predominately in Asia.
Is that how everyone else interpreted that sentence? Or am I off here?
Which, to me, makes the next sentence a bit puzzling. "the grammar translation approach has its origin in the teaching of classical languages (for example, Greek and Latin). "
But only in the West is this true. In Asia the study of Greek and Latin was never popular.
The TEFLologist have a podcast on the grammar-translation method as it is used in Japan. (The TEFLologists are based in Japan). And they claim that in Japan the method has its origins in the study of Chinese as a second language.
https://teflology-podcast.com/2015/01/21/episode-16-yakudoku-wilhelm-vietor-and-uk-language-learning-motivation/
(Yakudoku means translation of a reading passage, in Japanese).

Day 22
p.140
When discussing the legacy of the audiolingual approach, the authors admit that "The audiolingual approach with its emphasis on speaking and listening was used successfully with highly motivated adult learners in training programmes for government personnel in the United States."
This section reminded me of Krashen's version of the history of audiolingualism.
In his book, "The Natural Approach", Krashen writes about the history of audiolingualism

Krashen is writing about the history of audiolingualism in order to discredit it, so I suppose that his shaping of history should be taken with a grain of salt.
But Krashen says that audiolingualism was used by the US army during the 1950s and 1960s, and Krashen also admits that it was very successful at producing results.
However, Krashen says that the audiolingual method (as it was used by the US army) consisted of two parts. The first part was a series of oral grammar drills. But then after each class, the student would then sit down and have a conversation with a native speaker. Krashen thinks that it was this second part, the regular conversations with the native speaker, that is where all the success of the audiolingual approach came in.
Actually, speaking of the US army and its history of using the audiolingual approach... XXXX, you found a copy on the Internet of the old audiolingual recordings that the US army used in the 1960s to teach its personnel Vietnamese, right? Do you still have that? It might be interesting to upload it for people to listen to, to get a taste of the audiolingual method in action.

Day 23
More thoughts on the Audiolingual approach:
I was thinking perhaps we could get some discussion going on the audiolingual approach--where do we agree, where do we disagree, what do we take from it, etc.
Audiolingualism has been out of favor ever since the early 1980s (when Krashen became the new fade) but as Lightbown and Spada admit on page 140 (and as Krashen himself admits in his own book) it did actually produce successful results in the US government programs it was used on.
A very good description of what an audiolingual class looks like can be found in "Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching" by Diane Larsen-Freeman.

Based on Larsen-Freeman's description, I found myself thinking that there was absolutely nothing wrong with these techniques provided that they weren't the only part of the curriculum. (i.e. I think the audiolingual techniques would be quite useful as long as they were supplemented by other things like plenty of free conversation practice, and plenty of additional input).
In fact, I've been studying Vietnamese recently with Pimsleur CDs, which is essentially based on the audiolingual method, and I've been finding it very useful for getting used to certain structures.
What are other people's thoughts? How do you study languages? What works best for you?
Thought 2:
After audiolingualism fell out of favor in the 1980s, drilling exercises became looked upon as outdated and old-fashioned. Was this a good thing, or was this an unfortunate case of throwing away the drilling baby with the audiolingual bathwater?
In his book, "Learning Teaching" (which was assigned reading for my CELTA) Jim Scrivener laments that drilling has fallen out of fashion, and says that it is still a useful way for learners to get their mouth around the language.

I've noticed that in the workshops at our school, we are taught to drill. But in my old school, drilling wasn't practiced at all.
What do you guys think? Is drilling outdated, or is it useful?
Thought 3:
One of the tenants of audiolingualism is that the learners were not allowed to see the written word until they had reached a certain level. This was to avoid bad pronunciation habits from occurring (the theory being that sound-spelling correspondence was often misleading, and would lead to bad pronunciation.)
Krashen, in his critique of audiolingualism (see again Krashen's own book) says that this practice lead to a lot of frustration on the part of the learners, because the learners wanted to see the written form. Krashen argued that there was no reason to keep the written word from the learner.
What do you guys think? In my own language learning experience, I feel like I can remember a word better if I can see it, because then I can visualize it in my mind. And yet, I do have to admit that an over-reliance on the written word has caused me a lot of pronunciation errors in the various languages that I've studied.
I think at our school, the policy is to drill the word orally first, and then give the learners the written form. This seems to me reminiscent of audiolingualism, but I think in audiolingualism the learners wouldn't see the written word until months later, whereas in ILA they're given the written form a few minutes later.
But I think Krashen, on the other hand, would advocate just giving the learners the written word right from the beginning.
What do you guys think? How do you do drilling? Do you do oral before written form, or do you just give them the written form right away?

