What is language anyway?
I read the quotes and there were two definitions that appealed to me. The first one that appealed to me was: "He who does not know foreign languages does not know anything about his own" from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Kunst and Alterthum. This one appealed to me, because I agree with this statement. If you don't know anything about foreign languages, you don't really know much about your own, because probably many words from your own language are derived from other languages. The other one that appealed to me was: "A different language is a different vision of life" from Federico Fellini. This one appealed to me, because I also agreed with this statement. If you have a different language you mostly live in a different culture, different environment with different values and this determines your vision of life. Your vision of life will be different if you have a different language. My definition of language:
"Language is like a flower bulb, take good care of it and it will develop!"
Can you learn a language? (If yes, that implies there is a cognitive process) How do you do that? What would be the difference between learning and acquiring a language?
I think you can learn a language. This certainly implies that there's a cognitive process, because by learning a language you are involved in obtaining and storing knowledge. Cognition means your capability of learning something or understand something. I think it depends per person how capable someone is of learning a language. Some people for example will learn a language more quickly than other persons. You can learn a language through putting a lot of effort into the learning process. This is the most important factor, the more time you spend on a language, the faster and better you will learn it. This means you have to listen, read, write, speak and study words and phrases. I think the difference between learning and acquiring a language is that if you only learn a language and don't do anything with the information you have learned (you're not putting it into practice), the information will be lost after some time. If you really acquire a language, you will put everything you have learned into practice and repeat things you are not really good at and it will be easier to remember everything you have learned.
Language users can use language creatively: they can express combinations of words that are unique. Is it possible to learn to be creative? What do you think?
I think it is possible to learn to use language creatively. The creative use of language means that you have to talk and write in a for you unique way. You have to use words as your own material to express ideas and thoughts in an unique combination. To use language more creative you should have a big range of vocabulary (you can achieve a bigger range of vocabulary to jot down every word you notice you don't know in a vocabulary log and to memorize them). I think you can use language more creative through doing assignments that encourage you to use your creativity when it comes to language. A creative assignment could be, for example, coming up with your own proverb. In this assignment you have to use language creatively, because you have to come up with an original proverb that doesn't exist, so you really have to think about it and form sentence after sentence until you created an original one. There are a lot of other assignments that learn you to use language in a creative way, for example: writing a story where you can't use a word twice (you have to come up with a lot of synonyms for words, for example you can't use the word people again, but instead you use "the crowd")
Where does language come from?
I think language arose because of the need of the human species to communicate with each other. I think the first form of language came from the first people and first tribes on earth. I think it first started with sounds to communicate and with drawings on for example walls to make something clear to each other and that it later developed further and a language arose. Developmentally, the dialogue (a conversation between two people) came first, because you need two persons to communicate and after the monologue came the dialogue (one person is talking). In the last decennia so many languages arose all over the world and almost every country has its own language. I think because of that the need came to teach children a second language, so they could also communicate with foreigners. I think the consequence of that need was that L2 teaching (teaching a second language besides your mother language) became really important, because communication became more and more important and children would be able to express themselves in another language, for example in English. I think another consequence is that because of the fact that there are so many languages and communication between countries is really important, more languages began to be taught. For example a course in Chinese, Arabic or Russian.
Do you think language? If so, what language? L! (your mother tongue) or L2 (for instance English)? What goes faster: thinking or speaking?
I think language. Language is really important in my thinking process, because my thoughts contain words and sentences from a language. I couldn't think without language about things in words and sentences. My thoughts contain sometimes words or sentences from L1 (my mother tongue) and sometimes words or sentences from L2 (English). This depends on my surroundings. If I'm at school (where almost all my courses are in English) I think in English, but when I'm at home (where my parents speak Dutch) I think in my mother tongue: Dutch. I think thinking goes faster than speaking, because before we talk we think about what we want to say and this process of trying to put our thoughts into words can slow us down. I also think that we can't always keep up with all our thoughts and the things we want to say.
Do you dream language? What/how do you dream? (How) Do blind/deaf people dream?
