PSYCHOLOGICAL AND PHYSIOLOGICAL ASPECTS

OF FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEARNING

Dr. Leon James
University of Hawaii
(c) 1971

The amount of effort that is being expended in the teaching of foreign languages in this country has reached considerable proportions. According to various surveys conducted by the Modern Language Association of America, 80 per cent of public secondary schools offered FL courses in 1965 and more than one out of every four senior high school students were engaged in the study of a FL (Willbern, 1968). Some predictions estimate that by 1970 roughly half of all public school pupils will be engaged in the study of a language other than English. Most of the large universities in the country have either a college entrance requirement in their Liberal Arts and Sciences Schools or a college graduation requirement involving a FL.

There are powerful social pressures for the maintenance of such a large educational investment in the teaching of a second language which go beyond the traditional goals of FL study stated in terms of promoting the "cultured person." According to the 1966 Statistical Abstract of the United States there were in 1960 close to 24 million Americans in the category labeled "Native of foreign or mixed parentage," of which almost 10 million are foreign born. Over 18 million Americans claim that their mother tongue is not English (Fishman, 1966a). Considerable social effort is expended within a non-English medium of communication: over 500 periodicals are published regularly (including 61 daily newspapers); some 1,500 radio stations broadcast in a FL for several hours a week; there are approximately 2,000 ethnically affiliated schools of which more than half offer mother tongue (i.e., non-English) instruction; there exist at least 1,800 ethnic cultural organizations most of which favor maintenance of their FL (Fishman, 1966a).

An assessment of the present level of technology for teaching a second language is extremely difficult. Depending on the students involved, the available time for teaching, and the larger social context within which the instruction program is embedded, variable results have been achieved. On the higher end of success the results are impressive: with preselected students for high motivation and high FL aptitude placed in an intensive program of instruction involving anywhere from 6 to 14 hours of directed and individual study a day, day after day, meaningful levels of proficiency (e.g., fluent conversation with natives) can be insured within 30 to 40 days according to some lower estimates (Carroll, 1963) or six months according to some higher estimates (Mueller, 1967). Intermediate levels of success are achieved with FL majors in colleges (Carroll, 1967) where after several years of concentrated study audiolingual skills remain generally low. Much more modest levels of success are to be found in the massive educational effort of FL teaching in our high schools where the indications are that most of the students involved do not reach meaningful levels of proficiency.

In one sense the technology of teaching FL's has been solved. Given motivated and talented individuals we have the "know-how" to expose the individual to an instructional procedure that insures the learning of any FL within a matter of weeks or months. The fact that this success is limited to a preselected sample of individuals should not lead us to minimize this pedagogical achievement. It is far better than we knew how prior to the new techniques developed since World War II and it is comparable, and perhaps even superior, to most industrial training programs designed to impart skills of a much lesser complexity.

On the other hand, and from a quite different perspective, our ability to train successfully the multitudes of students in our public schools in the use of a FL is considerably less and by all indications does not compare favorably to the pedagogical achievements of teaching the three “R’s.” This sobering assessment is apparently shared by members of society at large: parents, students, school administrators, legislators responsible for appropriating educational funds, educators not directly involved in the teaching of FL's, all are increasingly engaged in asking a persistent and disturbing question: Why should so much effort be spent on the teaching of FL's when the results appear to be so meager? In a recent Gallup Poll Survey parents consistently expressed the opinion that FL courses represent the weakest part of the school curriculum and should be the first to go in any curtailment of efforts. There are signs that the largesse of federal grant assistance to the FL teaching effort is being tempered along with the general slow down of federal support for research and an increasing number of universities are "liberalizing" their FL requirements, which is to say, reducing them at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. One might say that the FL instruction establishment has been put in a defensive position. It must come up with good answers to the baffling problem that besets it today: How is FL instruction to be made more successful and more relevant to the aspirations of the "New Student" in an educational setting that competes for his attention and time?

The responses to this challenge are likely to come along three levels. First, on the technological side, better trained teachers using more advanced techniques (including both "hardware" and "software") are to come on the scene. Second, FL's are to be taught increasingly earlier (cf., FLES efforts: Foreign Language for the Elementary School) affording more cumulative time for study. Third, increasing efforts are to be made to improve the motivation of students by recognizing the social-psychological implications of FL study and taking into account the attitudinal and sociological matrix within which FL study and maintenance are embedded in the larger societal, national, and world contexts.

This chapter attempts to organize the main facts that have come to be known about the physiology and psychology of FL learning as they impinge upon the three-pronged attack of the problem just discussed. The main issues to be dealt with can be summarized as follows:

1. Theory and Practice in FL Teaching: Out of Step. This section examines the problem of how research efforts come to influence teaching practices. Several statements by authoritative persons and organized bodies (e.g., The Modern Language Association or MLA) concerning the "state of the art" of FL teaching are to be summarized and reviewed. The conclusion that will be presented will stress the fact that most of what we know about teaching comes not from the experimental laboratory but from the teacher's experience in the classroom. Here, as in other areas of education, practical knowledge by far outstrips the specific contribution of organized research. Given the relatively backward condition of social science and educational research, this state of affairs is unavoidable and though it is pointless to criticize it, this situation should nevertheless be clearly and explicitly recognized.

2. What is it to "Know a Language?" Everyone accepts the notion that language is a means of communication, but there is much less agreement about just what is involved in the ability to communicate. The distinction between “linguistic competence” and “communicative competence” is either not explicitly taken into account in the majority of FL courses or it is tacitly assumed that the former must precede the latter in such a way that a certain high level of linguistic competence must be achieved before attempting the functional use of the FL. Arguments will be presented which show the harmful consequences of this practice. "Liberated expression" and the practical use of a FL is both desirable and possible at even the very beginning stages of study. A new attitude to the assessment of communicative skills (rather than language skills) is long overdue in the language testing field.

3. The Physiology of Second Language Learning. Current efforts at FLES are often justified on the grounds that there is a biological timetable for language learning which makes it increasingly difficult to learn a second language after puberty at which time the brain allegedly loses "plasticity." The discussion in this section will question the validity of this argument and will examine other grounds for both the advantages and disadvantages of early versus late FL teaching.

4. Motivational Aspects of FL Study. The importance of the problem of knowing how to motivate the FL learner has been mentioned. This section will examine a number of issues relating to this pressing need: (a), the consequences of the fact that becoming bilingual entails becoming bicultural; (b), the attitude of the student towards FL study generally, the goals and purposes which he sees in it.

5. Summary and Conclusions. This final section will attempt to summarize the major points that are discussed in this chapter and will offer some thoughts on some possible and desirable developments in the FL teaching field that may take place in the immediate future.

 

2.1 THEORY AND PRACTICE IN FL TEACHING: OUT OF STEP

2.1.1 Current Theories and Practices

Two basic truths about the psychology of human learning are (a), that it is amazingly efficient and powerful-by such standards as the learning capacities of other living organisms or man-made automata and (b), that this learning goes on in ways that neither the individual learner nor the educator or social scientist can describe or explicate even in elementary and simplistic terms. Two outstanding instances which illustrate both truths are (i), the learning of a language and (ii), the learning of a culture during socialization or acculturation. Concepts such as "stimulus," "response," "reinforcement," "habit," which social scientists have invented to account for these accomplishments of the individual have such weak explanatory power that even in much simpler learning situations, such as a rat running a maze, they allow for such inadequate and impotent descriptions that psychologists in a narrow field of specialization disagree about them. The weakest aspect about these "scientific explanations" is that they attempt to describe the learning process through concepts that refer to external events (stimuli, responses, schedules of reinforcement, etc.), whereas what obviously accounts for the process is the internal mechanism of the brain, the capacities and workings of the human mind. (Jakobovits, 1968c).

