There are two types of people in the world……

Reading these foreign language teacher listservs, I am forced to join those who say there are two types of people in the world, or, more specifically, two types of fl teachers: those who teach the language as a medium of communication and those who teach it as a code.

The latter teach the rules of the language, focusing primarily on grammar rather than, say, phonology, pragmatics, syntax, intonation, or register. By careful explanations of the rules, practicing the rules, and then testing for the result, these teachers believe they have done all that is necessary to teach L2. They insist they get good outcomes as long as students are diligent and intelligent. In a sense, they are right; good students who apply themselves to learning the rules will do fine on the tests these teachers give.

But during WW II the military needed what they called linguists, i.e. people who could speak English and one of the languages we needed: Japanese, Chinese, French, German, Italian, etc. Tapping the college graduates who had majored in one of these languages, the military was desolated when they discovered that their linguists were unable to communicate with the speakers of those languages.

The other type believes acquisition happens as a by-product of comprehension (VanPatten).

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