It's difficult for me to say if I really dream a language and if it's my own language or a language that only appears in my dreams. On the other hand in some of my dreams people are talking in Dutch and sometimes also in English. Language is important in some of my dreams, but sometimes nobody's speaking and then there's just a situation where I'm in and something is happening to me or to somebody else. My dreams are mostly about situations I have experienced before. My dreams are like Déjà vu's. I'm not always aware of all the details I've dreamed about when I wake up, but I do know where it was about. I do think blind people dream, because the fact that they can't dream about visual elements doesn't say they can't dream about something else. I think their other senses play an important role, especially the hearing. I think they dream about conversations. I think deaf people can dream too, but their dreams won't contain conversations or sounds. I think they dream about visual elements.
According to some scientists, a kind of super language exists, a language that is bigger than the language systems as they are taught in schools. Compare the context of "Dream Language" with your answer to the previous questions. What do you think?
My answer is really different then what Blechner says. I said that my own language (Dutch/English) is important in my dreams. Blechner says that "dreams speak their own language, which is designed to be meaningful without necessarily being communicative". I think it might be true that a dream has his own language, because I mostly can't remember what I said in a dream, this is maybe because I spoke in a super language that only exists in dreams. He also says that "dreams are subjectless predicates and the task of dream interpretation is to provide the subject of which the dream is the psychological predicate". I said that I was not always aware of the details in my dream, but I'm always aware of the subject, so I agree with him that dream interpretation provides you the subject. The subject is being omitted, though you understand where it's about. It depends on how you interpret your dream. He also says that "the properties of inner speech are close to the properties of dreams". I don't agree with that statement, because I agree with this statement, because dreams and inner speech have a lot in common. I think inner speech related to dreaming, because inner speech continues during your sleep and plays a big role in forming a dream.
The relevance of Language Awareness for me as a teacher
For me, as a future L2 (English) teacher, it is really important to be aware of language. It is important you are aware of the fact how your pupils learn a language, because this is your main aim: learning your pupils a second language and I think it makes you a more effective teacher if you are aware of the learning process and you know what works the best with your pupils. To be aware of language you should have developed a big range of knowledge about the language. As a L2 teacher you should have knowledge about for example grammar, the culture and literature, because then you will better understand a language and you can be more aware of the language around you. It is important with language awareness that you sometimes focus on language in the second sense (focal awareness), because this is important as a teacher to deal with problems that occur in a process where you use language and to reach a higher level of understanding each other and to use the language. To be aware of language as a teacher it's important to notice the language around you and examine the language in a critical way. I think for me as a teacher it would be smart to keep a sort of journal where I note down things that have to do with the English language (for example proverbs) that really interested me and are still in my mind.
Summary 1: The Audiolingual Method
The outbreak of World War II made clear that the Americans needed to become better in the languages of the countries they had a partnership with and their enemies. That's why a new method came across: "The Army Method", which came to be known in the 1950s as the "Audiolingual Method". The method was based on behaviourist theory (it's a psychology that all things that organisms do can and should be regarded as behaviours). Drills and pattern practice characterises this Method. This method advised that students learn a language directly without using the studens' native language to explain new words or grammar rules. The characteristics of the method are:
- Focus on pronunciation
- Use of videos and other visual instruments
- Learning the vocabulary in the context
- There's no grammatical explanation
It became less popular after 1964, because of River's exposure of the shortcomings in for example promoting the communicative ability, because it paid a lot of attention to memorising things. Students also have little or no control on their own input.
Summary 2: The Direct Method (Gouin and Berlitz)
In his study of 1880 Guin described his experiences of learning German. He attempted to learn the German language by memorising for example a grammar book without conversing with the natives. He went to University to test his knowledge, but failed. He tried to learn the German roots, but failed again. When he returned to France he discovered his nephew already talked a lot. He began observing him and came to a conclusion. Based on the new knowledge he created a teaching method: "Series Method", which taught learners directly series of sentences that are connected that are easy to understand. This method was replaced by the "Direct Method" from Berlitz. The main thought was that second language learning is similar to first language learning. There should be lost of oral interaction, spontaneous use of language and no translation. This method was really popular, but it was difficult to use, because of the budget, the time and the size of the classroom.