Day 24
From p.141
p.141 talks about why it is difficult to test the effectiveness of different methods. One problem the authors mention is that it is difficult to find proper comparison groups.
This actually gets to a bigger question: Why don't we definitively know which methods work best? How come no one has run the comparison studies yet?
In the 1970s, there actually was an attempt to run large scale comparison studies to find out once-and-for-all which methods worked best.
Those studies were inconclusive, in part because of the factors Lightbown and Spada mention on page 141. There were just too many variables to control for.
Another problem was the teachers. Each teacher would add their own little distinctive touch, or their own teaching style, to whatever method they were supposed to be teaching. As a result, none of the methods were taught in their pure forms.
Jack Richards writes about this in his essay: "Beyond Methods" which is included in his book "The Language Teaching Matrix"
To quote from Jack Richards: " Studies of the effectiveness of specific methods have had a hard time demonstrating that the method itself, rather than some other set of factors, was the crucial variable. Likewise, observations of teachers using specific methods have reported that teachers seldom conform to the methods they are supposed to be following. "
End quote.
The implication, then, is that these methods were always more theory than they were reality, at least in their pure form-- i.e. very few teachers ever actually practiced any of these methods in their pure form.
This may be an important little disclaimer to keep in the back of our heads as we read about the effectiveness of various methods.
What about in our own teaching? Do we practice a pure form of any method, or does our teaching tend to be an eclectic mix of a number of different methods?
So, that's one reason why experimentation never definitively found what was the best method.
A second reason was actually stated way back on page 49--from a neuro-science standpoint, we just don't know enough about how the human brain works to understand how the brain processes language.
To quote from the Lightbown and Spada on page 49:
"At present, most of the research on specific brain activity during language processing must be based on indirect evidence. "
However, after admitting this limitation, Lightbown and Spada conclude on a more optimistic note:
"Advances in technology are rapidly increasing opportunities to observe brain activity more directly. Such research will eventually contribute to reinterpretations of research that, until now, can examine only observable behavior." (Also from page 49)
Noam Chomsky, on the other hand, is skeptical that some of these questions about human cognition will ever be answered.
See this video interview:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjRrzW6iA5M

Day 25
Reading and Listening p.143-144
When describing the "Just Listen and Read" proposal on pages 143 and 144, the authors describe a class of students who are listening to an audio-CD as they read along with their texts.
What do you guys think about this "Listen and Read" approach? Is it beneficial to have students both listen and read at the same time?
At my old school, one of the lead teachers was a big fan of this approach.
I observed his class once, and he devoted about 15-20 minutes of every class to "Listen and Read".
He would photocopy a chapter from a graded reader, and give it to each student in the class. Then he would play the CD, and the students would listen to the CD as they followed along with their copy.
"Just watch how absorbed they get in the story," he told me.
And they did seem to get pretty into it.
He was a big fan of the listen and read approach, because he said it meant the students were getting the input reinforced by having both reading input and listening input.
Most of the publishers of "graded readers" also publish an audio CD that goes along with the books. The quality varies from CD to CD, but at least some of them have voice actors who are actually pretty engaging.
Anyway, I did this in my own teens classes in Cambodia afterwards, and had good success with it.
It does, however, appear to be somewhat controversial at our school. At least in my experience.
After a pop-in observation, I had one manager (someone who is no longer at our center) tell me never to do listen and read activities because, as he put it, "If they're listening and reading at the same time, then they're not really doing either."
I didn't argue at the time, but I never fully agreed with this.
Or at least, I don't think it's a problem if your main aim is to build reading fluency. (I'll concede that it would be problematic for an activity that was focused on listening fluency.)

But what do you guys think?

Day 26
From p.144
" "Just listen...and read" is a controversial proposal for second language teaching. It not only says that second language learners need not drill and practise language in order to learn it, but also that they do not need to speak at all, except to get other people to provide input by speaking to them. According to this view, it is enough to hear and understand the target language "
end quote
Krashen, indeed, does say this explicitly in his book.

