Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Spanish Learning Chapter - 15

The Affective Factor

The chief problem for most Americans who want to learn Spanish but who don't succeed is the Affective Factor. Plainly put, this means the emotional issues; that is, adults become freaked out at the thought. The fear of getting put on the spot and embarrassed is just too much to bear.

I've talked to plenty monolingual American and Canadian expats in Mexico who do not learn Spanish. They are, therefore, forced to live in the various Gringolandias because they are too fearful of learning Spanish. They self-perceive the problem as their "advanced years" or, as one cantankerous old coot put it, "I have too lousy of a disposition to learn Spanish."

Really, the fear of making a mistake is the issue here. If you attend a class, you are put on the spot when your turn comes to produce something verbally in the language. You've got to perform in front of others who may be really, really good in the language. This is too much for some folks. Adults tend to come to the private schools in Mexico where students at all manner of levels are mixed into the same class. You might be performing in front of someone who is advanced. You think to yourself that you are going to die of humiliation because you will have to speak Spanish in front of them. You sense they are bored, and they are-you are freaked!

So, what is one to do?

Prepare before signing up for a class at home or abroad.

One of the biggest hoaxes in foreign language instruction is that you have to come to the country where the language you want to learn is spoken. That expensive and time-consuming act is erroneously called "Immersion." It is not going to be true Immersion as Immersion is defined along linguistic terms. If you go to the country where the language you desire to learn is spoken, classes will most likely be taught the same way classes are taught in the States, only all in the host language.

You will not have the skill to ask a question even if you understand what is being taught.

Do your own preparation in the privacy of your own home until you have built up a level of confidence to produce the language in front of a teacher and fellow classmates.

Use the commercially available products on the market to acquire some of the language before you launch into a performance situation in a class in front of others!

The Natural Order Hypothesis

In second language acquisition research conducted in 1974-75, 1980 and 1987, it was postulated that the acquisition of grammatical forms followed a natural and predictable order. How this happens is contingent upon multiple factors. The learner's age and the learner's circumstances seemed not to be a significant influence on this natural order. Dr. Krashen makes the point that this does not mean some sort of curriculum should be devised based on this order.

Krashen's entire point seems to be that there is a difference between the conscious learning of grammatical structures and the unconscious acquisition of speech, no matter the language. Acquisition of speech is far more important in the empowerment of someone who wants to speak the language-spoken fluency.

Critics would say Krashen has drawn too rigid a line between the learning and the acquiring of a second language. Some believe Krashen made these distinctions based on a specific or particular environment in which the learners were found and did not consider the classroom might be an environment that would have some importance in second language acquisition.

Krashen's critics do agree with him that the mass teaching of a linguist's approach to cold, grammatical principles does not facilitate second language acquisition. They go on to suggest that within a classroom, it would be best to help the student construct his own grammar so that he might reach full mastery of the language.

This seems to me to be a throwback to some earlier approaches in which the student, through some kind of touchy-feely existential probing, comes up with "his own grammar."

A natural order might, on the other hand, emerge in the process in which the child, or the second language learner, hears hundreds upon thousands of repetitions from those within the learner's environment who speak the language with correct form and structure. This situation is where the unconscious assimilation of correctness comes. Language is then acquired!



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