Theories about the mind, theories about knowledge (as distinguished from theories about behavior), theories about capacities, about Potentialities and competencies, have been proposed by many writers over the course of modern scientific history, but these occupy the back seat to the leading theories in the social sciences. The most influential and widespread approach to psychological explanation remains in the United States today, in education (cf., programmed instruction), in clinical psychology (cf., behavior modification), in much of experimental psychology (cf., verbal conditioning), that of Skinnerian operant conditioning of behavior. The latter is widely claimed as being sound and tough-minded in research, while theories of the mind are presented to graduate students and future researchers in a shadowy and not quite respectable light; they are soft, nonrigorous, wishy washy.

In the field of FL teaching the trend is notably the same. The recent book by Wilga Rivers (1964), The Psychologist and the Foreign-Language Teacher, is often cited as the most advanced scientific achievement in the field. While Dr. Rivers herself shows awareness of the theoretical shortcomings of the habit approach to language, many language teachers are not so cautious: they take the habit notion of the audiolingual approach quite literally, deriving much self-assurance from the scientific and rigorous pretentiousness of concepts such as stimulus, response, conditioning, and the automatic establishment of habits.

This is a strange situation, indeed. Teachers and therapists are practical people by necessity and they ought not to be castigated for adopting methods which seem to work. The two most notable and successful accomplishments achieved by the Skinnerians are programmed instruction and behavioral modification, yet the theoretical foundations from which they have sprung are simplistic and inadequate in the extreme (see Chomsky, 1969; Lashley, 1951; Lenneberg, 1967). This is a curious paradox wherein surely lies the bankruptcy of the modern social scientific enterprise: what seems to work best on practical grounds, should not, it seems on theoretical grounds, and the theories that appear to be more sophisticated and more powerful do not enable us to develop effective practical approaches. It would seem to be a betrayal of the intellectual spirit to accept that which works when it should not, yet it would be folly to reject that which works merely because on theoretical grounds it ought not.

The resolution of this difficulty would seem to lie in a change of attitude on the part of both the theorist and the practitioner. On the one hand today's theorist should give up any claim that his speculations have the scientific authority whereby he can make infallible pronouncements about the solution of practical problems. On the other hand the practitioner should give up his attempt to justify his activities in the classroom and clinic by appealing to competing scientific theories often outdated by the time the practitioner gets hold of them. Careful thinkers have recognized the abyss that separates theory from practice. Skinner himself has consistently claimed for over a quarter of a century that his concern is with behavior not with theory, and it is only when he strays into the morass of theoretical justification (as in some parts of his book on Verbal Behavior, 1957) that the shortcomings of his system become so apparent (see Jakobovits, 1968c, 1966b). One of the most authoritative experts in the area of learning has recently stated that "thus far, there is little empirical evidence in support of [the] assumption [that] forgetting outside the laboratory is a function of the same variables and represents the same processes as are observed in formal studies on interserial interference" (Postman, 1961, p. 166). In the area of language Chomsky (1968) stated that there is no evidence today in support of the view that the scientific endeavor will ever be successful in explicating the fundamental facts. Integrity dictates that we clearly recognize the inherent limitations of the social and behavioral sciences as we know them today and not to claim for them more than is reasonable.

When this limitation is accepted, as it surely must be, then the interplay between theoretical and practical concerns can become more honest and possibly more rewarding. Experimenters can tackle practical problems by relaxing their unrealistic insistence on experimental controls and statistically adequate designs. Practitioners such as the teacher and the therapist need not feel the need to take sides in theoretical controversies or to justify their practices by appealing to particular theories; instead, they can adopt a healthy functional attitude concerning the effects of their methods of approach, concentrating on developing and constantly using realistic evaluation criteria that would dictate maintaining or altering their activities in accord with the results they achieve. In subsequent sections of this chapter, such an attitude will be repeatedly advocated.

 

2.1.2 The Audiolingual Method

The most widespread method of FL teaching today, the so-called "New Key" approach prevalent since the 1940's, is the audiolingual approach which claims to have largely displaced the earlier traditional method of grammar-translation. The proponents of the audiolingual approach base their claim of correctness on sound psychological theory as well as on efficient results. The purpose of this section is to show that both of these claims are questionable. In the following quotation an eminent figure in the FL field questions the first of these claims:

"Let me point out that neither the audiolingual habit theory nor the cognitive code-learning theory is closely linked to any contemporary psychological theory of learning. The audiolingual habit theory has a vague resemblance to an early version of a Thorndikean association theory, while the cognitive code-learning theory is reminiscent of certain contemporary gestaltist movements in psychology which emphasize the importance of perceiving the "structure" of what is to be learned, without really relying on such movements. Actually, neither theory takes adequate account of an appreciable body of knowledge that has accumulated in the study of verbal learning. Among these facts are the following:

a. The frequency with which an item is practiced per se is not so crucial as the frequency with which it is contrasted with other items with which it may be confused. Thus, the learning of items in pattern practice drills would be improved if instead of simple repetition there were a constant alternation among varied patterns.

b. The more meaningful the material to be learned, the greater the facility in learning and retention. The audiolingual habit theory tends to play down meaningfulness in favor of producing automaticity.

c. Other things being equal, materials presented visually are more easily learned than comparable materials presented aurally. Even though the objective of teaching may be the attainment of mastery over the auditory and spoken components of language learning, an adequate theory of language learning should take account of how the student handles visual counterparts of the auditory elements he is learning and help to prescribe the optimal utilization of these counterparts, such as printed words, phonetic transcriptions, and other visual-symbol systems.

d. In learning a skill it is often the case that conscious attention to its critical features and understanding of them will facilitate learning. This principle is largely ignored by the audiolingual habit theory; it is recognized by the cognitive code-learning theory. It would imply, for example, that in teaching pronunciation an explanation of necessary articulatory movements would be helpful.

e. The more numerous kinds of association that are made to an item, the better are learning and retention. Again this principle seems to dictate against the use of systems of language teaching that employ mainly one sensory modality, namely, hearing. A recent experiment performed at the Defense Language Institute, West Coast Branch (Army Language School, Monterey, California) seems to show that dramatic facilitation of language learning occurs when words denoting concrete objects and physical actions are associated with actual motor performances involving those objects and actions. Thus, the student learns the meaning of the foreign language word for jump by actually jumping! Language teaching becomes a sort of physical exercise both for the students and for the instructor whose actions they imitate.

These then are a few examples of theory-derived principles that, if further examined and verified, could contribute to more effective ways of teaching foreign languages. It would be trite to say at this point that 'more research is needed,' although it is obviously the case. Actually, what is needed even more than research is a profound rethinking of current theories of foreign language teaching in the light of contemporary advances in psychological and psycholinguistic theory. The audiolingual habit theory which is so prevalent in American foreign language teaching was, perhaps, fifteen years ago in step with the state of psychological thinking at that time, but it is no longer abreast of recent developments. It is ripe for major revision, particularly in the direction of joining with it some of the better elements of the cognitive code-learning theory. I would venture to predict that if this can be done, then teaching based on the revised theory will yield a dramatic change in effectiveness." (Carroll, 1966a, pp. 104-106).