Principles of the method are for example:
- Correct pronunciation and grammar are emphasized
- Speech and listening comprehensions are taught
- Grammar is taught inductively (= this is a form of reasoning that draws generalized conclusions from certain observations)
Summary 3: Grammar translation
This method came when modern languages began to be taught next to the classical languages (Greek and Latin). It's a foreign language teaching method and it comes from the method of teaching Greek and Latin. Using this method, students had to translate whole texts word for word and also memorize the grammatical rules and vocabulary lists. The goal of the method was that the students were able to read and translate literary masterpieces and classics. The grammar was taught in a specific way. First the rules were given and then the examples and the vocabulary was introduced in long words lists which should be memorised by rote learning (=focuses on memorization through practicing).The core of this method was: doing grammar exercises, translation and dictation. Even right now the techniques from Grammar Translation takes place in our classroom, for example dictation.
Summary 4: Cognitive Code
The cognitive code put an emphasis on the learning of rules through meaningful practice and creativity. The cognitive code didn't lead to an operational method, but it provided significant influences. It became known in the 1960s when Chomsky released his work on first languages and universal grammars. This changed the orientation of teachers and the attitude towards errors. Many teachers jumped at his work on language and theories of learning. Chomsky's theories of learning (his principles of natural acquisition: to understand something) were in line with the cognitive and mentalist approaches of the time and focused on the importance of learners making sense of things for themselves, but with the guidance of a teacher. It said that learning was not a habit, but it needed cognitive processing and mental effort. It meant that teachers became more comfortable about showing rules, presenting grammar and allowing students to work out rules in class. It allowed teachers to treat errors as not only natural bus as a positive indication that learning was taking place.
Summary 5: Suggestopedia
Suggesstopedia promised great results if we use our brain power and inner capacities. Lozanov came up with a method for learning that used relaxation as a means of getting new knowledge and material. Music played an important role in his method. He tried to present for example vocabulary with classical music in the background and students sitting in comfortable seats. A relaxed mind is an open mind and it can help students to feel more confident.
The way I was taught my second language, reflecting on my own language learning memories
I got in touch with English (my second language) in secondary school. English was an important subject at our school and we had three lessons per week (50 minutes each). We had one teacher that taught us all about the English language. Everything the teacher explained or told us came out of a book ("Stepping Stones") . Almost every lesson started with an explanation about grammar and our teacher gave examples, for example about the present simple. After the explanation we had to make exercises. The thought behind this was that if you put the things you have learnt into practice, you will remember it better. The teacher always said this to us. Afterwards we would check the answers with the whole class. We also had a book that contained Dutch sentences and we had to translate these sentences into correct English. We did this because it would broaden our knowledge about English words and grammar. To improve our spelling the teacher dictated once per week words and we have to write down the correct spelling. We also had to read parts of texts from the book "Stepping Stones". The thought behind this was that through reading words of the English language aloud you would improve your pronunciation. The same book also contained vocabulary lists after every chapter and we had to study these words and we had to practice to memorize them. This shows you that the view of my teacher on language is that through memorizing words from the vocabulary of a language you will understand different contexts better. The method my teacher used to teach us the English language looks like the "Grammar translation" where grammar exercises, translation and dictation are important things. The way grammar is taught is in this method the same as my teacher did: first the rules are given and then the examples. In the method "Grammar translation" is the vocabulary also introduced in word lists and those should also be memorized.
How will I do it when I'm teaching?!
I haven't done an internship yet, so I can't tell about what I ideas I came across on language learning during my internship. I could give you an indication about how I would do it. First of all, I think it's really important to motivate your students and to be really passionate about the English language, because this will have a good effect on the students. In class I would practice a lot with pronunciation, because I think this is really important. I will practice this by doing some exercises or activities with my students. Every week I would let my students read aloud from a book or from a text. I would let some students in class give the person feedback (who was reading) and also me as a teacher will give the student feedback. I think giving feedback is really important, because then the students know which area(s) he or she has to improve. I would also do activities as debating, keeping a discussion and doing presentations, because then the students have to speak a lot and it can help them to improve their pronunciation.
