New Directions in the Teaching of Human Languages—Tim Pulju Ps. Q. Vol XVI, No 2 Contents To Be Or Not To Be Passivized—Joel Boyd

Pitfalls in Second Language Pedagogy

Case Studies in Applied Linguistics

The author has set as the goal of the present study the analysis of difficulties which may arise in the instruction of a second language to adolescents. Several different strategies were attempted with small groups of teenage Vietnamese refugees in the setting of their foster homes. It is hoped that instructors of second languages will be able to look to this article as a guide of strategies not to employ.

Case Study #1
Student Nguyen* (male, age 14) was having difficulty with vocabulary. He had just arrived in the U.S. two months before with no background in English. Using techniques designed to hold the interest of the student, contemporary magazines were paged through, with the instructor naming items in the pictures. The technique was effective until there appeared an advertisement for a feminine hygiene product. The student inquired as to its name and function. Surrounded by the foster family, the instructor deemed it most expedient in this case to proceed to a different exercise.

Case Study #2
Student Nguyen (female, age 15) had an assignment at school to read and comment upon the autobiographical essay of a peer in the class. Not understanding the details of the story, the student approached the present author for aid. The “autobiographical story” mentioned nothing of the peer’s life. Rather, it described ad nauseam his fondness for the musical ensemble Motley Crüe because of their “raunchy” and suggestive lyrics. The Vietnamese student queried the instructor about how to respond to the question “What did you learn about your partner from his autobiographical narrative?”

[In retrospect, one quasi-fortuitive aspect of this episode is that the student undoubtedly will retain the word “raunchy” in her vocabulary.]

Miscellaneous pointers
Do not even attempt to teach a Vietnamese student the unit “What does X mean?”. The alternate phrase “What means X?” is a basic unit of the Vietnamese language which is evidently taught to Vietnamese at birth. It remains with them, in spite of any attempts to instruct them to the contrary.

Do not encourage an atmosphere of questioning the instructor as to the nature of the world. The questions that result are invariably of a nature such that responses are exceedingly difficult to formulate. Examples follow:

“Why do American baseball players earn more than the President?”

“Is it true that viewing pornography makes you assault women?”

“Can a person have a baby with a cow?”

* Using the last names of Vietnamese students actually preserves anonymity as 97% of all Vietnamese people are named Nguyen.

Douglas S. Files Michigan State University

New Directions in the Teaching of Human Languages—Tim Pulju
To Be Or Not To Be Passivized—Joel Boyd
Ps. Q. Vol XVI, No 2 Contents