To quote from Krashen on page 56
"According to the Input hypothesis, speaking is not absolutely essential for language acquisition. We acquire from what we hear (or read) and understand, not from what we say. The Input hypothesis claims that the best way to teach speaking is to focus on listening (and reading) and spoken fluency will emerge on its own.”
end quote
What do you guys think about this proposal?
To my mind, there seem to be a couple problems with this view, just based off of everyday life experience. For one thing, it certainly seems that when you’re learning a new language, part of the learning process is getting your tongue around the sounds and structures. In my own experience learning Japanese, it seemed to me that certain structures were becoming more automatic just because I had practiced saying them so many times.
Also, if speaking arises naturally out of comprehension, then how to explain the many children from bilingual families who will often grow up able to only understand, but not speak, one of two languages in their household?
In my own view, I definitely agree with Krashen that comprehension should precede production, perhaps often by a period of several weeks or months. (I dislike lessons in which the learners are introduced to new grammar point, and then forced to produce it in the same lesson). But at some point, won’t production have to be practiced before fluency can arise? And when production is ready to emerge, at this point maybe even the audio-lingual drills that Krashen hates so much may be of some value?
Also interesting is that Krashen does not advocate any pronunciation activities. To quote again from Krashen's book:
“In a recent study, however, Purcell and Suter surveyed acquirers of English as a second language, and concluded that accuracy of pronunciation of English correlated with the acquirers’ first language (speakers of Arabic and Farsi had better accents than speakers of Japanese and Thai), the amount of interaction with English speakers, performance on a test of phonetic ability, and the degree of concern that speakers had about their accent. Surprisingly enough, the amount of formal training in ESL, even when the courses were specifically aimed at pronunciation, did not relate to pronunciation ability. Thus, it may be possible that direct classroom exercises are of limited use.
Pronunciation ability, or good accent, may be nearly completely dependent on what has been acquired, not on rules which have been learned. It is possible to learn conscious rules about pronunciation, but performers, especially in the beginning stages, usually have too many more important things to attend to in performance.
… Thus, in the Natural Approach we do not recommend any specific activities for pronunciation, especially in early stages” (p. 89-90).
end quote
What do you guys think about this?
In my anecdotal experience, Young Learners (10 years old or below) do not need pronunciation exercises. If exposed to sufficient audio input, they always seem to naturally acquire good pronunciation. So I don't do any pronunciation activities with my young learners.
Adults, on the other hand, seem to be a different story.

Day 27
Here's a few more thoughts on Krashen's proposal that speaking does not need to be taught, but arises naturally out of listening comprehension. (In other words, more thoughts relating to p.144).
Krashen proposed a silent period for learners.
This proposal was based on the observation that all babies go through a couple years of listening before they attempt to speak.
Also, Krashen noted that immigrant children will also go through a long silent period, lasting for several months, in which they will not attempt to speak the new language. This is in contrast to adult immigrants, who attempt to speak the new language right away (This is from Krashen's book, The Natural Approach, page 35-36).

Krashen believes that it is harmful to force learners to produce before they are ready to, especially with younger learners. He writes elsewhere in the same book:
“Younger acquirers also tend to exhibit a longer silent period. A serious problem is thus created by trying to force production before a wide range of listening comprehension has been done” (p. 179, The Natural Approach)
How long the silent period lasts for is up to each individual learner. Krashen believes that the learner, not the teacher, decides when they are ready to start speaking the language.
Until the learner decides to start speaking on their own, Krashen said that the learner has a "right to silence" and that the teacher should not force them to speak.
As I wrote yesterday, I have some problems with Krashen's idea that speaking arises solely out of listening comprehension. But although I believe that speaking practice has to come at some point, I also sympathesize with Krashen's idea of the "right to silence" for learners.
I think that forcing learners to produce before they feel they are ready can create negative feelings.
Also, in my own experience learning languages, I wonder if some of the bad habits I picked up early on were a result of trying to speak too early before I had built up a "wide range of listening comprehension."
For this reason, I often think it is a mistake to have speaking tests in the lower levels, particularly with the Young Learners.
What do you guys think?
Another thought:
It's unclear to me how Krashen feels about the use of the L1 in the classroom. He never talked about it explicitly in his book, but I've often assumed that the "right to silence" also meant a right to use the L1 (i.e. I've assumed the "right to silence" didn't mean that the learners really wanted to be silent, just that they weren't ready to use the L2 yet. But they may still want to communicate with their classmates in their L1).
What do you guys think about the use of the L1 in the classroom? Do learners have a right to use their L1, or should we enforce English only?

