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Myths about language (part 2)

For all kinds of “inability” to foreign languages often is either a lack of knowledge of the native and – I’m not afraid of the word – dislike for him, which generates, in turn, internal resistance to someone else, or an elementary lack of diligence and perseverance. This with one hand. On the other hand, there are external factors: bad teachers or methods that do not match your character or mindset. A good teacher who is able to pick up the “key” to your learning style, the language is mastered by all without exception. Even the Negroes of old age.

Myth four: “I mean, you know»
I happened to visit an Arab country not so long ago. Since Arabic is not one of the most widely spoken languages in the world and tourists in the country are like sand on the seashore, almost all local residents who have to come into contact with foreigners (that is, mainly traders, hotel staff and service providers) can speak English and Russian. Does that mean they know these languages? Nothing like that. A minimum vocabulary and a couple of grammatical structures for all occasions help them to Express and understand everything they need in a rigid set of specific situations. This set may be more or less broad, but as soon as the conversation goes a little to the side or you forget yourself and begin to speak in sentences of more than four words, the illusion of meaningful communication dissipates. Okay, if you just look puzzled, and then you can understand the opposite…

All this is as if purposely invented to refute in practice another common myth: to speak the language and know the language – one and the same. And the best illustration of the costs of a communicative method of teaching, which puts oral speech at the forefront, simply can not be found.

Speaking is great, it is an essential part of language proficiency. But… a parrot can talk, too. And the frequent requests of students: “Teach me oral speech, without reading and without grammar”, in fact, means one thing: make me a bird-Mockingbird. Of course, the set of lexico-grammatical structures taught in “conversational” courses exceeds the one that has any wavy Cache, but the principle of learning is the same.

An interesting thing: sometimes a person who passively knows the language (that is, who knows grammar and has a certain vocabulary, but does not use them in practice), if necessary, is explained much more successfully than a “walking PhraseBook”. Understanding how a foreign language works and how it works increases the maneuverability of speech and makes it possible to come to an understanding in any situation.

Myth five: “do Not be afraid to make mistakes»
Really, it is not necessary to be afraid of it. Fear binds the tongue and you will never razgovorilas if you shiver over every said the sentence: what if the wrong? In addition, if you do not “voice” a construction in which you are not sure, and the teacher will not correct you, you will never know how it should sound in reality.

Mistakes are a useful thing, but for the time being. Namely, while they are learning. And learn in order to continue to do them. This contradictory nature of mistakes has created a double-edged myth around them, which greatly hinders those who, in principle, want to learn to speak without them.

On the one hand, there is a belief that in the process of learning mistakes do not need to be corrected, except for the most gross, distorting the meaning of speech; then, they say, in the process of further training everything will be formed by itself. This opinion can be heard from many “radical” teachers working on the communicative method. As a student and am a teacher it does not get better – so that’s all right.

In fact, “by itself” nothing happens, including errors are not corrected “by the pike’s command.” Of course, you can speak illiterate at the international pidgin, but you do not need to study for this.

My University teacher, a wonderful teacher K. P. Gintovt (now, unfortunately, the deceased) often said that she did not like to work with graduates of special schools: “they Have a large vocabulary, they chatter fluently, but grammatical errors just stuck in their speech. Much easier with students from ordinary schools. Let them know nothing – it is easier to teach than to retrain.”

Other extreme: every, even the smallest mistake must be corrected. This is often found in the classroom using traditional methods (although unimportant teachers), resulting in poor student is afraid to open his mouth. Yes, “perfectionism” often leads to paralysis of speech activity. When the young composer Anton S. first came to Germany for an internship, he was very sad because of his imperfect German speech. And he asked a German friend: “Correct me if I say something wrong.” Pedantic Niklas treated his task conscientiously, and as soon as Anton said the word, pulled him: “You do not pronounce”, “there is no Such expression”, “Not that case”, etc. As a result, our hero, a talkative person and also knew German quite well… was silent. Having come to his senses, he dismissed Niklas from the post of teacher and went to courses. Everything ended well: now Anton not only speaks brilliantly in literary German, but also skillfully depicts Berlin, Munich and other dialects.

So, the right approach is the “Golden mean”. Mistakes, of course, need to correct. But not mechanically, otherwise it will come out as a school joke about a boy who instead of have gone said have went. The teacher left him after class and gave an assignment: to write in a notebook have gone, have gone… the Student did so, and then with the consciousness of duty done went home, leaving a note to the teacher: Here is my copybook. I have went home.

Myth six: “Ellochka cost thirty»
Even a superficial comparative analysis of vocabulary in foreign textbooks for beginners (adults) shows that the authors seem to have specially tried to make students very bored.

The more words, the better – this is a common myth, which is often based on the formation of vocabulary.

When a child is taught a foreign language vocabulary, without strict order calling him the surrounding objects (“This is a table, eat behind it, this is a chair, sit on it”) – this is quite natural: about the same way he recently mastered his native language. An adult, as a rule, is set up to the fact that from the very beginning of classes the material he passed can be used for communicative purposes, that is, simply put, for communication. Now imagine a solid uncles or aunts, perebrasyvaya remarks like: “Anna and Mar swim”. – “And I work in the Ministry of foreign trade.” “I read the story “the bad lion””. – “And my family is big and friendly»…

About this porridge is formed in the head for the passage of the first lesson, some books in English and German (which taken all of these suggestions). Despite the considerable number of memorable words, in a meaningful, tied to life situations speech, they do not line up. And once abroad with such a “baggage”, a person finds himself in the position of an anecdotal Dutchman who came to Germany, having confirmed a beautiful phrase from the textbook: “did You happen to see my grandmother’s red cow?”It is clear that he never had a chance to inquire about the whereabouts of this useful animal.

No wonder the well-known Igor Schechter aptly compared such educational texts with absurd dialogues from Ionesco’s plays. “It is clear why students so often do not like foreign language classes: it is necessary to mechanically memorize certain operations with unclear why spoken words – it is difficult, it is boring, it is violence, it is stupidity. And it’s a wild stress finally!”– this is the opinion of the Creator of the emotional-semantic method, where the basis of learning is not words and not even structures, but replicas, from which a meaningful dialogue is built.

The myth of the vocabulary arose when the language was taught with a focus not so much on live communication as on reading and translating texts. Of course, if you are going to become a professional translator – learn words, good and different. And if you need the language for business, and you are forced to conduct a small talk on the subject of “English theater”? Anyone “vzvoet” as “howled” my students – employees of a certain company, which I once undertook to teach business English, still vaguely imagining how it is done… But then, together and “method of poke” we found: the necessary and interesting vocabulary is quite fit into the structures and replicas corresponding to their aspiring to zero level of knowledge. Roughly speaking, phrases like The accountant is late (“late Accountant”) to them carried a lot more meaning than “The table is big”. And remembered better.

There are other myths. And legends. And misconceptions. General and individual. Malevolent and not very. But about them – another time.

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