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Autor:  José Roberto
E-mail:  josezambon@terra.com.br
Data:  07/ABR/2006 10:45 AM
Assunto:  Uma nova abordagem

There is a lot of talk about immersion, learning as a child does, etc.  Immersion can be an extremely frustrating experience.  There is nothing quite like trying to ask a question when you don't speak the language reasonably well and the person to whom you are speaking doesn't speak your language.  How do you go about asking why "A" is said instead of "Z"?  If immersion is so wonderful, why does Rio Grande do Sul have so many German-Brazilians who do not speak Portuguese well?  In the USA, I've met dozens (maybe hundreds) of immigrants who have lived there for decades without learning basic English. 


Well give a Ferrari to someone who's never been in the cockpit and tell him to race next Sunday, do you think this person will be the next Formula 1 hero? Only if they have an innate gift for that, even though they'll have to learn many things to become a winner. That's the same with immersion, only immersion per se will not work, the person has to be open to the experience and want to learn more and more, not only use language to communicate, it depends on the individuals, their needs, wishes.            


 If acquisition is so wonderful, why do children make so many mistakes in their speech? 


No, again children do not do any mistakes in the sense we perceive mistakes (failure for example).They are acquiring, experimenting with the language and getting feedback, that's the way we learn or do you think Machado de Assis was born an erudite? 


 And each time that they make a mistake, doesn't the mistake become more difficult to correct? 


No, when we are learning anything, we experiment, discard what is not valid and carry on, observing, hypothesising and experimenting. Mistakes are excellent to learn if followed by feedback.


A few months ago, a plumber who has been speaking Portuguese for over 50 years told me, "Achemos o problema."  Achemos?  He's had a lifetime to learn to conjugate "achar" through acquisition and the man is saying "Achemos o problema." 


It depends now on what we can call a language mistake... probably he'll never say casa as instead of as casas, he might say as casa, studies have shown that even what we call mistakes in a language are nor chaotic, they have their logics. A native speaker never commits mistakes (Chomsky and gang), but surely I wouldn't hire this plumber to teach Portuguese for foreigners. He says achemos because within his community, people say achemos, falemo and etc, it is not in accord with the standard, therefore it is "wrong", he may not be a model, but he speaks his variety of Portuguese.       


Something that probably most can agree on is the child's ability to disregard criticism and talk anyway.  To learn a language, you have to be very receptive to criticism.  You are going to make mistakes and errors.  Lots of them.  If you avoid communication in an effort to avoid criticism, you are going to have a very difficult time.  And yet we often see this in the classroom.  Students who make mistakes are students who are making an effort to learn.  The best way to avoid mistakes is to keep your mouth shut, never ask questions, never volunteer, and never experiment.  Is this fear of criticism related to culture?  Could be.  Perhaps each time we learn from a mistake or error we are one step closer to speaking the second language well.  Too simplistic?  Too obvious?


Everything in life, we'll always come across sympathetic people or not, people who are willing to help us and people who want us to f*** off because the matter is not their concern.  


Women tend to be more talkative than men.  Women also tend to be better linguists than men.  Do you think there is a connection? 


Difficult to say, there might be. 


I wish I could remember where I read this, but somewhere I came across an article about second language learning among Brazilian Indians.  The author wrote that it was a common practice for a learner to listen.  Listen.  That was the learner did.  When the learner felt comfortable with the second language, the learner would speak in it.  How on earth does that work?


That's based on Krashen's theory, again, ask yourself how child develop their language, Pinker is a must on this issue (I have only an article of his).  


People learn in different ways.  I've yet to hear about a language theory that deals with this truth.  Perhaps there is a way to (1) learn which method works best for a particular student, and (2) then guide the student in the learning process according to the method that is the most effective for that student.


That's why we can't talk about in methods but approaches (now I remembered this term) because method is tied to today we're going to study the Present Simple, next class... something not flexible, following a script. On the other hand if the teacher is allowed to follow an approach they'll be free to adjust to their pupils needs "learning (acquisition) is more important than teaching."      


There is something very wrong with language teaching in Brazil.  I don't expect Brazilian teachers to speak perfect English, but many I've met simply can't carry on a simple conversation.  And they are teaching?  Yes, they are teaching; they are teaching their mistakes. 


That's what this site has been showing and what we have exhaustively discussed here, teacher who say that speak and know the language but only have the recieved-knowledge they got some years ago, most without motivation or self-motivation to go on and become a real professional, this situation is sad and we see just some honourable exceptions, the ones who go for it to grow as language teachers. (Respect me, I am an English teacher my diploma says.) 


Brazilian schools often dedicate very little time to language learning.  "Yes, we offer English classes!  Yours is every Tuesday morning between ten and eleven."  One or two hours per week may be common, but the behavior in the classroom greatly reduces even that limited time.  I haven't visited an English class in a Brazilian school for years, but I certainly remember how the young students would ignore the teachers, gossip, greatly cutting into the time the teachers had for teaching. If I were to teach minors, I'd be before the judge on murder charges within the first week.  One morning in a public school in Poços de Caldas, I was considering bringing an AK-47 to school the next day.  The bell rang, and as the kids left the classroom they were giving me hugs or kisses.  Great kids.  Terrible language students.


I, and most of us I believe, have to agree with you. I wish I could only teach/ work with adult learners, few are the shorters who have some insight and are in the classroom to learn, most are there because their parents told them to do so! One has to do the dirty work and here am I and here are some teachers, H. Douglas Brown in his Teaching By Principles states "It takes a very special person to teach children" and we cannot forget that children tend to learn only what is significant to them and so on, Michal Lewis says something like "Language, by its own nature, is not fit for the traditional scheme at school." 



Adult students I've observed, are not like that.  They are paying for their classes, they have a goal/need, and they want results.  Adult students can be fantastic learners. They came to class prepared, they were active in discussions, they asked questions, and they showed enthusiasm. 


Nothing to say, totally in agreement!


I have many more questions that I have answers.  When I get more answers, I'll open a school.  Why not?  Everyone else is doing it.


I guess if we had the answers, we wouldn't need language schools or language teachers anymore...


José Roberto


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Índice de mensagens

 English Made in Brazil -- English, Portuguese, & contrastive linguistics
Uma nova abordagem  –  Paulo  06/ABR/2006, 3:57 PM
Uma nova abordagem  –  Breno  06/ABR/2006, 5:31 PM
Uma nova abordagem  –  Deivis  06/ABR/2006, 7:27 PM
Uma nova abordagem  –  Breno  06/ABR/2006, 10:16 PM
Uma nova abordagem  –  Marcio Osorio  06/ABR/2006, 10:30 PM
Uma nova abordagem  –  José Roberto  06/ABR/2006, 10:51 PM
Uma nova abordagem  –  Dale/RS  07/ABR/2006, 9:00 AM
 Uma nova abordagem  –  José Roberto  07/ABR/2006, 10:45 AM
Achemos o problema  –  Rúbio Terra  07/ABR/2006, 2:42 PM
Achemos o problema  –  orlando  07/ABR/2006, 7:22 PM
To Paulo:Uma nova abordagem  –  Fox Fox  14/ABR/2006, 8:28 PM

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