Carroll's statement agrees with the assessment that theory and practice in FL teaching are out of step but he appears to believe that "contemporary advances in psychological and psycholinguistic theory" are necessarily relevant to FL teaching. As stated earlier, there are no good grounds for such optimism. Note that the five facts which he reviews and which he urges the FL teacher to consider are in the nature of empirical generalizations not theoretically derived principles. His call for "more research" can be welcomed as long as it is understood that this is to refer to efforts in the development of evaluation criteria of the effectiveness of teaching practices in terms of functional or terminal behaviors on the part of the learner (What can the learner do with the knowledge he has acquired?).

 

2.1.3 Experiments

There are two principal reasons for the weakness of currently known and practiced experimental techniques: the difficulty (practical impossibility) of controlling a large number of simultaneously varying and interacting factors and the fact that the individual's learning strategy is largely independent of the teacher's manipulative efforts even though it is a factor that greatly influences the learning process.

With respect to the first difficulty we are confronted with a double bind which is this: carefully controlled small-scale laboratory experiments yield generalizations whose extrapolation to the real learning situation, where all things are not equal, is a dubious activity; large-scale experiments on contrasting teaching methods which have, at least potentially, direct relevance for classroom practices leave so many factors uncontrolled that the conclusions are either unconvincing on the strength of the data or the results are more often than not contradictory (see the reviews by Carroll, 1965, 1 966b).

The second difficulty, the contribution of the individual himself to the learning process, is inherent to the nature of the mind as an information processing and storing device about which little of substance is known today. To the chagrin of many teachers the individual is not a habit forming automaton who can be conditioned by carefully arranging the presentation of stimuli and rewards contingent upon overt responses. Passive learning is immeasurably inferior to active learning and, although we have been able to measure general learning capacities with intelligence tests, these not only represent weak predictors in specific learning situations but are also unenlightening concerning the processes that underlie individual learning strategies and how to influence or manipulate them. The teacher may spend a lot of effort in arranging sequences of materials to be presented at various stages but he has no control over what in fact the individual does mentally with them: how well he remembers them, whether he focuses on just the intended distinction, whether he tries to assimilate the new material to the old, how much of it he will transfer to new situations, whether he inductively arrives at generalizations, and so on.

 

2.1.4 Computer Based Programs

Development of computer based programmed instruction in language (such as the PLATO system at the University of Illinois, Urbana) offers the possibility of a real alternative to the present inadequate policy of basing teaching practices on theoretical generalizations gained from laboratory experiments. Computer based individuated instruction, when fully developed, will not represent a teaching method as this is understood today. Rather it will consist of a conglomeration of many techniques and combinations thereof, fitted to the individual learner in terms of his own learning strategies, learning capacities, interests and goals. Each student will be taught by a different method when one considers the total teaching process from beginning to end, that which is most effective for him and most consistent with the goals he has for learning the language. Until computer based programmed instruction is a reality for every pupil in the United States we must make do with the present less effective educational means at our disposal. There is much that can be done even during this stopgap interval to render the teaching of FL's more effective. The next section will review some such attempts which have been suggested by authoritative figures and bodies in the FL teaching field.

 

2.1.5 Foreign Language Teaching Today

The following extended statement by Professor Alfred S. Hayes represents in his words, "a summary of the state of foreign language teaching in the United States today: "

"Traditional foreign language instruction in the United States was dedicated to the teaching of reading, approached through the study of the rules of grammar. The basic approach, with only minor variations, was extensive translation. But recent years have witnessed a shift of emphasis, since it has become a matter of national self-interest to increase the number of American citizens who can understand and speak a foreign language. This shift of emphasis is paralleled by recent advances in linguistic science and allied fields, which have contributed to a new view of language and language learning. This view is best characterized as a view of language as spoken communication, as signaling behavior, as a system of habits, which must be acquired to the point of automatic production of, and response to, the structure of the language as isolated by linguistic science, to the point where novel utterances acceptable to a native speaker are freely generated by the learner. Grammar is thus by no means discarded, as is sometimes supposed, but the emphasis is on internalizing it through practice, rather than discussing it. Gaarder (1961, pp. 171-172) gives a striking point-by-point comparison of language learning with learning to play a musical instrument.

There is reasonably general agreement on the following points in first-level foreign language-instruction, although, in practice, procedures vary widely:

1. Learning proceeds in this order: (a) hearing and understanding; (b) speaking; (c) usually much later-reading; (d) writing. The tendency is, therefore, away from book-centered materials, and toward extensive audiolingual practice designed to develop a new set of habits.

2. Instruction proceeds in the initial stages without reference to the printed word.

3. Teaching pronunciation requires extensive hearing of the new sounds, preferably contrasted with similar sounds both in the foreign language and the language of the learner, followed by careful drill in their production.

4. Spoken language is initially presented and practiced in what are called pattern sentences or model sentences. Each pattern sentence contains a productive structure, i.e., one which, when mastered, will permit the generation of new utterances by substituting new vocabulary; e.g., subject-verb-object in English. Pattern sentences are subsequently manipulated in drills designed to highlight changes in form or order which occur within the structures. Such drills are called pattern drills or structure drills.

5. Pattern sentences may or may not be presented originally in dialogue form.

6. Pattern sentences are practiced to the point of "overlearning," i.e., until they become reflex-like habits.

7. The amount of vocabulary which must be acquired is severely restricted until a large number of structures have been mastered.

8. Translation back and forth between the foreign language and the native language is avoided

Controversy exists on these points:

1. Ways and means of narrowing the gap between manipulation and communication.

2. The teaching of meaning and the use of English in the classroom.

3. The role of grammatical statements and summaries.

4. The handling of extensive vocabulary acquisition in the later stages of instruction.

A basic tenet of the audiolingual approach has been the assumption that students so trained will not only be able to understand and speak the foreign language, but will eventually achieve skill in reading and writing at least comparable to and possibly superior to that of students trained by traditional methods. Until recently no experimental evidence existed to substantiate this claim. But now a small-scale experiment by Pimsleur and Bonkowski (1961) offers modest support, while a large-scale classroom experiment by Scherer and Wertheimer (1962) offers convincing confirmation of this view.

The language laboratory, an electromechanical installation generally consisting of multiple facilities for student listening and responding to recorded lesson materials, usually on tape, is coming into widespread use, supported in part by funds made available to the several states under Title 111 of the National Defense Education Act (NDEA). These facilities are intended to relieve the teacher of some of the drudgery of repetitive drill and to furnish authentic models for imitation and practice (see Hutchinson, 1961, and Hayes, 1962).

The principles of programmed instruction discussed above are being applied to the problems of foreign language learning. The resulting programs, designed for presentation through the language laboratory, or through similar audio or audiovisual devices of varying complexity, are thus far only in limited experimental use, and show great promise. Some thirty-five to forty research projects are presently active in this field (see again Hayes et al., 1962).

The teaching of foreign languages in the elementary school (FLES) is spreading rapidly but is severely hampered (as is the entire field) by lack of qualified teachers and by frequent failure to provide an adequate continuing program for children so trained. For a survey and evaluation of results to date see Alkonis and Brophy (1961). The research evidence supporting the notion of FLES is extremely slender (Carroll, 1960).

Teaching foreign languages by television is receiving strong support but results have been dubious because of the questionable methodological soundness of certain programs, the impossibility of getting feedback from the learner, and the implication that classroom work following the TV presentation can be handled by teachers with no foreign language training or experience (see Reid, 1961).

