Review of article by Decoo – Part IV

Well, where to start? Here is the old, traditional, grammar-driven view of language learning. “We must master our forms.” To me, his language bespeaks a deep misunderstanding of the crucial matter of acquisition and sees language learning as nothing but the cognitive, conscious, intellectual grasp of complex rules. He simply does not “believe”, as an article of faith, that people can learn a language without being consciously aware of its structures and their interaction. The whole idea of an unconscious acquisition process directed by an inherent or hard-wired faculty for acquiring another language when it is used for communication. Here is perhaps where he gets the idea that communicative teaching focuses on practicality since communicative teachers treat communication as being about meaning, whereas Decoo’s “focus on formS” finds little purpose in searching for meaning until the formS are “mastered” (the capital S on formS is borrowed from Doughty & Williams).

There is room for disagreement here; I know that John McWhorter has stated clearly that languages do differ in their complexity but given the deep cultural bias in North America toward highly inflected languages, I’m not sure Decoo would recognize complexity that is not found in inflectional endings but in something else, like phrasal verbs or particles. Where he shows his colors is in the sentence: “. To neglect this complexity in a so-called authentic language approach is fatal for the not-so bright student: integration of the elements falters, frustration grows and motivation plummets.” Neglect? So-called? Not-so-bright? Again, again, and again, where is he getting his evidence for plummeting motivation? For instance, tprs teachers claim over and over that motivation remains high; teachers who use 90%+ TL in the classroom report high motivation.. Those aren’t proved anymore than his statement is, but Decoo seems to be speaking as if there are studies, etc. which show this to be true. Where are they? Who did them? How does he know this? How does he counter the claims of so many teachers who report rising motivation? He dismisses these in that early statement: ” During the 1990s the original concept went into a slow agony, of which its own supporters are not yet always aware.” So what we say clearly just doesn’t count.

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