I would also pay a lot of attention to grammar, because this helps the students to write correctly and to put their thoughts and expressions into correct English sentences. Most important with learning your students grammar is practising, because when they practise with the rules they will understand it better and it will be easier to memorize everything. Before practising I think it's also important that a teacher explains first and gives some examples. This idea is based on the theory "Grammar Translation", because this also focuses on memorization through practicing. The core of that method is doing grammar exercises. It's also based on the theory "The Direct Method" where grammar is emphasized and correct pronunciation (like I mentioned before) is also emphasized.
I would also do fun activities with my students, for example watching a English movie of their choice without subtitles (this will give them a bigger range of vocabulary and is really important too) or a vocabulary activity like hints, where every student receives a word (mostly a word they are not familiar with yet) and they have to transcribe the word without using language. Through this activity they will learn more words and they will have a bigger range of vocabulary.
Overall, I think that maybe my ideas of teaching could change when I'm doing my internship. Maybe I will experience other methods that are really effective and my view will change. In January I will have my first internship. I am really excited about that and I'm curious what I will learn from it!
My language awareness reading journal (commenting on 15 myths from the book: "Language Myths")
Myth 1: The Meanings of Words Should Not be Allowed to Vary or Change (Peter Trudgill)
I totally agree with the content of this myth. The meanings of words should be allowed to vary or change, because it doesn't give any problems with for example understanding the words or any other form of confusion. I think the context always makes clear which meaning is intended. I don't mind if a word doesn't has its real meaning by looking at its origins. The important thing is that you can communicate with people. It's normal that a word has different meanings and like I already said, the context makes clear which meaning is intended. I don't think that if you change a word for example that you misuse the language, because now the language gained something new: a new word. I think the worriers can't do anything about it, because change is inevitable.
Myth 2: Some Languages are Just Not Good Enough (Ray Harlow)
I don't agree with the title of the myth, because for example if a language is not a national or official language or the language of science, it doesn't mean it's not good enough. For the people who are using the language, it is. They can communicate with each other and that's the most important thing. I don't agree that if a language doesn't fulfil a wide range of functions it's incapable of doing so. I think it can become more functional and the Maori language proves this, because Maori became an official language, even thought it was a minority language. In the text it says that Maori is not a good language, because it had to borrow words from English to express new ideas, but I think every language borrows words from other languages. The English language has the highest level of "borrowed" vocabulary, so this language is also not good enough according to this argument. I don't agree that if a language is "ugly, rude or barbaric" that it's not good enough, because it's not about status or aesthetics. I agree that all languages are capable of the same types of vocabulary expansion to deal with new topics. I think they can expand a vocabulary though "borrowing" words from other languages (I do think they shouldn't do this too much, because it can hurt a language) or to construct words out of existing resources within the language.
Myth 3: The Media Are Ruining English (Jean Aitchison)
This is certainly a myth. It's not true that the media is ruining the English language. The text shows that there are a lot of people that are worried about the language and that they see the media as linguistic criminals, but I think they are linguistic mirrors: they reflect current language usage and extend it (like is mentioned in the myth). They pick up new words like for example the prefix "mini" and they spread them to a wider audience. Through doing this, they don't harm the language. They also invent new ways of pronouncing a word, for example "kilometres". I think this is good, because people can choose which pronunciation fits them the best. I think media is really important in changing language and that invention takes place, because I think that a language that doesn't change is dead. I agree with the text that the worriers are working with an outdated view of language, because I think they don't like to see change and this is just inevitable.
Myth 4: French is a Logical Language (Anthony Lodge)
Many people referred to French as a logical language (for example the order and structure of the sentence is logical) and it has the capacity for clarity, makes clear the most difficult ideas and the French syntax is incorruptible. I agree that French is a logical language, because of its structure and the order in sentences. Rivarol said that "was it not clear is not French". This sounds to me that French is perfect in all ways. It isn't perfect, because despite it's a SVO type of language (subject, verb + object) there's also inversion some times of subject and verb. There are also plenty of words in French which have more than one meaning. I agree that you can't say that a language system can be shown as more clearer or more logical, because differences of logic or clarity are to be found in the abilities of different users of the language and not in the language itself.