To help cope with the problem of retraining high school teachers to understand and use audiolingual methods, Summer Institutes have been operated by many colleges and universities pursuant to contracts with the U.S. Office of Education under Title VI of the NDEA. By the end of 1962 some 10,000 such teachers will have attended a total of 216 Institutes. It is chiefly among the products of these institutes that the awakening Miss F's are to be found. Preservice teacher training programs in colleges and universities are barely in the beginning stages of revision. Two new series of tests designed to measure teacher proficiency and student achievement respectively, developed under NDEA Title VI auspices, will eventually help training institutions to evaluate their products.

A broadly based program of research in problems of foreign language teaching, as well as the construction of teaching materials predominantly in critical but seldom taught languages, Language and Area Centers offering advanced study in such languages, and fellowship awards to students entering upon such advanced study, are likewise supported by Title VI of the NDEA.

The large foundations are providing increasing support for projects involving the teaching of foreign languages or research therein. Serving as a respected neutral intermediary in language matters of interest to government, military, the academic world, the foundations, and industry alike, the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, D.C., an arm of the MLA supported by the Ford Foundation, is having an impact which is rapidly becoming world-wide. One of its major interests is the teaching of English as a second language.

The implementation of audiolingual teaching has caused an upheaval in the publishing industry, which must now supply and is supplying completely new materials which provide the extensive pattern practice and drills required, plus tapes for the language laboratory and even phonograph records for home practice. It was inevitable that certain publishers should give the impression of conversion by offering tapes to accompany traditional texts, a confusing and ill-advised practice. A recent publication of the MLA provides criteria for the evaluation of materials (AlIman, 1962).

Language teaching in the United States is in a state of transition. Audiolingual teaching in high schools, variously understood and administered by teachers, is widespread, but commonest in the large urban centers. Thinly disguised traditional teaching clings in many conservative colleges and universities, where the language laboratory tends to provide misleading superficial evidence of change. So radical is the nature of the change in progress that this situation must be regarded as expected and unavoidable. The pot, however, is boiling. But a more general understanding of language as signaling behavior is a necessary precursor to further progress in cross-cultural communication." (Hayes, 1964. 150152).

2.1.6 Suggestions for Teachers and Learners

The Modern Language Association of America sponsored a conference in 1964 which resulted in a statement entitled "Advice to the Language Learner" (MLA, 1966). The 1964 statement was revised "in the light of comments from many teachers and linguists" and thus purports to represent the distillation of knowledge about the "state of the art." The following ten claims about the psychology of FL learning have been extracted from the 1966 revised statement:

a. Learning a FL facilitates subsequent learning of another FL thanks to the acquisition of "techniques of FL study" (see Carroll, 1963).

b. "Any intelligent student" can learn a FL provided there are present "hard work," "a good teacher," and "a good textbook" (for a discussion on FL aptitude see the review by Carroll, 1965).

c. A helpful strategy in learning a FL is to avoid making direct comparisons between it and English (for a detailed discussion see Chapter 4, Section 4.7).

d. "Learning a language means learning a whole new pattern of habits,"... "a little like learning to play the piano or the violin, except that it is easier." Therefore, it is important to practice, to practice, and to practice still more. Practice should be "intensive and enthusiastic," "in class and out," silently and out loud, to oneself while reading, and to fellow students. Involve "all your senses as you learn a language by using your ears, mouth, eyes, fingers. Use your imagination. Pretend that you are an actor whose lines you are learning" (for a discussion on "language is a habit" see Chapter 3).

e. "There are three techniques in language learning: imitation, analogy, and analysis." Imitation consists of repeating "what you hear as closely as you can" by listening "carefully to your teacher and the other models." "Learning how to create by analogy is the purpose of pattern drills and other exercises." As one grows older, he begins "to lose [the] capacity for easy imitation" but he gains "the advantage of being able to reason: [to] analyze language." "Information of this sort given in grammatical explanations or rules can help you to learn the language faster." (See Section 2.3 for a discussion on age and language learning.)

f. Memorizing sessions should be broken up into several intense short periods of 15-20 minutes (see Carroll, 1963).

g. Reading and writing are learned more easily if one first learns to speak the language. Even if one is not interested in the spoken language, one "can not learn to read it without using some kind of pronunciation, even if it is only a silent one you invent. So, it makes sense to learn the normal pronunciation." (No evidence available.)

h. Practicing to speak should be done right from the start.

i. When reading a FL, one should at first read only what has been previously practiced, and do so out loud (for a contrary opinion, see Burling, 1968). Later, when reading new materials silently, one should underline new words, pronounce new phrases over and over, later returning to the underlined words.

j. English translations of words or phrases should never be written on the page in the reading book. "Doing so puts the emphasis on the English equivalent and not on the foreign word, which is the word that you must learn" (again, see Burling, 1968).

 

2.1.7 An "Ideal" FLES Program

Working Committee I of The Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages in 1964 outlined "an ideal FLES program." The statement was reprinted in Michel (1967) and the main points made by that influential committee of experts are summarized below. The ideal FLES program is one which:

a. introduces the FL in Grade III;

b. has a specially qualified teacher who serves as an excellent model, who motivates the children constantly, who corrects errors immediately;

c. exposes the children daily to FL instruction: 15min. periods in Grades 3 to 5, longer in Grade 6; 45min. periods, three times a week in Grades 7 and 8 or 30 min. periods daily; 45min. periods, five times a week in Grades 9 to 12;

d. has a coordinated program throughout to insure proper sequencing for continuity;

e. has proper background support to insure success: parental support, qualified teachers for given languages, adequate budgetary provisions for continuity of program;

f. uses dialogue and structure drills in combination with careful introduction of new words; the selection of materials and their sequencing are such as to clearly point out some given grammatical principle and to avoid confusion;

g. devotes the first two-and-one-half years to the listening-speaking skills with no attention given to reading and writing;

h. is careful to avoid boredom due to repetitious drills;

i. induces the student to realistically act out dialogues;

j. makes judicious use of audio-visual aides (especially pictures and tape recorders); (but because of the limited time available the use of mechanized teaching aids is curtailed);

k. introduces reading after two-and-one-half years (in Grade 5), and writing after three years (in Grade 6); the materials for these should at first consist of items already familiar from the audiolingual training; major emphasis still remains on the speaking-listening skills;

1. explanation of grammar and its analysis is 'Srigorously subordinated to the formation of habits" through the use of pattern drills

To these 12 characteristics of the ideal FLES program may be added two further statements on the ideal FLSS (Foreign Languages in the Secondary School) program taken from the conclusions of Working Committee II of the 1964 Northeast Conference and also reprinted in Michel (1967):

a. The "primary all-important goal of a secondary school modern foreign language program in the second half of the twentieth century . . . should be to teach as much language as possible." By "language" is meant "the four skills of communication: listening comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing." Other goals such as the "development of cultural sensitivity and awareness of humanistic values" are "eminently desirable objectives" but remain nevertheless secondary in importance.

b. Reading skills are important to develop, but "premature preoccupation with [literary studies, such as literary history, analysis, and criticism] constitutes the most discouraging obstacle to the successful teaching of the language skills in high school; . . . reading, in the sense of translation, is not an objective at all. Translation is a special skill which requires special training. It has no place in a secondary-school program.... A prerequisite for the genuine study of literature is, or ought to be, language proficiency" and since available time for study is so limited, a preoccupation with literature detracts from the development of the oral-aural skills."

