Thursday, July 30, 2009

Listening/Learning Strategies

From Lessons from Good Language Learners edited by Carol Griffiths:

1 Cognitive strategies: these are activites which learners use to remember and develop language and to facilitate comprehension.
- predicting what a pice of listening will be about, or what language/information will come next;
- drawing inferences when information is not stated or has been missed;
- guessing meanings of unkown words;
- using intonation and pausing to segment words and phrases;
- other micro-strategies to do with processing language - identifying stressed words, listening for markers, listening for structures etc.;
- using schematic and contextual information (top-down) together with linguistic information (bottom-up) to arrive at meanings;
- visualizing the situation they are hearing about;
- piecing together meaning from words that have been heard.
2 Megacognitive strategies: these are activities which learners ue to organize, monitor and evaluate how well they are understanding.
- focusing attention, concentrating and clearing the mid before listening;
- applying an advance organizer before listening (I think the topic is going to be ..., so ...);
- going in with a plan (I'm going to listen for ... words I know/key words/cognates ...);
- getting used to speed and finding ways of coping with it;
- being aware when they are losing attention and refocusing concentration;
- deciding what the main purpose of listening is;
- checking how well they have understood;
- taking notes;
- paying attention to the main points;
- identifying listening problems and planning how to improve them.
3 Socio-affective strategies: these are activities in which learners interact with other people in order to help their comprehension and encourage themselves to continue listening.
- asking for clarification;
- checking that they have got the right idea;
- providing themselves with opportunities for listening;
- motivating themselves to listen;
- lowering anxiety about listening;
- providing a person response tot he i nformation or idea presented in the piece of listening;
- empathizing with the speaker and trying to understand the reason for a particular message.

Mandarin Chinese Learning Resources
- a resource that discusses the etymology of the characters.
- a technical, dictionary like resource that describes the etymology of characters.
- character flashcard program.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Language Learning Games

What to do to practice language input/output.

1. Have someone read the numbers in the L2 and then write them in numerical form. This is specifically aimed at over coming the trouble many people have negotiating in a market because the numbers don't come quickly enough.
2. 4/3/2 - documented by Paul Nation. Prepare a talk, then give the talk to 3 listeners. 1st listener for 4 minutes. No notes, no written queue cards. Just talk. This is not a vocabulary development exercise, this is a fluency exercise. After the talk, move to the next listener. Repeat the talk for 3 minutes. Move to the next listener. Repeat the talk in two minutes.
3. Circumlocution - or something like that. Basically talk around a word. Something like Taboo. This is a normal part of learning to speak a second language, you must be able to explain something when you don't know the exact word that covers it.

Comprehensible Input

I think it was Stephen Krashen who made the point that one effective strategy for language learning is to develope techniques for soliciting comprehensible input. For example, if you can ask for something you don't understand to be repeated, more slowly. Question statements by rephrasing. Provoke conversation.

With this in mind, make sure you take the time to learn phrases that allow you to respond when you don't understand, to ask for clarification.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

No Critical Period?

Reading for Learning

I've read several accounts by people who place an emphasis on reading in the target language as soon as possible.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Shanghaihua Materials

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Language Study Method Resources
- a blog from a man who taught himself Japanese while he was in
university. If you look around the site he covers the things he did
which he feels made his efforts as successful as they were. One of the
big things I got from him was to focus on phrases.
- the Second Language Aquisition researcher in New Zealand. He writes
about studies he has done about effective language teaching
methodologies. The second link are his publications. I haven't managed
to get any of his books yet.

There is a book by Barry Farber called How to Learn Any Language. I've
read it a couple of times, but the public library doesn't have it and
I don't have a copy. He is very big on flash cards and learning in
your hidden moments. He says he always keeps some flash cards with him
and studies in line, or on the bus, or whenever he has a spare moment.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Mandarin Chinese Learning Resources

Here are the Mandarin/Language study resources I've found:
- There are over 1000 lessons at different levels. Based in
Shanghai, so I suspect it is Shanghai flavoured Mandarin. - Spoken Mandarin at a slower rate of speech.
- a spinoff from the Confucious Institute. Do NOT purchase this product. Like the Confucious Institute site, it is badly organized and difficult to understand. Also, although it is quite new, don't buy the printed materials. They used Flash 7 and you will be unable to run the included CDs on any recent installation of Flash. Tech support is limited. They only support IE. There is limited material available on the site once you get in. No explanation of what you are trying to learn. For example, in the first unit of level 3, they are trying to teach the difference between you4 and zai4, two ways of indicating repetition (of saying 'again'). To teach the difference between the two, there is 2 example sentences, one with you4 and one with zai4. That is it. No explanation, no other examples, nothing. You are far better off with purchasing content from another site such as ChinesePod. They have better explanations (if you like explanations) and huge amounts of example sentences (if you prefer to learn by induction.)
- this is a pretty new site, I think about 6 - 8 months old. You can
get a trial subscription to try it out. It seems to be very similar in
design to ChinesePod, but more focused on written work, and not as
much support on the site. Based in Beijing.
- This site is even newer. It's a partnership of PopupChinese and
another company. It's progressional based. ChinesePod and PopupChinese
produce lessons at different levels and you can learn them in any
order. This site seems to focus on a gradual progression of lessons.
Based in New York, with hosts from various places.
- has a variety of videos, and possibly other material that I haven't found yet.
- seems to be progressional audio lessons. Based in Taiwan.
- More podcasts. It looks very similar to ChinesePod or PopupChinese.
- on line learning materials, level based instruction. Has various streams, professional vs student, which affect the topics studied and the vocabulary learned. I have not yet tried it.
- Chinese Online Contemporary Chinese
- videos in Chinese.
- BBC in Mandarin
- annotates Chinese characters with pinyin.
- written stories with assocaited MP3s.
- videos

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition

Author: Stephen D. Krashen

First published in 1982. That is getting close to 30 years ago. I'd love to read something more recent and see how his ideas have changed or evolved.

He distinguishes between language learning and language acquisition. Language learning is a conscious process of grammar study, vocabulary memorization and drills. Language acquisition is a subconscious process of internalizing comprehensible input.

Comprehensible input is really the big thing I took away from this book. He theorizes that we do not need to spend our time practicing grammar and memorizing vocabulary, and that these things are not really helpful to the process of speaking a language most of the time. He believes that is is the quantity of comprehensible input that determines our language ability.