Eric’s presentation of linguistic essentials

Eric’s extensive laying out of the underlying issues in SLA is great but would need a lot of unpacking for teachers not conversant with linguistics. I would love to see a discussion on the listserv for those interested. If you’re not interested, hit delete. Nevertheless, one problem I’ve seen is the drift I’ve spoken of where tprs teachers filter in more and more “neat ideas” which interfere with the acquisition process. Many of these “neat ideas” are based in legacy methods.
One thing Eric said that I’ve always wanted to say but couldn’t word it right is “But practically speaking, we could not know every students’ current level of competence in order to know precisely what input they needed. Hence, an important pedagogical principle is to cast a large net of grammatical structures (non-targeted/unsheltered grammar).” IOW, the old i+1 problem: how do you know what the learner’s i is? If you don’t know it, how do you pitch the input to get the 1 of i+1? Krashen has always said (I just finished the Taipei Lectures and have more to say on those). that each learner will find his i+1 in the input if there is enough of it. Yes, going to Bavaria and hearing masses of German all day won’t get you i+1, but functioning in the society will put you in situations where you’ll get some i
The nut of this post to me is this:
“Targeting and testing what does not exist, but is rather the product of abstract properties and values, i.e. underlying principles, parameters, and features, doesn’t make any sense.”
If I could pinpoint a reason for drift in tprs teaching (CI in general), it would be the lingering belief that when a linguist breaks a language down into a set of procedures we call rules, a retrofit action will teach the language, when in fact people do not store the abstract properties and values in their brains the way textbooks lay them out. In fact, textbooks don’t lay out abstract properties and values, just a set of rules: add a Y and that gives you past tense. People don’t acquire past tense that way, nor do they store it in their brain that way. How they do is as yet unknown..
Eric says: “My understanding is that there are features, which are carried within the lexicon, that determine sentence structure” This has huge implications and I don’t think Eric is suggesting that fl teachers have to delve this deeply into linguistics, but this one approach to how we construct well-formed sentences is very interesting. I’m implementing it in a very slipshod way in my study of Norwegian and Greek, focusing on vocabulary rather than grammar (my wont is to obsess over grammar, but recently I’ve managed to shift my focus to vocabulary). You don’t have to know what a ditransitive verb is (Word doesn’t like ditransitive despite its being very common in linguistic terminology) to teach a language, but you should understand that the Language Acquisition Device works and trust it to work on the input you provide, including ditransitive verbs..

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