 

2.1.8 Commentary

The statements summarized in the last three subsections represent the distilled knowledge of the state of the art in FL teaching today. To ask whether these recommendations are valid or not is essentially not a meaningful question. There are two reasons for this. The first is that behind most of the recommendations lie implicit certain assumptions about the value and goals of FL study and these assumptions stem from larger social and educational premises which are not reducible to true-false considerations. The second reason is that, as pointed out in Section 2.1. 1, research methodology in education and psychology is too weak to assess unequivocally the truth value of most of the generalizations and recommendations that have been offered. About the only reasonable thing that can be done at this juncture is to point out the fact that there are individuals engaged in research and teaching who disagree with many of the recommendations that have been outlined. For example, Monot{:assidy argues that "the method advocated in perfecting oral learning goes against the main educational trends of the last two hundred years and more specifically against the learning patterns instilled in the American child from birth onward. It fails in one fundamental: it does not teach the student to respect the subject matter of the course.... If we want to keep alive the wonderful renewal of interest in foreign languages, we must cease to treat a fifteen-year-old boy as if he were a bright three" (1966, pp. 16-17). A similar motive, that of introducing adult (rather than childish) content and syntax right from the beginning of FL study, prompted Burling (1968) to make what he calls some "outlandish" proposals whereby reading materials are mutilated in successive steps starting from a mixed English-FL version and gradually replacing the English words and morphemes until at the final step the text appears in the original FL version. Others, like Belasco (1967), while not subscribing to quite such an extreme method, nevertheless maintain that translation can be useful to convey the meaning of the original and do not hesitate to use it whenever they deem it desirable.

 

2.2 WHAT IS IT "TO KNOW A LANGUAGE"?

It has been pointed out earlier in this chapter that disagreements about how best to teach a FL cannot be unequivocally resolved by experimental research methods. But the inability of research to solve these practical problems is not the only difficulty to be contended with. There are fundamental differences in what language teachers perceive to be the goals of a specific FL course. Some of the differences pertain to esthetic considerations, such as for example whether or not to insist on correct speech, both in the grammatical and phonological areas. This is clearly an esthetic rather than a functional criterion as indicated by the fact that first, effective communication is possible without a high degree of accuracy in phonology and syntax, and second, native speakers of a language do not typically produce grammatical sentences in everyday speech (as a literal transcription of a tape recorded conversation would show). Other differences pertain to conceptions about the correct order of development of language skills; thus, listening comprehension and speaking are considered to be primary skills and reading and writing secondary skills; paralinguistic features of speech and knowledge about the foreign culture are usually taught after the basic linguistic skills are already at a fairly advanced level, the assumption being that these constitute parallel knowledge rather than linguistic knowledge per se.

These various issues constitute basic and unresolved differences about the fundamental question of what it is to "know a language." Language tests that researchers devise and teachers use are interesting in this connection because they reflect the conceptions one has about what it is to know a language. And what are the constituent elements of most language tests currently used? Vocabulary knowledge, recognition of correct grammatical structure, reading comprehension, dictation, translation, and so on: these may be termed knowledge about the mechanics of language and reflect what some linguists currently call linguistic competence. Linguists like Chomsky (cf., 1965) argue that the fact that native speakers do not typically speak grammatically is not an indication that their linguistic competence is wanting; he insists on a distinction to be made between linguistic competence and linguistic performance. The latter is influenced by presumably nonlinguistic factors such as inattention, limited memory, time pressure, emotional involvement, and so on, which interfere with the act of speaking and cause disfluencies, false starts, unfinished sentences, lack of grammatical accord, etc. He points out that when native speakers are presented with a written transcription of such sentences or an oral version presented piecemeal, they can recognize the ungrammatical elements and correct them7 thereby showing that linguistic performance is not a good measure of linguistic competence.

This argument is quite convincing and seems essentially correct as far as it goes. But it neglects certain crucial facts about how language is used for communicative purposes. An individual who has mastered the mechanics of a language, in short knows the meaning of so many words, knows the syntactic and phonological structure of the language, and nothing else, would be quite incapable of communicating in that language. Language teachers are well aware of this fact and have sometimes expressed it in no uncertain terms, as the following blunt quotation indicates: "The pedagogues supply ample anecdotal evidence not only that there are students who can perform beautifully on substitution drills, transformation drills, etc., yet with whom communication is virtually impossible; but also that there are students who 'do miserably on your tests, but, hell, we can talk about anything together' " (Upshur, 1968, p. 5). Spolsky (1968) has documented the fact that non-native speakers who have attained a certain sufficiently high level of proficiency can perform at almost native level on certain language tests, but as soon as they are presented with artificially mutilated speech (e.g., with background noise on a tape recorded conversation) they perform much lower than natives-indicating that they have not internalized certain fundamental knowledge about the language. Spolsky refers to this type of knowledge as the "redundancy aspect of language" and includes such things as knowledge of sequential probabilities of phonemes, letters, and lexical items in strings, knowledge about how words are organized semantically in lexical fields, cultural facts (e.g., what is appropriate to say under given situations) and psychological facts (e.g., what an individual is likely to say or think under given circumstances). As Upshur points out, this principle of redundancy "suggests that it will not be possible to demonstrate that any given language item is essential to successful communication, nor to establish the functional load of any given item in communication. Consider the ease with which speakers of different dialects, dialects even with different number of phonemes manage to converse, or the ways in which speakers constantly handle their forgetting a specific word. All of this suggests then that while a testing of specific linguistic items is likely to be valuable in the control of instruction, the assessment of proficiency in a language must rather be based on functioning in a much more linguistically complex situation than is provided by the one element test" (Upshur, 1968, p. 11; for a similar view, see Chapter 4, Section 4.1).

Belasco's (1967) call for the "total language experience" is motivated by a similar recognition of the independence of various aspects of knowing a language. He points out the following facts: "A student often has difficulty understanding a spoken sentence that he understands quite easily in print" (1967, p. 86); "We have shown elsewhere [Belasco, 196S] that it is possible to develop acceptable speaking ability without a concomitant development in listening comprehension" (1967, p. 86); "A student might control every structure and know the meaning of every word in a reading selection without understanding the selection" (1967, p. 86).

None of the foregoing remarks are likely to contain any elements of surprise to the experienced language teacher. Yet many of them would insist that mechanical skills are logically to be taught separately and prior to communicative skills. But is this truly a logical requirement or an esthetic preference for which too high a price is being paid when students bored with practicing mechanics end by giving up any real interest and motivation in FL study? And are teachers not placing such an emphasis on the acquisition of mechanical skills partly because currently used proficiency tests measure mechanical rather than communicative skills-thus allowing the curriculum to be guided by available tests rather than the reverse?

There is evidence that there is developing increasing awareness in the FL field of the importance of teaching communicative competence. Hayes (1964), being concerned with teaching "cross-cultural communication," has reviewed the pedagogical perspectives of paralinguistics and kinesics, these terms being defined as "the study of patterned tone-of-voice and body motion aspects of human communication, respectively" (1964, p. 152). "Pedagogically," he asserts, "we can expect the paralinguistic frame of reference to broaden considerably the scope of the descriptive component which underlies teaching materials" (Hayes, 1964, p. 155; see also Nostrand, 1966).

