Friday, May 11, 2012

Why I'm a bad Mongolian language student and why it doesn't matter

One of the problems that comes with knowing a bunch of SLA theory is that as a language learner you may well not agree with what your teacher thinks is the best way to learn their language. I have three excellent teachers, but here are three things I (don't) do:

1. Homework

I think most homework is a waste of time. I usually don't get given much homework, just an exercise or two, and I do them because I think they are important for my teacher-student relationship. If homework was things like "watch some Mongolian television", or "read this kids' book", then I think that would be valuable (though I still won't like being made to do homework!), but most language exercises are skill-drills, not comprehensible input.

2. Vocab work

I almost never go home and memorise new vocab. I think my teachers expect that I will, and probably think that I do because my recall is usually pretty good, but I think memorisation is an inferior method of learning new words. So I tend to learn what we do in class and forget the rest.

I actually do do some vocab memorisation, with ANKI, but I partly do this because I like punching through flashcards on my phone now and again, and it helps remind me of infrequently used words. So I am not a purist, but vocabulary acquisition is not my main game.

3. Error correction

My understanding of the state of SLA research is that most error-correction has little to no effect on language acquisition. This means that I am fairly lacksadaiscal about mistakes. I'm happy to hear them corrected, but I don't take them to heart in any way. I just figure that continual exposure to correct forms will swamp and overwhelm my leaners' errors. This reduces my speaking anxiety, and helps shut off the monitor. I don't spend time trying to correct myself particularly, and I don't spend time dwelling on them.


2 comments:

arthad said...

Concerning #3: the field has generally rejected the behavioristic approach to error correction, in which teachers corrected each and every student error so it wouldn't become a habit. There's a good deal of literature on the Noticing Hypothesis, though. Well-placed error correction can promote student noticing, which ends up being helpful. See http://nflrc.hawaii.edu/PDFs/SCHMIDT%20Attention,%20awareness,%20and%20individual%20differences.pdf. Ultimatley, though, I agree that too much attention to error is counterproductive. That's one of my frustrations with more traditional approaches to Latin and Greek prose composition. What students need is to write a lot and make a lot of mistakes, rather than write a little bit with very few mistakes.

Seumas Macdonald said...

Ah, I think I have implicitly concluded that the noticing hypothesis is correct.

Thanks!