Myth 5: English Spelling is Kattastroffik (Edward Carney)
I don't think English spelling is kattastroffik, but it's difficult, because there are so many rules involved. In the myth they are talking about the consonant sounds and I think these can give you a lot of problems, because the way you pronounce a word is not the same as the way you spell it. For example the word physics, you pronounce the first two letters as a /f/, but you spell it with "ph". I also think that homophones (words pronounced the same, but spelt differently) give a lot of problems, because you pronounce the words all exactly the same, but the spelling of every word is differently. I think it's easier for people who are French to learn the English spelling, because a lot of English words are borrowed from the French language. I think everyone is able to learn the English spelling if you become familiar with the spelling rules and you practice a lot, so it's not kattastroffik.
Myth 6: Women Talk Too Much (Janet Holmes)
At first I thought this myth was entirely true, because women really talk a lot, but from this explanation it seems that it is mostly only true in informal contexts. Women are willing to talk more in social contexts, for example to develop and maintain social relationships, but women talk less in formal contexts. I found it interesting to discover that men talk the most of the time in most situations, because they want to enhance their status and power. This myth made me clear that men dominate most conversations. Women are also less concerned about status and power. I agree with that, because I'm also not worried about status and power, I'm more worried about maintaining friendships and social contacts. I didn't know all these things about the different roles of men and women in speech. Overall I don't agree with the title that women talk too much, because men can talk a lot too. It's not only the women who talk a lot, but the men play a big role in speech too.
Myth 7: Some Languages Are Harder than Others (Lars-Gunnar Andersson)
I agree that for example if your mother tongue is English, it is easier to learn Dutch then for example Russian, because the vocabularies have so many similarities in both form and content. I don't think that you can say this language is easier or more difficult than the another one, because every language has its complex aspects and simple aspects. I do think it can vary per person if a language is difficult or not, because some persons are really good in language and have a talent for learning languages. If a language has few vowels or few consonants it doesn't mean it's easy to learn this language, because on other parts it can be more complex. Simplicity in one part of the language can be balanced by complexity in another part. I agree that some languages appear to be harder than others, but you can't judge this until you have experienced what it is like to learn that language.
Myth 8: Children Can't Speak or Write Properly Any More (James Milroy)
I don't agree that young people are the ones who misuse the language or not learn it properly, because I think also older people can misuse the language and there are also older people who have never learnt the language at all and can't write or speak. Only in 1870 the government recognized the need for "functional literacy" (ability to read and write for practical purposes), so I don't believe that children from the Golden Age were more literate, because they couldn't write for example whole letters like the children of our time are able to do. I don't think there is moral decline of the language because of the permissiveness in the teaching method, because the teaching method from the older days was worse: strong moral discipline. I think this doesn't work also not to introduce traditional methods again that involved classroom drills. I think the literacy standards are higher right now (there's no decline) then they were in the past, because we are expected to meet higher standards. We have to be able to read Shakespeare or an article from the New York Times.
Myth 10: Some Languages Have No Grammar (Winifred Bauer)
I don't agree with the title of the myth. I agree with the statement that every language has grammar if there are some rules involved, because without rules there's no grammar. Grammar from all languages differ a lot from each other, but I do think they have some similarities. I agree that it's difficult to say how much grammar a language has, because some languages don't have a grammar book with the grammar rules in it, so it's really difficult to say how much grammar is involved in that language.