As soon as we raise the question of communicative, rather than linguistic, competence, it becomes clear that the traditional four-fold division of levels of skills-listening, speaking, reading, writing-becomes totally inadequate. Fishman has repeatedly emphasized that the FL teacher must make decisions about which communicative skills to teach within a much more complex framework. For example, in a recent article (Fishman,1966b) he reviews the "bilingual dominance configuration" in terms of the following factors: (a) What is the desirable level of proficiency in the second language to be encouraged in the various media such as listening, speaking, reading, writing? (b) What are the priorities the teacher wants to establish concerning the degree of proficiency to be encouraged in various roles such as comprehension, production, and inner speech (talking to oneself, thinking out loud)? (c) Which formality levels ought to be emphasized: intimate, casual, formal? "Each level of formality requires a vocabulary, a sentence structure, and a set of attitudes toward oneself and one's interlocutors quite different from those required by the others" (p. 125). (d) How shall the teacher treat the various domains of interaction: art, music, government, religion, business, home, school? As he points out, these are contextual factors, and the teacher must arrive at simultaneous decisions concerning all of these. 'In doing so, he will have determined the bilingual dominance configuration that he is seeking to create in his pupils" (p. 126). This decision cannot be made by default by pretending to teach general language skills. "Foreign language teachers are producers of bilinguals" (Fishman, 1966b, p. 121) and the assessment of the success and relevance of the teaching process which creates "school-made bilinguals" must be made in no less complex and realistic terms than the description of "natural bilinguals" by such a communication framework as that suggested by Fishman (1966b) or Mackey (1966).

 

2.3 THE PHYSIOLOGY OF SECOND LANGUAGE LEARNING

Educators in this country and throughout the world have been concerned with the question of "What is the optimum age of beginning the study of a FL?" (e.g., Anderson, 1960, Kirsch, 1956, Larew, 1961). There has been in recent years a definite bias towards the view that FL's should be taught early in childhood, at least before puberty. This view is based on the observation that when children are exposed in a natural setting to two languages during their early childhood they achieve a mastery of both languages (sometimes even three or four languages) that is native-like in fluency and pronunciation and do so with natural ease and apparently without any special effort. In fact, many people believe that true bilinguals are produced only under these conditions of childhood learning. This view was strongly reinforced by statements made by the eminent Canadian neurosurgeon, Dr. Wilder Penfield, who for many years has argued that the human brain loses "plasticity" after puberty and language learning after that age becomes increasingly difficult.

There are, however, opposing views to this argument. Many educators who have examined the effects of the early introduction of a second language in the elementary school curriculum caution against what has come to be known as the balance effect. This refers to the hypothesis that the more time is spent on the second language the less well one learns the first language, with consequent detrimental effects on the native language, on education, and on the intellectual development of the child.

The purpose of this section is to review the arguments for and against the early introduction of a FL in the school curriculum and to examine the physiological and educational implications that are involved in this topical and crucial question.

2.3.1 The Evidence from Neurophysiology

The views of Penfield on the physiology of language learning have appeared principally in two places: in a speech given at the 134th meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Boston (Penfield, 1953) and in the Epilogue of Speech and Brain Mechanisms (Penfield and Roberts, 1959), a chapter that has been reprinted by the Modern Language Association and widely circulated (also reprinted in Michel, 1967, pp. 192-214). A summary of his views is given by the following quotations:

"In 1939 I was asked to give an address at Lower Canada College.... 'I have long wondered,' my talk began, 'about secondary education from the safe distance of a neurological clinic. I have wondered why the curriculum was not adjusted to the evolution of functional capacity in the brain . . .

Before the age of nine to twelve, a child is a specialist in learning to speak. At that age he can learn two or three languages as easily as one. It has been said that an Anglo-Saxon cannot learn other languages well. That is only because, as he grows up, he becomes a stiff and resistant individualist, like a tree-a sort of oak that cannot be bent in any graceful manner. But the Anglo-Saxon, if caught young enough, is as plastic and as good a linguist as the child of any other race.... when you enter [the teaching] profession, I beg you to arrange the curriculum according to the changing mental capacities of the boys and girls you have to teach.... Remember that for the purposes of learning languages the human brain becomes progressively stiff and rigid after the age of nine.

Again in 1953 I was called upon to address a lay audience. It was at a meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Boston.... I chose as my subject: 'A Consideration of the Neurophysiological Mechanisms of Speech and some Educational Consequences.'. . .

This aroused far more interest than I could have anticipated. The officers of the Modern Language Association of America heard of it, and, probably because it coincided with their own views, they had it reprinted. It was distributed then to the far flung membership of that Association.

. . . It may well be convenient, for those who must plan the curriculum, to postpone the teaching of secondary languages until the second decade of childhood. But if the plan does not succeed, as they would have it, let them consider whether they have consulted the timetable of the cerebral hemispheres. There is a biological clock of the brain as well as of the body glands of children.

. . . The learning of language in the home takes place in familiar stages which are dependent upon the evolution of the child's brain. The mother helps, but initiative comes from the growing youngster. The learning of the mother tongue is normally an inevitable process. No parent could prevent it unless he placed his child in solitary confinement!

The brain of the child is plastic. The brain of the adult, however effective it may be in other directions, is usually inferior to that of the child as far as language is concerned. This is borne out still further by the remarkable re-learning of a child after injury or disease destroys the speech areas in the dominant left cerebral hemisphere. Child and adult, alike, become speechless after such an injury, but the child will speak again, and does so, normally, after a period of months. The adult may or may not do so depending on the severity of the injury."(Penfield, in Penfield and Roberts, 1959, pp. 235-240).

It is clear from this extended quote, and from the rest of the article that Dr. Penfield does not claim any special expertise in FL teaching. One must therefore clearly separate what he says as an expert in neurophysiology from what he says as a concerned Canadian citizen interested in promoting bilingualism in that country. The FL teacher, not being an expert in neurophysiological matters may be quite justified to rely on the expertise of specialists such as Penfield and Roberts. The evidence and arguments they present on the neurophysiological bases of speech development in the infant appears convincing, at least to the nonspecialist (but see the critique by Milner, 1960). This confidence in their argument is strengthened even more now that it has received further extensive confirmation by the recent comprehensive review of the subject given by Lenneberg (1967) in his book on the Biological Foundations of Language and elsewhere (see Lenneberg, 1966).

However, the crucial question which the FL teacher must carefully examine is just what is the relevance of the neurophysiological evidence for second language learning and teaching. It is clear that the learning of language, that is, first language, is dependent upon the child's biological mechanisms, that these brain mechanisms develop at crucial time periods, and that unless the child is exposed to human speech before the age of puberty he will most likely never speak a human language. Lenneberg presents the argument succinctly:

"Primary language cannot be acquired with equal facility within the period from childhood to senescence. At the same time that cerebral lateralization becomes firmly established (about puberty), the symptoms of acquired aphasia tend to become irreversible within about three to six months after their onset. Prognosis for complete recovery rapidly deteriorates with advancing age after the early teens. Limitation to the acquisition of primary language around puberty is further demonstrated by the mentally retarded who can frequently make slow and modest beginnings in the acquisition of language until their early teens, at which time their speech and language status becomes permanently consolidated.

. . . Thus we may speak of a critical period for language acquisition. At the beginning it is limited by lack of maturation. Its close seems to be related to a loss of adaptability and inability for reorganization in the brain, particularly with respect to the topographical extent of neurophysiological processes. (Similar infantile plasticity with eventual irreversible topographical representation in the brain has been demonstrated for many higher mammals.) The limitations in man may well be connected with the peculiar phenomenon of cerebral lateralization of function, which only becomes irreversible after cerebral growth phenomena have come to a conclusion" (Lenneberg, 1966, pp. 246247; emphases supplied).