Day 28
What did you guys think about the "Let's Talk" proposal (pages 150-155)?
In my own experience, I worked in a conversation school in Japan for 3 years. In this school, the students would pay money just to have conversation practice with a native speaker.
There's a lot to be said for these type of schools. They did produce students who could actually communicate in English (something that the Japanese public school system fails to do). But I was also able to clearly see the limitations of this approach.
A number of students would overly on lexis to communicate their meaning, and completely disregarded grammar.
Scott Thornbury warns about this in his book "Uncovering Grammar"

"A diet of nothing else but unrehearsed fluency activities, such as group discussions or communicative games, may make learners over-reliant on lexical processes at the expense of developing their grammatical competence," Scott Thornbury warns on page 20 of his book.
Elsewhere in his book, Scott Thornbury quotes a description of a Japanese speaker of English which sounds exactly like many of my old students.
"Sachiko-san was as unabashed and unruly in her embrace of English as most of her compatriots were reticent and shy. ... She was happy to plunge ahead without a second thought for grammar, scattering meanings and ambiguities as she went. Plurals were made singular, articles were dropped, verbs were rarely inflected, and word order was exploded--often, in fact, she seemed to be making Japanese sentences with a few English words thrown in."
(From page 20 of Thornbury's book. Ellipses in Thornbury's original quote. When I looked at the footnotes, I discovered Thornbury was quoting this description from a travelogue and not from the linguistic literature, but it's a good description nonetheless.)
This experience has made me a firm believer in the need for grammar instruction.

However, in my personal opinion, I believe grammar instruction should only come after comprehension has already been built up. I don't think it's possible to build up language knowledge from the bottom up by learning a sequence of grammar points, but once the learner has some understanding of the language (from comprehensible input, and from interaction) then the grammar exercises are beneficial.

[Editor's note: Because I'm behind in my Book Review Project, I haven't yet gotten around to review Uncovering Grammar by Scott Thornbury.  But review coming someday soon.]

Day 29
On page 152, Lightbown and Spada explore the "Let's Talk" proposal in the context of "Learners talking to learners."
Quoting from other research, Lightbown and Spada present an overall positive view of the benefits of learners talking to other learners.
"Overall, Long and Porter concluded that although learners cannot always provide each other with the accurate grammatical input, they can offer each other genuine communicative practice that includes negotiation of meaning" (p.152)
However, a slightly more pessimistic view of the limitations of learners talking to other learners can be found in "SLA Research and Language Teaching" by Rod Ellis

Ellis cites the plus side and the minus side of group work (i.e. learners talking to other learners.)
On the plus side, on page 243, Ellis cites a study that says: “linguistic forms that learners of L2 French negotiated in small group-work were subsequently used independently by individual learners. One of Donato’s main points is that whereas no individual learner initially possessed knowledge of the forms in question they were able to establish them collectively. another is that learners can successfully acquire new knowledge through the scaffolding provided by other learners (i.e. they did not have to rely on expert others.)
But on the negative side,
On page 52, when talking about why French immersion students in Canada never develop beyond “a very defective and probably terminal classroom pidgin”, Ellis writes: “The reasons advanced for the failure of immersion in Hammerley’s eyes are the fact that immersion learners spend a large amount of time interacting with other interlanguage speakers, the impossibility of creating a ‘natural sociolinguistic language acquisition setting’ in the classroom, the tendency of learners to transfer structures from their L1, and the lack of motivation to advance to higher levels of proficiency once learners become functional.” (From Ellis p. 52)
And on page 51:
A further problem of communicative classrooms is that much of the talk which learners hear come from other learners. This interlanguage talk may encourage fossilization, a point which Prahbu (1987) has argued forcefully. In short, although much can be done to make a classroom communicative, the resulting environment may not be conducive to successful grammar acquisition, because the input learners receive is impoverished, because they resort to their L1, and because opportunities for certain kinds of output are limited. (From Ellis p.51)
I'm not entirely sure what the solution to this is. Obviously it's beneficial to spend class time practicing fluency speaking, and obviously in a class of 20 it's impractical to have everyone spend equal time talking to the teacher. So group work seems like the only possibly solution.
And yet, these studies on the dangers of having learners spend too much time talking to other learners do give me pause.
So what to do?

