Beating one’s head against a brick wall – will the wall never fall?
A thread on good ol’ flteach asks how to get students to stop patterning the TL on English, e.g. sticking “do” in to make a question or “is” to make a present tense verb. Here is the original:
I am teaching Spanish 1 this year and watching students use “Mi amigo se
> llama es” or “Juan es habla” etc. I can’t seem to get through to them that
> the verb is already conjugated and doesn’t need “es.” I’ve watched Spanish
> 2 students make the same mistake even after learning ser and multiple
> tenses and conjugations.
> Your thoughts would be appreciated. They’re practicing an error and I
> want to correct it before it’s totally ingrained.
a helpful message (sarcasm alert) follows:
I run into the same problem with French 1 students all the time. One thing
I’ve seen help them visualize how very wrong the extra “to be” verb is to
explain that, in French, we only use “is” for things that describe an
inherent characteristic. So, when they write “Il est regarde la tÃ©lÃ©”
instead of “Il regard la tÃ©lÃ©” we talk about how this person IS, to the
very core of his being, the essence of “watching TV.” He IS tall and he IS
watching tv. I use a lot of inflection and pictures, if I can find them.
It usually helps and also gives them a reason to chuckle at their own
mistakes at the funny image of a person who “IS” eating a sandwich, etc.
My favorite is:
I teach my students that “Yo hablo” has 3 English meanings. One is “I speak.” ALSO it can mean “I do speak,” and “I am speaking.” I explain that in the second 2 the words “do, does, am, is, or are” are helping words (a word them know from Kindergarten I think). Since they are helping words and not the main verb, they do not have to be used. I also point out that “do” and “does” are often used in questions and remind them that, again, they are helping words. It does take a lot of practice and I use plain old written translation – both directions – for this.
My enjoyment rises when I think of her tryiing to teach the perfect tenses with haber, a helping verb. Then what?
It fascinates me that these professionals voice the same lament decade after decade while teachers switching to CI report success in avoiding such problems. The two blocks are: no research done to verify the CI results and the fear of error, referred to in the original request for help: “totally engrained”, the old fossilization canard. If they hear only the native version rather than working with textbook exercises that do exactly what the last poster advises: “use plain old written translation both directions….” They will try nothing new, just bang away at the same approach what I call ratiocination and Terry Waltz calls legacy teaching until they retire. Their response to suggestions they try anything different from explaining grammar is that they have to know “their” grammar, otherwise they will be incomprehensible. But if they follow the advice of the last post quoted above and put “yo” on everything in first person, there will be no comprehension problem: yo corrimos will be understood as I run once the sympathetic native speaker realizes his American amigo studied Spanish in a “rigorous” class.