The Learner’s Task--Keith Slater Linguist of Fortune -- JLSSCNC Vol I, No 1 Contents Divine Unification Grammar--Ælfgar λ. Garcia

Advancing Pedagogical Methodology in the Linguistics Classroom

Shr Ji Wei

The intimate connection between general linguistics and the learning and teaching of foreign languages is easy to understand, even for the layman. Those who understand best the nature of language--the linguistic theorists--are of course naturally best qualified to be involved, as students or teachers, in the furthering of linguistic acquisition in all types of circumstances. This is common sense.

In practice, a relationship has developed whereby language teachers humbly look to linguists to instruct them as to the most effective means of helping students quickly attain proficiency in a second tongue. Much success has thus been enjoyed.

A moment’s reflection, however, will make clear an astonishing omission on the part of linguists: having generously aided language teachers, we have thereafter entirely forgotten to apply the insights we have helped them to gain to our own pedagogical endeavors--the teaching of linguistics. Clearly, we are allowing vast resources of methods to lie fallow, while we struggle along with traditional “lecture and memorize” tactics.

Current methods for instruction of linguistics clearly most resemble the traditional GRAMMAR-TRANSLATION language teaching method. Nothing positive can be said for this approach. However, it it also true that bits of the AUDIO-LINGUAL approach have crept into LIN 101 lectures, at times. Especially when discussion turns to syntax and morphology, the use of A/L could clearly be profitably increased.

Of course, one problem commonly faced in instruction of linguistics is the typically high level of affective filter with which students approach some topics. Surely the armchair and soft music techniques of the SUGGESTOPEDIA movement would do much to calm the trepidations with which our pitiable graduate students confront, for example, logical semantics.

More exciting, however, are the possibilities presented by TOTAL PHYSICAL RESPONSE theory. This behaviorally-oriented elicitation technique promises to solve forever the “bump on a log” approach to study taken by many students who feel that simply listening to lectures is not stimulating enough.

Without question, the greatest potential lies in the ever-increasing popularity of the NATURAL approach, and the closely-related IMMERSION method. The former’s insistence on the use of only naturally-occurring textual material for instruction would have obvious advantages for lecturers tired of blatant falsehoods that insipidly creep into the overgeneralizations and over-simplifications of introductory texts. The latter, albeit difficult to achieve in practice, certainly represents an ideal for exposure to “real linguistics” materials that far surpasses even the most demanding graduate programs of our day.

Taken together, these modern methods of language instruction, developed originally from the work of linguists, quite clearly represent a future of pedagogy towards which our own instruction must move, if we hope to produce among the linguists who will succeed us a level of ability that will guarantee continued progress in our hallowed field of study.

The Learner’s Task--Keith Slater
Divine Unification Grammar--Ælfgar λ. Garcia
Linguist of Fortune -- JLSSCNC Vol I, No 1 Contents