TPRS with Nyah One Year Update

At the end of last month we reached one year that we started lessons. That is equivalent to a little over a third on a first year regular class at 50″ a day for five days.
I have got impossibly behind in writing up or transcribing our lessons but will eventually do those so there will be an on-line record of how this went. That will be important if she scores well on the SAT French.
We are dealing a bit more with grammar now. This is at her request.

The purpose of grammar is to guarantee meaning. (That from John DeMado) That is why Pidgin and Creole languages develop the use of adverbs so much, because they do not pick up the intricate morphology of a language due to lack of exposure, e.g. a slave working on a plantation. A sentence like “Me go store” allows a grasp of the basic meaning: who, what, where but not when or how. So “Me go store now” gives us present tense, “Me go store all the time” gives us habitual tense current, “Me go store yesterday” gives us past, but which past, i.e. which aspect? “Me go store yesterday and see accident on road” suggests a reading of imperfective aspect, so to guarantee that we might say “Me on way go store yesterday see accident on road” but to guarantee perfective meaning we can add “done” as in “Me done go store” so don’t ask me to go again.

Tracing the history of languages like French, English, Latin, and all of them, we see just such usages becoming affixed to words and turning into morphology, i.e. the shape of the word (cf. Latin to Romance future with the verb + ‘have’ construction). Within a speech community, daily contact and use of the language creates denser and denser morphology, complexification, if you will.

Take a “simple” structure, the term TPRS uses for any utterance that is unitary in meaning, i.e. a word, a phrase, an expression. “Food” is a good example. Pretty simple in English, ‘food’ and the plural ‘foods’ and you’ve got the whole grammar. But wait a minute! Are the structures ‘food’ and ‘foods’ really used the same way with the same meaning? If you see a table set with several steaming dishes out, do you say, “Look at the foods on the table” ? No, ‘food’ is a mass noun and pluralizing it gives us types of food, like ‘sands’ gives us types of sand.

In French, the equivalent word, ‘la nourriture’, is complicated by the matter of gender, ‘la’.

A verb like ‘eat’ can be used intransitively or transitively: ‘he’s eating’ vs ‘he’s eating waffles’. Lots of languages have to signal the switch from one to the other. In French the nice paradigm of elementary FL classes: I, you, he/she/it, we, you all, and they, gets upending by ‘on’ which replaces routinely ‘nous’ (‘we’) and typically other persons as well.

Today, July 8, 2019, we will review structures. I had listed several pages of them from our conversations and was surprised, on reviewing, them at how many she should know – we’ll see. I will present them in a context, albeit brief, to see if she comprehends.

Later – I gave her about 20 structures embedded in sentences. She answered all correctly except for confusing difficile and facile. The sentences were like Ou on achete les vetements, au magasin ou a la piscine? Obvious answer but requiring knowledge of all the words. So I was very happy with that.

I had written up the above item on grammar. I was asking her about her satisfaction with the lessons and she said she tries speaking at home (!) but cannot string words together. Aha! I pounced. I asked her what the problem seemed to be: vocabulary, pronunciation, spelling, etc. and she identified grammar without me suggesting it. So I launched into the above and told her there were two ways to teach grammar: we could look at nouns and verbs and so on, which doesn’t work, or we could go back, way back, to telling stories, but this time around she would answer in French. “Oh, no-o-o-o!” she announced in mock horror.

I reminded her that she was not yet where Ben Slavic’s time table would put us for emitting L2 . However, we also never got to the point of spontaneous utterances. In a class, you could ordinarily count on some students to blurt out in L2 but a single student, esp one intent on “being right,” does not offer that dynamic.
Then I proceeded to tell her how I would be writing the utterances on the easel so she could see them as well as hear me offering answers like Les chiens mangent la nourriture de chien ou de chat where she would answer de chien. This is the way we can break through to production (she called it output – too much time around me). Exciting. I hope she continues reading but she has SATs the end of August and is studying hard for them.

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