Also, could this potentially be a problem for the Project Based Learning system, which relies heavily on groupwork, and learners talking to other learners? What do you guys think?

Day 30
What did you guys think of the 5th proposal: Teach What is Teachable (p.160-165) ?
I find it definitely preferable to the opposite approach--teaching what is unteachable.
Unfortunately, so often we teachers have no control over what grammar points we have to teach because it is dictated by curriculums, textbooks. and tests.
Has anyone ever had the experience of having to teach students a grammar point for the test that they were just not developmentally ready for?
At my previous school, I had this experience with reported speech in a teens class. They had to learn it for the test, but despite all my best efforts, almost none of them got it.
What about the textbooks here at our school?
My experience with the levels I've taught is that English World 2 teaches the 3rd person singular "s" to the students before they are developmentally ready. In my opinion. What does everyone else think?
It would be nice to just teach what is teachable, but there are some problems with this approach.
In his book, SLA Research and Language Teaching, Rod Ellis talks about some of the difficulties practicing a "Teach what is teachable" approach:

The first problem is that we don't know enough about the natural developmental sequence to make a curriculum yet. (A point Lightbown and Spada also make on page 165: "...only a small number of language features have been described in terms of developmental sequence" ).
Secondly, Rod Ellis says, even if we did have all the information about the developmental sequence, we still couldn't build a curriculum around it because not all the students in the class develop at the same rate. With any given grammar point, some of the students in the class will be ready to acquire it, and some of them won't be.
However, Rod Ellis points out that the natural order applies only to being able to use the grammar point in free production. It doesn't apply to a student's ability to comprehend the grammar point.
So, Rod Ellis suggests that if the grammar point is too advanced for the student, we teach it only for comprehension, and not demand that the student use it in free production. (Rod Ellis suggests activities such as matching sentences to pictures. )
Ellis also suggests that if the student is aware of the grammar point receptively, then they will notice it more in the input. And noticing the grammar point in the input will help the student to acquire the grammar point at a future point when they become developmentally ready for it.
Lightbown and Spada also mention this on page 165: "The research also shows that instruction on language that is 'too advanced' may still be helpful by providing learners with samples of language that they will be able to incorporate into their interlanguage when the time is right."
This, of course, is different than the P-P-P style of teaching, where every lesson has to end in a free production activity. But what do you guys think of this?

Day 31
p.168-175
This section summarizes the research findings for the "Get it Right in the End Proposal."
I really had a hard time concentrating on this section. Did anyone else think it was way too long and unnecessary, or was it just me?
I would have been content with just a very general summary of the research findings. I feel like I didn't have to know about the details of the 8 different experiments.
This is true really of all of chapter 6, but that last proposal especially was the worst offender with having way too long of a "research findings" section.

What did everyone else think?

Day 32
p.176-180 summarizes the results of the research.
It looks like Spada and Lightbown are interpreting the research as both meaning focus instruction and form focused instruction is needed. (I'm assuming when they say "meaning focus" this includes both input and output.)
This sounds good, but unfortunately the catch is we only have 4 hours a week with our students. (Really 3.5 once you subtract the breaks).
I personally find it a challenge finding time to focus on all of these things every week.
What about everyone else? How much time do you devote every week to input focused activities? And how much time to output? And how much time to focus on forms?
Also, speaking of time difficulties, page 187 was a bit depressing, wasn't it?
"One or two hours a week--even for seven or eight years--will not produce advance second language learners. This 'drip feed' approach often leads to frustration as learners feel that they have been studying 'for years' without making much progress. Sadly, they are sometimes right about this."

We do 3.5 hours a week, but I'm wondering if that wouldn't be close enough to "one or two hours a week" to be included in with the problems listed in the above quotation. What do you guys think?

