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Communicative Competence

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

  1. Vladimir

    Vladimir Senior commenter

    And even then it's not really learned in most cases because it has only been committed to short-term memory for the impending test. Ask the pupil to recite the same information a week after the test the information was needed for and you'll notice considerable deterioration of recall. A month later and you'll be lucky to get more than the first sentence! If language is learned properly and the grammar-scaffold is in place, you don't need to commit vast chunks of 'meaningless' TL to memory because you'll be able to pull together the language you need on the spot, almost as well as you do in your native language. This is as it should be, but somewhere along the line, this has all been forgotten and genuine learning and linguistic has been replaced by learning for a task that will be quickly forgotten.
  2. minka1

    minka1 Occasional commenter

    "If language is learned properly and the grammar-scaffold is in place, you don't need to commit vast chunks of 'meaningless' TL to memory because you'll be able to pull together the language you need on the spot, almost as well as you do in your native language".

    I agree with what you said up until the above point. I just don't understand the process where you say by using your method "you'll be able to pull together the language you need on the spot". Probably ideal for those 20% motivated students who would succeed whatever system was used. But not the other 80%.
    Mnemonics is the best method I know to store information in short term and long term memory. I do not know of one MFL teacher who uses this method - on these forums or elsewhere. And not one has put any reasons why they think it is ineffective.
    And I dare to suggest I won't get an answer on this forum either.
    Mnemonics gives students the ability to remember words more quickly and more effectively and with more enjoyment from day 1. And in my experience people who think they are learning want to learn more.
  3. Dodros

    Dodros Star commenter

    Well, I've used mnemonics all my career first as MFL teacher and then as SEN teacher. I was taught "dogwuf" (durch, ohne, gegen, wider, um, für) back in the early 1960s as a method of learning the prepositions taking the accusative in German and I'm really glad my parents got me a copy of Bateman's "Aids to Modern Language Teaching" (2nd edition, 1960!) which is chock full of mnemonic devices. Don't people use "Dr & Mrs Vandertramp" to teach French verbs with être as their auxiliary in the passé composé any more? I still remember from the 1960s the Latin words "tandem" (at last: "at last, they said, when they got off the tandem") and "paene" (almost: "the pie-ne (paene) is almost ready") after discontinuing Latin in 1965 without further study or teaching the subject - ever. And if that's not enough in the way of credentials, the most popular resource I've written for the TES resources site is "Subject to recall: memory activities across the curriculum", a collection of mnemonics for teachers of National Curriculum subjects. See:
    Am I alone in having been taught foreign languages using mnemonics and then teaching these languages using the same strategy?
  4. Not sure how many are teaching the passé composé as such these days. I have difficulty remembering mnemonics. What helps me memorise (and I have just been studying Latin again with the OU) is rythmn and pattern.
  5. jubilee

    jubilee Star commenter

    Mnemonics were never used when I was learning languages. When I first came across the Mrs Vandertramp one in the late 1990s when I was doing my PGCE,I was puzzled by it. It reminded me of the Paul Daniels method of MFL learning whereby you associate the MFL word with an image based on an English approximation to the MFL sound. Thus, when trying to learn the French word poulet (chicken), you imagine a chicken jumping into a pool whilst saying "eh!".
    With mnemonics, you learn the contrived word or phrase and still have to remember what aspect of language it is designed to help you with and work out the MFL word for each initial letter.I'd rather concentrate on the simple list of MFL words!

  6. minka1

    minka1 Occasional commenter

    To Jubilee
    It's not Paul Daniels method. He endorsed it. There are various papers that attest to the effectiveness of using mnemonics as an aid to learning languages. If simple lists work for you and your students. Fine. There is a leap of faith required, though there is a lot of scientific support that retention is much higher than other methods.
    To Dodros
    I realise you are one of the few people on these forums who acknowledge the benefits of mnemonics as did the late Graham Davies. But you are very much in the minority. At least jubilee has tried it.
  7. Dodros