Here again it is clear that the neurophysiological evidence is restricted to primary or first language acquisition. However, Lenneberg too sometimes tends to overgeneralize the applicability of his evidence and to make certain claims about second language acquisition which are questionable. For instance, he presents a table of the process of language development throughout the life history of the individual which confounds at one point primary and secondary language acquisition. The table is presented here in a slightly altered form: (Lenneberg, 1966, p. 248)

Age Usual Language Development

Months 0 to 3 Emergency of cooing

Months 4 to 20 From babbling to words

Months 21 to 36 Acquisition of language

Years 3 to 10 Some grammatical refinement; expansion of vocabulary

Years I 1 to 14 Foreign accents emerge

Mid teens to senium Acquisition of second language becomes increasingly difficult (?)

The first four entries in the table concern primary language acquisition while the last two deal with second language acquisition. None of the evidence considered throughout his book on "biological foundations" is directly relevant to the learning of a second language. Furthermore, both generalizations are questionable, especially the last. For instance, a recent study was designed to "examine some aspects of the commonly held view that young children are better able to learn the phonology of a second language than adults" (YeniKomshian, Zubin, and Afendras, 1968). The study used only two subjects (ages 5 and 21, respectively) and limited itself to seven hours of training two Arabic phoneme discriminations, and thus the results obtained are to be considered merely suggestive. The authors concluded that their results "do not provide any evidence indicating that children are better than adults in acquiring novel speech sounds" (p. 276). Nevertheless, observation indicates that the children of immigrants who are exposed to a second language before their mid teens or thereabouts do seem to speak that language with closer native pronunciation than their parents or older siblings. But this difference cannot be unequivocally (or even probably) attributed to neurophysiological factors since (a), children learning a second language in a school setting do not always (or even often) develop native pronunciation, and (b), some adults are capable of acquiring native-like pronunciation of a FL. The biological time table that Lenneberg speaks of and the correlated developmental stages of first language acquisition typically follow rigid patterns and do not permit variations of this sort.

Finally, concerning the last generalization in the table, namely that the acquisition of a second language becomes increasingly difficult after the mid- teens, there is no evidence to support it. A number of known facts actually contradict it. For instance, a college level FL course of one semester is typically considered to be the equivalent of a whole year of study at the high school level. Also, some intensive FL courses for adults are capable of imparting a conversational knowledge of the language with native-like pronunciation in about one thousand hours with an active vocabulary of up to three thousand lexical items (Mueller, 1967). This rate of acquisition appears to be at least as good as that of the much younger immigrant child who is immersed in a foreign culture, and is probably superior to it. Again, although these intensive courses are for "gifted" adults, the number of such people is sufficiently large (up to 33 per cent of the population according to one estimate, see Carroll, 1965) that a neurophysiological explanation must be excluded.

 

2.3.2 The Educational and Intellectual Evidence

The preceding section attempted to show that there is no neurophysiological evidence to the effect that children are more capable of learning a second language than adults. This section will briefly examine the evidence concerning the educational and intellectual consequences of the early teaching of a FL.

Macnamara's (1966) book on Bilingualism and Primary Education is the most extensive review on the subject to date. A large number of studies have been devoted to this question. Macnamara selected 77 of these for detailed analysis, those that seemed to him to have the most adequate experimental controls. The majority of these studies confirmed the balance effect indicating that on the whole children who were required to learn, use, or be educated in two languages had a weaker grasp of either language than monolingual children. Macnamara's own careful study of the "Irish experience" was consonant with this overall pattern. In his concluding chapter he states:

"Yet despite the differences between Ireland and other countries in the conditions relating to the learning of languages the findings of our own study closely parallel those of the majority of papers which have been reviewed. Our own research adds to the already considerable evidence that there is a balance effect in language learning, at least where the time devoted to the second language is so extensive that the time available for the mother tongue is reduced. Native-speakers of English in Ireland who have spent 42 per cent of their school time learning Irish do not achieve the same standard in written English as British children who have not learned a second language (estimated difference in standard, 17 months of English age). Neither do they achieve the same standard in written Irish as native-speakers of Irish (estimated difference, 16 months of Irish age). Further the English attainments of native-speakers of Irish fall behind those of native-speakers of English born in Ireland (13 months of English age) and in Britain (30 months of English age).

Comparisons among groups of Irish children yield results which are also for the most part similar to results obtained in the majority of earlier researches. Teaching arithmetic in Irish to native English-speakers is associated with retardation in problem, but not in mechanical, arithmetic. The retardation in problem arithmetic is estimated as about 11 months of arithmetic age....

. . . The Irish findings relating to the teaching of other subjects through the medium of the second language are particularly discouraging. For it seems that the teaching of mathematics, at least, through the medium of the second language does not benefit the second language, while it has a detrimental effect on children's progress in mathematics" (Macnamara, 1966, pp. 135137).

It ought to be kept in mind that there are a number of studies which, even if they are in the minority, do nevertheless provide a counterargument to the balance effect and to the alleged detrimental educational consequences of the early use of a second language. One recent study in particular carried out under the direction of Dr. Wallace Lambert, an eminent colleague of Macnamara at McGill University in Canada, shows that French-Canadian children in one bilingual setting in Montreal who have developed a good grasp of English are superior in both verbal and non-verbal intelligence to their French-speaking monolingual peers (Peal and Lambert, 1962). These authors hypothesize that early bilingualism "might affect the very structure of intellect . . .: . . . a large proportion of an individual's intellectual ability is acquired through experience and its transfer from one situation to another." They argue that bilingual children are exposed to "wider experiences in two cultures" and these will give them "advantages which a monolingual does not enjoy": "Intellectually [the bilingual child's] experience with two language systems seems to have left him with a mental flexibility, a superiority in concept formation, and a more diversified set of mental abilities . . . "

The educator and the FL teacher are likely to experience some confusion and frustration at such seemingly opposing views which these researchers hold, each buttressing their views with hard experimental data. A conclusion stated earlier in this chapter (Sections 2.1.1 and 2.1.8) once again comes to mind, namely that research by itself is incapable of providing ready answers to complex and perplexing social and educational problems. It seems pointless to play the data game whereby an educator or a politician, having made up his mind in favor of bilingual education or the early teaching of a FL attempts to justify scientifically that his policy is a correct one by quoting those experimental reports which happen to agree with his bias. It would be too easy to find experimental reports that show just the opposite. The serious educator must recognize the fact that in complex social and educational settings experimental findings are not easily generalizable: the conditions that hold for any particular setting are likely to be quite different, and significantly so, from any other setting, and his decisions must be made within a complex matrix of interacting factors, educational, social, political, philosophical, etc. Such decisions are always uncertain from the scientific point of view and the latter by itself can never provide a strict and sufficient justification.

This conclusion is supported by a report on an "International Meeting of Experts" presented by H. H. Stern. The report was published in 1963 by the UNESCO Institute for Education and has as its topic "The Teaching of Foreign or Second Languages to Younger Children":

"It is not necessary to justify the teaching of languages in the primary years on the grounds that it is the optimum period. What is needed is (1) to show that it is socially and educationally desirable.... (2) It must be shown that it is sound from the point of view of the development of children, that, in fact, there are no contradictions on psychological grounds for teaching a language at this stage. (3) If, in addition, it can be demonstrated that the learning of languages in the early years has certain special merits this would add further weight. In other words, instead of searching for the optimum-age-in-general, it should be sufficient to show that the primary years are a good period for beginning a second language, offering certain special advantages . . . (Stern, 1963, p. 22).

