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Communicative Competence

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by Vladimir, Apr 5, 2013.

  1. Incommunicado

    Incommunicado Occasional commenter

    Correcting myself... thanks to Siegen (post 33) for the link. http://www.disseminate.be/mortality.htm
     
  2. chriszwinter1

    chriszwinter1 New commenter

    It was Graham Davies under his username as Groovy Guzi who posted the link on a thread that spmith had started on approaches and methods at the end of 2011:
    https://community.tes.co.uk/forums/t/537514.aspx?PageIndex=1.
    I was merely reminding forum users of that very good article.
     
  3. steveglover

    steveglover New commenter

    There is too much emphasis maybe on the role of the teacher in teaching language into students rather than the individual student's role in gaining excellence. Eric Hawkins refers in one of his works to a keen linguist going over language forms in his/her head constantly, and internalising the language, presumably playing around with grammatical structures. I can remember doing this myself as a geeky, language-oriented 12 year old humming "Voici la table and other similarly interesting statements".
    I was extremely motivated in German as I was asked to translate letters from a lady's son who had been snatched and taken off to East Germany by her ex-husband. The occasional half-crown I received was gratefully received. I also followed the BBC TV Sunday morning German course, bought the book and got extra practice like this. How much more there is to go at these days!
    Sourcing information on the Tour de France from French radio and from the occasional article in Paris Match in the school library motivated me incredibly in French.
    We were not however taught the language well; grammar tended to be taught straight from the book to be memorised rather than being implanted in an audio-lingual way which would have improved my fluency which had to wait for the exchange. Having taught myself Spanish over the last few years obviously with a lot of knowledge of how language works, learning the grammar as quickly as possible has been helpful using the Michel Thomas approach and then bashing through a "Grammar in Context book" and listening to Coffee break and other podcasts. Reading newspapers is a cinch these days with lingro and the fact that you tend to know the underlying story anyway. Reading a novel requires loads of looking up due to the highly sophisticated nature of the language. Listening via TV comes on very quickly in my opinion especially where the subject is pretty visual.
    In the sixth form all the teachers were so keen on getting their share of literature teaching that increasing our oral and written fluency was sidelined; whilst the exchange and six months working in France at 19 I still lacked much language awareness even at university where I remember discovering that "by doing " was not par + infinitive but required the present participle.
    Sorry this is a bit random. I do tend to think we should do something much more swish with grammar, a kind of Michel Thomas on speed and emphasize the linguistic science and psychology behind grammar- really well conceived animations could probably achieve this...although they would be very expensive.




     
  4. jubilee

    jubilee Star commenter

    I just can't see how that would work with classes of more than about 6 pupils. You also need pupils who can concentrate, with only spoken input, for relatively long periods of time and with very little change of activity too.
    I used the Michel Thomas Italian discs when driving to and from work and had no problems shouting out responses almost before he finished saying the sentence to be translated on the spot. However, I was relying heavily on my knowledge of Spanish and felt held back by not seeing the written word or being introduced to all the parts of a verb at once.
    It's been about a year since I listened to the tapes and I don't think I've retained as much vocabulary as if I'd read up on the pronunciation rules and on the grammar and done paper exercises. Considering the hours I spent on the tapes, I don't think that as much language was covered as could have been using other methods.
    I'm also slightly suspicious of whether his Italian pronunciation was correct, given the way he said some English words. He even criticised one learner on the disc, and other English speakers too, because he said that Brits mixed up want and won't when it was actually his English speech that made it sound like I want to go to.... when he meant I won't go to (or vice versa) and he got frustrated when the 'wrong' Italian was produced.

     
  5. steveglover

    steveglover New commenter

    I'd agree re vocab but he deliberately pared down the vocab to ensure that the approach concentrated on the grammatical scaffolding of the language.
    Also agree with being able to see language not too soon after which is why I mentioned the animation side of things.
    Anyone know how Paul Howard's C'est possible went in schools.
    Re group size, presumably with the number of digital labs and technology around it should be possible to get round this particularly say with more motivated second language students who can be relied upon to concentrate.


     
  6. jubilee

    jubilee Star commenter

    I think learners who are already literate in their mother tongue should see TL in written form at the same time as they are first hearing it.
    Take the example of teaching 1-10 in French. Most pupils cope with it and are soon reeling off the sequence with pronunciation that is acceptable. By delaying the introduction of the written form of the number words, they then tend to write wheat for huit, *** for trois (Ok, I accept that they are usually being deliberately inappropriate with that one!) and nerf for neuf and you have another task on your hands getting them to remove their first spelling impulse from their minds.
    Even VAK theory, which is not my favourite concept, suppoprts having various stimuli for learning. The difference is that VAK looks at what is supposedly the learner's style and I look for what is appropriate for the delivery of a particular piece of learning.
     
  7. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    I have no problem with that even though I was trained (using the London University "oral approach" to avoid it where possible). I do see a disadvantage, however, in that there is some value in training children to just listen. Why not let them just enjoy sound separated from its written representation? In general, I stuck to the notion of hearing first, reading second, when presenting new vocab. It does mean that you give classes two bites at the cherry and added practice if you present orally first, then via reading and writing later.
    The TPRS teachers apparently give written translation in English at the presentation stage, taking advantage of knowledge of the mother tongue. I would have balked at that once, but feel a little less dogmatic these days!
     