    Dodros Star commenter

    Indeed. If I recall correctly, this strategy was associated with Linkword foreign language learning software. I for one don't think it should be dismissed too quickly as an approach, however much in a minority I may be when I say so. We need a variety of weaponry in our methodological arsenal.
    Moreover, when I moved over to SEN, I began to view teaching and learning methodology in a more cross-curricular way and recognised the value of using approaches that were familiar to students through subjects other than MFL. I don't think MFL does itself any favours by overclaiming its own uniqueness and ignoring whatever works elsewhere in the curriculum and may work in the context of MFL too. Our MFL students are simultaneously learning almost a dozen other subjects. If all subject teachers can find a little common ground when it comes to methodology, it can only benefit the students we teach, many of whom have learning differences and need to be shown a variety of ways of accessing the subjects they study.
  8. Vladimir

    Vladimir Senior commenter

    Then you don't know me! I have used mnemonics extensively in my own language learning. I would say that mnemonics is not one method, but many different systems depending on what you have to commit to memory. I can show you how to learn both Japanese syllabaries in a couple of easy hours, Korean hangul in as little time, and how to commit thousands of Chinese characters to memory including their tones and pronunciation with laughable ease. Vocabulary words that contain cognates are a piece of cake, and those that don't can be learned almost as easily once you learn to apply your mind to them. There is a catch, however: you have to use your mind effectively to make the mnemonics work and also recognise that in most cases, a mnemonic is a crutch alone, and if used unwisely, will lead to confusion and inaccuracy. Let's take a crude mnemonic as an example. You could tell your students to learn the French for monkey by getting them to link an image with a monkey being singed. But you can bet your bottom dollar that once that image has sunk in, along with the familiar English word 'singe', you will get many pupils unable to get away from the English sound of 'singe' and pronounce it the French way you want them to. I've only met two other teachers who used mnemonics. One I never saw teach but she talked about them on one of my placements so I don't know how she applied them, and that was years ago anyway. The other was Japanese and only used them sparingly but the ones I saw him using were very effective. Mnemonics are extremely effective in the right 'hands' (by this I mean 'brain') and so is grammar, when learned and applied wisely. Without an excellent command of grammar, the vocabulary words you love so much won't be able to find their proper shape and place in the sentence. Oh, and one more thing - for goodness sake, learn to use the quote function! Here's a simple rhyming mnemonic to help you: To copy what Vlad wrote, always click on 'quote'.
  9. curlyk

    curlyk New commenter

    I have always used mnemonics when learning a MFL and teaching. Most MFL teachers I have worked with, use them . Science teachers use them `, My very easy method just speeds up learning planets` etc, Music teachers do ,English teachers certainly do, when teaching the spelling of odd or difficult words. Any hook for children to hang onto, is useful. I use songs,raps and , mnemonics when appropriate. My motto is , if it helps/ works ,use any method . Trial and error.
  10. minka1

    minka1 Occasional commenter

    At least it sinks in. I trust teachers would prefer to correct the pronunciation of a word that has been learnt rather than seeing blank faces when asking eg what the French word is for table. Pronunciation comes with time and practice. Or are you saying that using other methods, even your own, pronuciation is correct first time.
    All mnemonics is, is a very good filing system. You 'link' the word to an image to help you 'find' it's translation when it does not come to you immediately.
    I am glad to see though that you acknowledge some usefullness for the method.
    I look forward to hearing from the 100's of others who have tried it. And their arguments for and against it.
    I don't want to detract too much from the title of this forum Communicative Competence so if you want to message me feel free to do so. But I strongly feel lack of vocabulary is the main thing that holds students back.
  11. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    I guess mnemonics work well for some and not others. I always remembered the German prepositions which took the accusative case by the mnemonic DOGWUF. Nice.
    As a teacher over the years, I didn't go in for them that much, probably only using MRS VANDERTRAMP (and variations) and an aide-mémoire for children.
    I continue to lean towards the "throw lots of structured, graded TL at them" approach, although I daresay some minds work differently.
    The chief Ofsted MFL lady Elaine Taylor (who has watched many a lesson) said at a recent conference that what often works best is "tried and tested methods done well". I take that to mean a mix of TL, explanation, structured practice, vocab learning and controlled communication.
  12. Vladimir

