Direct from the blackboard to your brain

Think about the way we are supposed to learn a language in a fl classroom: the teacher writes a rule on the board; students copy the rule with the intention of memorizing it. The teacher offers examples of the rule in action e.g. gender agreement. Students then “practice” the rule. (see blog entry 56—-

The word “practice” means different things to different people. I’ve heard strong CI teachers defend practice, by which they mean giving students meaningful contexts in which to use the rule for communication without necessarily having ever heard/seen the rule. Other teachers have students chanting the rule and/or examples of it. Others embed the rule in a dialog the students are to memorize and declaim. And many other variations of “practice” exist.

Back to the rule getting and rule using. Using the rule requires a chance to recall the rule, remember how it is applied, and then form an utterance using that rule. That is cumbersome but possible for writing (what Krashen denominates the monitor); but for give-and-take conversation….. no.

So how do I “know” that when I refer to Coca-Cola and say it’s made in Mexico, I say “hecha” instead of “hecho”, but if I refer to it as un refresco, I’ll say “hecho”? Do I think everytime: OK, coca-cola ends in -a so I say hecha. And how was that rule presented, anyway? What if the noun does not end in an -o or -a, do I then have to think what gender the noun is? Very cumbersome.

By what process do we get someone automatically using a feminine form adjective with a feminine noun?

Let’s notch it up a bit, this time the only languages I know with this feature are Spanish, Norwegian, and Macedonian…… maybe Modern Greek, I’ll have to check. This feature is placing a resumptive pronoun, i.e. one that repeats another part of the sentence, before the verb, which is then followed by the object in noun form e.g. Le di al jefe el mensaje – I gave the boss the message literally: to him I gave to the boss the message.You learn the rule and then think of it everytime you say something as mundane as Joey handed mom the grocery list? Cumbersome. Impossible, one might say.

So what do people who learn another language do? They listen to others speaking L2 in a way so as to make clear to the learner what is meant, not how it is said. The brain records these patterns everytime something is understood, or so goes the theory.Research is showing all the time that this is just what happens. Where is the research for the rule getters?

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