  8. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    I believe that the listen first, read later approach is the "oral approach" adaptation of direct method, namely an attempt to mirror first language acquisition. I'm sure you are right, OTTER, about German and Spanish, as the spelling is not likley to harm pronunciation too much.

    The point about "two bites of the cherry" still holds true, but, as I say, I wouldn't want to be dogmatic about it at all. One reason for that is the fact that learners vary in their preferences. My wife, who is an excellent multi-linguist, rates translation a bit more highly than me, for example. I always felt that with quite able children, if they listened hard and just used the language a good deal, nature would take its course, and it does!

    I would often tell my classes that listening was the key to progress and that if they listened well and did their homework conscientiously, they would inevitably make progress.

    BTW, the does not produce paragraphs, so apologies for the single dense paragraph!
     
  9. palmtree100

    palmtree100 Lead commenter

    Thank you for this fascinating thread. I trained and then taught MFL in the nineties for a while. We were taught the communicative method but warned at the end of my PGCE that GRAMMAR was about to make a comeback. Did that not happen? I am dismayed at my own children learning huge chunks of writing by heart for speaking exams and writing CA's. I wouldn't call this CLT and I definitely wouldn't call it grammar.
    I am considering going back to MFL (after working in other areas of education and raising a family) and am genuinely interested in current thinking. Very surprised (but kind of relieved) that my children still use the same metro textbook that I taught with 15 years ago. One of them complains of the majority of lessons based entirely on it, in fact, with the only powerpoint being for aims and date. Surely teachers don't get away with that these days?
    I know that flashcards have been swapped for images on smartboards. Controlled assessments sound awful. Levels had just come in in the nineties but not sublevels and no one took much notice of them; they just described different stages of learning that we already knew about.
    I am aware of the introduction of starters, plenaries and making lesson objectives explicit to students. I also know that I won't be making information gap activites and worksheets using a black, berol handwriting pen!
    What else has changed, please?
    Sorry to butt in here and thanks in advance.
     
  10. Pairwork is great if everyone will do it, but only in very short bursts unless you have an amazing class. A wave of target language follows teacher around the room.
     
  11. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    Classes need training to do pairwork usefully, plus rigorous enforcement of target language rule. That's a question of classroom management. It can certainly work well when the task is well structured, and not just in short bursts, with able to middle ability pupils. That's the only area I am competent to refer to.
     
  12. minka1

    minka1 Occasional commenter

    That's lot of ifs and buts. Does it have to be so complicated.
     
  13. Vladimir

    Vladimir Senior commenter

    With Smithy, ALWAYS!
     
  14. minka1

    minka1 Occasional commenter

    You can talk Vladimir IIyich Lenin?
     
  15. Vladimir

    Vladimir Senior commenter

    That was a question? If so I feel a Lina Lamont quote coming on.
     
  16. minka1

    minka1 Occasional commenter

    It was a statement. Don't know where the question mark came from. Let's have the quote anyway. You've piqued my interest.
     
  17. Vladimir

    Vladimir Senior commenter

    Post 63, most likely.
    'Of course we talk. Don't everybody?'
     
  18. minka1

    minka1 Occasional commenter

    Nice one. I like it.
    Second language learning is obviously a complicated subject matter. And you can get bogged down very easily when discussing methodology.
    I think that vocabulary learning is the most important with grammar next and pronunciation next. If only because grammar and pronunciation can be improved with less effort than vocabulary.
    In this day and age rote learning seems to be a non starter. Whatever other methods are used I think come down to some sort of repetition and those with good memories prosper in MFL.
    All I'm saying is that some sort of memory training beforehand would immensely benefit students particularly in early stages of MFL.
    No?
     
  19. jubilee

    jubilee Star commenter

    Rote learning (of language that they don't properly understand) is all that some pupils do for the speaking element and ,to some extent, for the CA.

    Rote learning of vocabulary isn't really rote learning as most people undertand the term; it's simply committing information to memory.
    Rote learning of verb tenses is probably most akin to learning Times tables in Maths: it makes information available quickly when you want to be creative with language without having to refer to books or to ask the teacher how to say the entire phrase that you want to use.
    If pupils can rote learn multiple question and answers for the Speaking and can memorise whole chunks of text for their CAs, they should be able to deal with learning lists of vocabulary every week and the recitation of verbs ... epecially if started on it before KS4.
     
  20. Vladimir

    Vladimir Senior commenter

    I agree, but nowadays it's against human rights or something or other to try and make kids do anything as 'boring' as learning. That's one reason languages are considered to be so hard in the UK. Children's brains have become flaccid by the time they leave primary school and then we are expecting them to tackle a subject that is dependent on a lot of learning and packing in information. No wonder so many of them resent it! You still didn't explain what you meant by 'You can talk'. Do you mean that you think my ideas are complicated? I don't question and analyse language learning. On the contrary, I have a very clear, highly effective method for learning that has grown out of decades of learning a lot of languages! When you've found perfection, why keep searching? The quote is from 'Singing In The Rain' It's a marvellous film that I recommend you watch, if you haven't already.
     

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