    Vladimir Senior commenter

    Oh dear! I think you've got the wrong end of the stick. You're filtering my message through to what you want it to say.
    Are you asking me a question? I agree that pronunciation takes practice, especially if you don't have an 'ear' for languages.
    Actually, yes, I am. Pronunciation is one of the elements that needs to be mastered before the learner rushes off to learn a lot of mispronounced vocabulary words. In the early stages a great deal of effort must be expended to learn the sounds of the foreign language - spelling rules in relation to pronunciation and phonetics. Yes, that's right, phonetics! I see no sense in learning bad habits and your excuse for them (which is what I'm reading into the last sentence quoted above) is the very same excuse used to ignore grammar and try to 'communicate' regardless. I cannot condone such a slapdash approach to learning anything, especially something as complicated as learning a foreign language!
    Oh, it's a great deal more than that!
    Vocabulary is very easy to acquire if you know how. I say it's lack of grammar that holds learners back. Off-topic question here, but are you Polish, by any chance? The name is the reason I ask, nothing more.
  13. Vladimir

    Vladimir Senior commenter

    Hello, Mr Krashen! This approach you favour so much works in the end, with a great deal of TL input and if the learner is young enough, willing enough and/or put in a position where he has no option to refuse. The child learning his first language is a perfect example of this. This approach is passive and takes a lot of time otherwise so what older learners need, those who need to see the results faster and who are restricted in how much TL they can, or want to, be exposed to, need a much more active approach that gets behind and inside what needs to be learned to see the results. Your TL input approach is akin to watching hours of soccer on TV and then expecting to play like a pro. You can learn something from it, but you have to put in active training to see any real improvement. Why not just learn what to do instead of wasting hours watching others play? Time well spent?
  14. noemie

    noemie Occasional commenter

    Mnemonics is the only way I could remember physics formulas at A-level. I used a few for German prepositions too! And I do teach with Mrs Van Der Tramp and my frequent verbs are known to my classes as Frajels (faire regarder aller jouer écouter lire sortir) or gagaluf in Italian. But I can't say this is a major aspect of my teaching, rather an incidental one - it's quite a rare occurrence, as I believe if I used lots of acronyms some pupils would start to be confused by them and forget the meaning behind the acronyms. It works best when they come up with it themselves, as I did back in the days when I was failing my Physics course...
  15. minka1

    minka1 Occasional commenter

    The way I see it Vladimir we are at polar opposites with respect to certain things. I would rather someone could say a lot but only reasonably well. I think you would be happier for someone to say a lot less but they sound great. Put my student and your student on the South Coast of France and ask them to make their own way back to England asap using only the French language I think there would only be one winner and that would be the same person who enjoyed his conversations with people on his way home.
    Furthermore I am of the belief that perfect pronunciation can only be achieved by living in the target language country. That is not to say it should be neglected.
    The emphasis on perfect pronunciation has always confounded me. In my experience most people I have heard who speak English as a second language do not have perfect pronunciation and you can detect from their speech what their first language is. Seems to work for them.
  16. Vladimir

    Vladimir Senior commenter

    Your assumption is incorrect. I would expect a great deal in all areas from my students, as I expect from myself. There is no compromise in any area.
    This is nonsense. What a silly idea for an experiment! The idea that a student trained to a high degree cannot enjoy conversing with the natives is utter poppycock. In fact, such a student is likely to have far more meaningful conversations with the natives than some drongo who is just muddling through and having a bit of a giggle with the natives in awful, broken French.
    It can help with intonation, certainly, but in this day and age one can train one's accent to an exceptional degree at home with a good ear and training in phonetics. You like it when people know how to learn something, don't you? Well, they can learn how to train their pronunciation too. That isn't to say I believe going abroad is a negative experience, before you try to go down that route, it's just that not going overseas is no longer an excuse.
    Indeed. I have already commented on how many of the Poles who come to the UK speak exceptional English. They undoubtedly train hard in grammar back home and understand the distinction between grammatical and idiomatic English. So what's your point? They manage well because they have grasped the language, not just the vocabulary, but also the grammar and flow of English. Remember that you are playing down grammar, while you are promoting your all-important basic vocabulary. Good pronunciation helps; excellent pronunciation is the icing on the cake.
  17. jubilee