Day 33
p.190-191
On page 190-191, Lightbown and Spada discuss the proposition "Learners' errors should be corrected as soon as they are made in order to prevent the formation of bad habits"
Lightbown and Spada are of the opinion that Learner's need to have their attention brought to the error at some point, but that the learner does not always need to be corrected immediately, and in many cases delayed correction is better.
For me personally, however, I'm not sure all errors are equal, and I think pronunciation errors should be treated differently from grammar errors.
I tend to agree with Lightbown and Spada when they say that it's not always beneficial to immediately correct grammar errors. (This is particularly true when the grammar error is related to a grammar point that the learner is not developmentally ready to acquire--as I think Lightbown and Spada have shown convincingly elsewhere in the book.)
With pronunciation errors, however, I think there is a danger of the learner fossilizing in the wrong pronunciation if they are not immediately corrected.
And I think immediate correction can be effective if their are no phonological constraints--that is, if the learner is already capable of making the sound.
If the learner has trouble physically articulating the sound (like many of our students and the /th/ sound) then I'll concede that correcting the error gets more complicated. But for the sake of simplicity, let's leave that aside for now.
But in a pronunciation error that's easily corrected, for example a learner pronouncing the silent "s" in "island", I think it's best to do immediate correction.
In my own anecdotal experience in both Vietnam and Cambodia: both Vietnamese and Cambodian speakers will often omit the /s/ or /z/ sound at the ends of words. In my experience, delayed correction is not effective at eradicating this habit. The only correction that words is immediate correction. The habit is just too ingrained in many students for delayed correction to do any good.
In my classes, I draw an "s" shape in the air whenever a student has omitted and /s/ or /z/ sound at the end of the word. I do this even during a fluency activity, and even at the risk of interrupting the student. In my classes, I think I've seen a dramatic improvement in pronunciation as a result of this practice.
What do you guys think? Should grammar errors be treated the same as pronunciation errors? Is delayed correction effective with pronunciation errors?

Day 34
p.191
Lightbown and Spada discuss Proposition 13: Teachers should use materials that expose students only to language structures they have already been taught.
They come down against it. They argue that Learners should be exposed to a variety of forms they haven't yet mastered.
I agree, and this is something that drives me crazy about the English World textbooks. The only grammar the students are ever exposed to are the forms that they have already studied. (Or will study in that same unit). To counter-act this, I try and bring in a lot of supplementary materials--story books and movie worksheets--but once again, timing is a challenge. It's hard to fit in a lot of supplementary materials and cover the textbook in only 3.5 hours a week.
What do you guys think?

Day 35
Just a reminder that we're meeting tomorrow at 1 pm. Somewhere in Center 1.
Everyone's welcome to come regardless of whether you've read the whole book cover to cover, or just skimmed it briefly.

Day 36
Update:
We met up at 1. Discussion went well today. Perhaps too well, because we spent the whole time discussing theories of first language acquisition, and never even got around to discussing second language acquisition. And before we knew it, the time was up.
It was felt by many people that we couldn't leave the discussion there, since the whole point of the book (as well as our professional interest in it) was for theories of how to teach a second language in the classroom.
So, we're going to extend this book by one more week, and meet up again next week. Next week we will try to focus our discussion on second language learning and teaching.
The PowerPoint I made to guide the discussion is here

In the discussion today, we didn't even get past the first language learning theories. So possibly I've got too much stuff on this PowerPoint. Let me know what we should focus on or add on or edit out for next time.

Below is the Google Slides Presentation I made to guide the discussion: slides, pub



Video Review

Video here and embedded below.



Link of the Day
On Being Truly Educated

2 comments:

Rob said...

Hi Joel,

This is Rob from off of the TEFLology Podcast (thanks for the reviews, by the way!). Interesting post! I just wanted to leave a quick note to point out that as far as I can tell, Geoff Jordan doesn't take issue with Russ Mayne's assertions regarding the history of behaviourism and audiolingualism, but only with his more controversial claims about Chomsky and UG.

Joel Swagman said...

Rob, thanks for the comment. I just re-read Geoff Jordan's post, and your absolutely right. Thanks for the clarification. (Rather than going back and fixing the text, I think I'll just let these comments stand as the correction.)

Speaking of the reviews: I've gotten a bit behind in my blogging, but I'm going to try to catch up with your latest couple episodes. I enjoyed the Duoethnography episode.