Myth 11: Italian is Beautiful, German is Ugly (Howard Giles & Nancy Niedzielski)
I agree that certain languages are more aesthetically pleasing than others. I have my preferences too and this is based on what view I have of the inhabitants and how the language sounds. I think it also depends on your taste level whether you think it's beautiful or not. In the myth it is said that it's the social connotations of the speakers of a language variety that dictates our aesthetic judgements about the language variety. I agree with that, because if you associate a language with crime and people being uneducated, you won't refer to the language as being aesthetic. I think for example that if a language is associated with fashion and art it's more likely to be considered beautiful then ugly. It also depends on how well someone speaks. I think if someone speaks really unpleasant that this can lead to unfavourable social consequences and I think this shouldn't be the case. Overall, I think no matter what language you speak, whether it's being thought of as beautiful or ugly, everyone should be treated equally and there should be no prejudices on fore hand.
Myth 15: TV Makes People Sound the Same (J. K. Chambers)
People have been replacing serviceable norms in their speech with new ones (for example the innovative form "dove") Some people see linguistic changes as a result of the television. They think TV plays an important role in the spread of vocabulary items, but I think vocabulary items are spread through communication between persons and not through watching the television. I also don't think that through watching TV regional dialects will turn into the standard dialect, because I think you don't copy this from TV, but that your surroundings (area, people you talk with) determine your accent. There's also evidence that regional dialects continue to diverge from standard dialects despite the exposure to television. I don't think that TV makes people sound the same.
Myth 16: You Shouldn't Say "It is Me" because "Me" is Accusative (Laurie Bauer)
In the Latin language nouns have endings to show the roles they play in sentences and these endings are called "cases". Two examples of these cases are in English: nominative form (a noun has this form if it is the person or thing performing the action of the verb) and accusative form (a noun has this form is the person or thing is undergoing the action) These forms are borrowed from Latin. A function of the nominative form in Latin is to mark a subject complement (it refers to the same person as the subject of the sentence). The question is if English worked exactly the same you would expect "It is I" (based on the subject complement) instead of "It is me" (because then it's accusative). I don't think it matters if you use the "It is I" form or "It is me" even if it is in some people's eyes the accusative form, because it's both acceptable and English is allowed to do some things differently in their patterns instead of following the Latin pattern. Both constructions have survived today, so I don't see the problem.
Myth 18: Some Languages are Spoken More Quickly than Others (Peter Roach)
I don't think it depends on a certain language if the speech is more quick than other languages. In the text they show some measure methods like counting the syllables per second, counting words per second or the sounds per second. I don't think these are reliable methods to say if a language is spoken more quickly. For example counting the sounds per second is not reliable, because if you speak faster you will leave out a lot of sounds. I think some languages just sound faster or slower, because we are not familiar with that languages. It has nothing to do with measurable differences. I agree that the speed depends on the situation in which the speech is being produced, for example you speak more rapidly when you're in a hurry. I agree that emotional state is influential and also a personal factor. Some people are naturally really fast talkers, while others are really slow, this has nothing to do with language.
Myth 20: Everyone Has an Accent Except Me (John H. Esling)
I also think that everybody has an accent, because in every country, city or region everybody speaks differently and it depends where you were born which accent you have. Based on an accent you can distinguish people, you can recognize a voice through this. When for example a newcomer comes to your local area, the person will stand out, because he has a different pronunciation or uses different words to express things. The myth says that to fit in, this person will accommodate his speech patterns to the speech norm in that local area. I agree with that, because someone wants to be accepted, but not all people will do that, because they are for example really proud on their own accent. The myth says that mostly we feel like we don't have an accent, because we take ourselves as the norm to compare others' speech and then we think they have an accent. I agree with that, because I also thought that I didn't have an accent, because I compared myself with others and thought my way of speaking was normal. An accent is formed through the way vowels are pronounced, intonation and melody.
Myth 21: America is Ruining the English Language (John Algeo)
I don't agree that America is ruining the English language, just because they invent new words (nouns and verbs) that some people think shouldn't be invented. They are not ruining it by changing it. I think change is good, because a language without any change is a dead language. Every language changes, it is inevitable, but some will see change as ugly, useless or barbarous. I think the difference between American English and British English is not only due to the American changing. It's also due to the British changes in their language, for example they have lost the r-sound in words like "more" and "mother". Both innovate in grammar, pronunciation and grammar. This doesn't mean that they are ruining the language.