    jubilee Star commenter

    Why do you assume that being able to pronounce words properly (through being taught the pronunciation rules and learning them) will cause the learner to be unable to cope with learning large amounts of vocabulary?
    How does not being able to pronounce words correctly enable the learner to internalise more MFL than their counterpart who can pronounce words correctly?
    Your student, abandoned in the South of France , and left to get himself home, will not benefit (in the task) from enjoying his conversations en-route. The people he speaks too will derive less enjoyment from the encounters and may be unable to offer any assistance if they can't decipher what is being said to them.Or they may not be the 'sympathetic native speaker' who has enabled so many examinees to get credit for dubious communication!
    If you have learnt the pronunciation rules early on, your listenings skills will also improve at a faster rate as you'll be able to convert what you hear to the written form of the words you have already been introduced to.
    If you've been giving those written words your own peculiar sounds, based on how they might be pronounced if they were English words, you're unlikely to recognise them when they are pronounced correctly on a tape/ CD/DVD.
    It's puzzling that in this era of greater emphasis on Speaking and Listening skills in MFL, there is not a greater expectation of correct spoken communication skills! It's not happening, in my opinion, because we don't lay down the pronunciation rules early on (or at all). Pupils tend to be introduced to words in a far too controlled way (these are the 8 or 10 new words you will come across today etc), whereas knowing how to say particular grouping of letters allows learners to pronounce any word that they come across.
    We are told that teachers should be facilitators and let pupils lead their own learning (not altogether sold on that rhetoric!) but nothing approximating to that can happen in MFL if pupils are so controlled in the language that they are allowed to use, yet are not required to use it properly.
    I remember being shocked on my first teaching practice when the teacher told a pupil off for not confining their homework piece to the words and phrases (for the topic) that had been covered in class. The pupil had dared to use a dictionary to be able to include some information that they wanted to communicate. The message was loud and clear; only provide me with the exact sentences that you've been given as they are correct and will get you a specific NC level!
    Everyone's written work was expected to be virtually identical, with given phrases simply grouped in a different order. You'd expect the spelling to be perfect with such copy 'n' pasting but it rarely was because mindlesss copying hardly concentrates the mind.

  18. minka1

    minka1 Occasional commenter

    Hi Jubilee,
    I don't think I've ever said that pronunciation is not important. Nor grammar. I just think students are put off learnig languages iin the early stages of encountering a new language 1) because they feel restricted by too many rules and 2) because once you fall back in vocabulary acquistion relative to the top performers in the class you never catch up. May I refer you to the forum below which may better explain what I mean.



    Does sound like a bad teacher or another one who seems to have been caught up with modern trends to teach to the exam. So their school keeps up in league tables. But then you have the contradictory requirement as you say

    I don't envy MFL teachers having to meet those 2 requirements.
  19. jubilee

    jubilee Star commenter

    The last of those 2 requirements, minka1, is a recent development. In the intervening years, a greater focus on grammar in MFL has been the order of the day, but not enough in my opinion as we still have a Topic based approach instead of a language structure one.

    I don't think that you can claim that students are put off languages in the early stages because they feel restricted by rules, because they rarely encounter rules in the early stages. Perhaps they'll become more motivated when they make the strides in MFL acquiition that rules enable.
    Teach language rules and learners have a framework for manipulating new language that their teacher may never have mentioned. That's independent learning. Teachers will also have more interesting work to mark as it won't be almost identical to what everyone else writes.
    When a child is learning its mother tongue, you don't let them continue with poor pronunciation. You 'challenge' it by repeating correct speech , encouraging the child to repeat it and deliberately using their problem words to get them practising it more.
    In MFL, where the child is not exposed to TL all the time, the rules of pronunciation help them to get it right more quickly. Getting it right then motivates them.
  20. minka1

    minka1 Occasional commenter

    So why do you think Jubilee, the UK has such a bad reputation in learning foreign languages.

    Really? I would at least in the first few months.

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