Quote from Lee & VanPatten on rule getting

This is from Making Communicative Language Teaching Happen

p. 119-120

“More recently, Schmidt has questioned the utility of mechanical drilling and practice based on his review of possible psychological mechanisms underlying the development of fluency. After reviewing five major models of skill development from the field of cognitive psychology, Schmidt concludes that there is no theoretica support for the belief that fluency is simply a matter of increasingly skillful application of rules: learning a rule and then practicing it until it becomes automatic.

’As commonly practices, the technique of pattern practice rests on the assumption that short training sessions with a small number of examplare, each of which is typically practiced once, will lead to fluecy based on automatic rule application. The theories reviewed in the paper suggest that unless such practice is very extensive (introducing the boredom factor), neither the specific examples practiced nor the general rule will be availbale subsequently for fluent use. (Schmidt 1992, p. 381)’ ”

p. 125

“Paradigms, it should be noted, are abstractions and generalizations. They are tools to organize information and present data, but they do not correspond to the way knowledge is structured in the brain. What is esp important is that paradigms represent neither the way morphological forms are qcquired nor the order in which they are acquired. As argued by a number of linguists and psycholinguists (see, for example, Bybee 1991), paradigms do not exist in the native speakers’ heads unless put there by teachers or books. The child who enters elementary school in Argentina is perfectly capable of using most verb forms in Spanish and does not have a grid in her head explicitly marked with categories such as “singular/plural” and “first/second/third person.” That child already pssesses a complex network of form-meaning connections in which the form pienso (I think) is connected not only to the concept of “present tense” but also to pense (preterite tense, “I thought”), pensamiento (the noun, “thought”) and so on.”

I believe this summarizes the reason paradigm memorization does not result in fluency or proficiency. Later, the authors go on to say that at some point, these paradigms might be offered as a way of showing the big picture to those who would like that. But the very fact that native speakers cannot produce such a “big picture” unless they’ve received extensive schooling in traditional grammar indicates that one does not need such a big picture to be proficient in the language.

This also expands on my frequent use in posts of the word ’abstract’ in referring to grammar explanations. It is not that they are abstract in and of itself but that learners cannot make use of such abstractions in the early phases of acquiring L2.

I really hope that some of the people on the various Listservs I am on will read this blog entry and perhaps go so far as to read Lee & VanPatten or other basic books on linguistics. There are others who have read such works, incl Lee & VanPatten, who continue to defend explicit grammar instruction as a way of saving time, a kind of short cut, in crowded classrooms and crowded schedules where fl teachers must compete with math teachers who assign 400 problems a night. But this quote above, I think, shows that presenting paradigms in early stages do not, in fact, save time, but only serve to convince students that learning a fl is “just not for me”.

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