"Where no immediate urgency dictates a very early start the age to begin language instruction can therefore be decided on grounds of educational expediency."We conclude that the introduction of a language is not simply a matter of curriculum and method, nor one of correct psychological timing. It must also be viewed against the background of aspirations and social attitudes among the population served by the school system" (Stern. 1963. DD. 26 and 65).

Faced with the necessity of having to make a practical decision concerning the teaching of a second language, the educator must consider all the relevant aspects of the problem and weigh each of them according to the demands of the conditions that hold in his particular setting. In some countries and communities the decision will be dictated by political factors, as was the case with the "Irish experience" (see also Ferguson, 1966). In the United States there are powerful social forces in favor of language loyalty and maintenance (see Fishman, 1966a) by immigrant groups, significant political factors in favor of FL study as a means toward international cooperation and understanding, and there are also present traditional cultural views that favor the study of the major European languages. These various motivations are usually primary and take precedence over the more specialized scientific concerns such as the neurophysiological underpinnings and psychological consequences of early or late FL study. A useful role that the latter concerns can play is to help implement whatever decisions were made on the basis of the more general social concerns by discovering the advantages and disadvantages of the policy being followed and showing ways of maximizing the former and counteracting the latter by special or remedial training.

After reviewing the evidence on the relation between age and FL study, Stern (1963, p. 23) presents a summary table of the pros and cons of the early teaching of a second language. The table is presented below in slightly modified form:

(1) Age of acquisition: before adolescence (ages 310):

(a) Advantages:

(i) Accords with the neurophysiology of the brain. (?)

(ii) Easiest and most effective. (?)

(iii) Natural good pronunciation.

(iv) Leaves richer linguistic memory traces for later expansion.

(v) Longer time for language can be allowed. (b) Disadvantages:

(i) Possible confusion with first language habits.

(ii) No conscious acquisition of language learning process.

(iii) Time spent not commensurate with results.

(2) Age of acquisition: at adolescence (ages 11 to school leaving):

(a) Advantages:

(i) Increased capacity to appreciate many aspects of language and culture contacts.

(ii) Still sufficient time to attain high standard.

(iii) Improved memory and higher level of intellectual growth.

(iv) First language skills well established, hence no confusion.

(b) Disadvantages:

(i) More laborious than early learning.

(ii) Success demands tenacity.

(iii) Self-consciousness.

(iv) Possible refusal to memorize.

(v) Experience has shown poor results frequent.

(vi) Already crowded curricula and specialization of studies.

(3) Age of acquisition: adulthood:

(a) Advantages:

(i) Specificity of purpose.

(ii) Good motivation added to reasons mentioned for adolescence.

(iii) Greatest amount of learning in least amount of time.

(b) Disadvantages:

(i) Not enough time.

(ii) Other preoccupation.

(iii) Irregularity of study.

Several of the listings above are either in error (e.g., 1.a.i.) or contradictory (e.g., 1.a.ii. with 3.a.iii.); others are at best highly controversial. No mention is made of the potential balance effect. Despite these shortcomings, however, the table is useful because it poses the problem of early FL teaching in terms of relative advantages and disadvantages rather than in terms of the pseudoquestion of which is the best time. (Note: the arguments listed above do not necessarily represent Dr. Stern's own views on the subject [Stern, 1970, personal communication]).

 

2.4 MOTIVATIONAL ASPECTS OF FL STUDY

Bilingualism and multilingualism represent today a major problem in the world, as they have in the past and undoubtedly will remain to be in the foreseeable future. In the history of this planet there have been periods and situations where people have stood ready to die for maintaining the use of their language and resisting the attempt to impose upon them the use of a FL. In this decade of the 1 960's there were times we could read in the daily newspaper of bloody riots and deaths, of terrorism’s and civil strife associated with language conflicts in India, in Belgium, in Canada, and elsewhere. In all these situations much more was involved than the language question per se, questions of national identity, of cultural self-assertion, of social and economic competition, but the language question stood as a symbol for all these and was inextricably tied to them. The language of a people is a living, growing, changing reflection of that people's heart and mind. When we learn a FL we intermingle with a foreign people: language contact is inseparable from culture contact. In a real sense becoming bilingual entails becoming bicultural. When a person exposes himself to a FL he also exposes himself to a foreign culture. The latter kind of exposure can become for some individuals, we do not know for how many, a threatening experience. Professor Wallace Lambert of McGill University in Canada has for the last ten years explored the implications of such a threat. In one article he introduces the issue as follows:

"This theory, in brief, holds that an individual successfully acquiring a second language gradually adopts various aspects of behavior which characterize members of another linguistic-cultural group. The learner's ethnocentric tendencies and his attitudes toward the other group are believed to determine his success in learning the new language. His motivation to learn is thought to be determined by his attitudes and by his orientation toward learning a second language. The orientation is 'instrumental' in form if the purposes of language study reflect the more utilitarian value of linguistic achievement, such as getting ahead in one's occupation, and is 'integrative' if the student is oriented to learn more about the other cultural community as if he desired to become a potential member of the other group. It is also argued that some may be anxious to learn another language as a means of being accepted in another cultural group because of dissatisfactions experienced in their own culture while other individuals may be equally as interested in another culture as they are in their own. However, the more proficient one becomes in a second language the more he may find that his place in his original membership group is modified at the same time as the other linguistic-cultural group becomes something more than a reference group for him. It may in fact become a second membership group for him. Depending upon the compatibility of the two cultures, he may experience feelings of chagrin or regret as he loses ties in one group, mixed with the fearful anticipation of entering a relatively new group. The concept of 'anomie' . . . refers to the feelings of social uncertainty which sometimes characterize not only the bilingual but also the serious student of a second language." (Lambert, 1963, p. 114).

It is not known to what extent ethnocentrism and anomie might represent interfering factors in the study of FL's in the three school systems in the United States today. It is possible, however, that the change in instruction from reading and translation courses to audiolingual speaking courses may have increased the importance and effects of these social psychological factors. Some of Lambert's findings tend to show that students who are integratively oriented towards language study and those who show evidence of anomie are ultimately more successful than the instrumentally oriented students and the psychologically more detached learners, suggesting that the conflicts of anomie may seem as an internal drive and motivating factor. However, our knowledge on this is still very sketchy. Much may depend on how capable the individual is in handling and successfully resolving the conflicts of anomie. If these conflicts become unmanageable and psychologically too threatening a convenient defense reaction which serves as a protective device might be to slow down progress in the language or eliminate language study altogether (see Chapter 4, Section 4.6). According to one estimate, up to 20 per cent of the student population in high schools and colleges are "beset by a frustrating lack of ability" in FL study (Pimsleur, Sundland, and Mclntyre, 1964). These students have been labeled "underachievers" in FL study in view of the fact that their grades in FL courses are "at least one grade-point lower than [their] average grade in other major subjects." To what extent is this "lack of ability" attributable to motivational problems and conflicts involved specifically with FL study? It is significant for this question that two of the seven subparts of the FL Aptitude Battery developed by Pimsleur and his associates as a means of measuring ability to learn FL's consist of "Interest Tests" designed to assess the student's attitudes towards FL study. The FL teacher and the learner himself ought to be made more aware of the complex psychological issues that may be involved

in the study of FL's. The teacher and the student may be aware of a lack of genuine interest in FL study, but to what extent are they aware of the reasons behind such a lack of interest? Teachers, educators, parents often ask the question "How can we infuse more motivation for FL study?" Part of the answer may lie in a recognition of the problems discussed in this section and in finding ways of helping the student manage feelings of anomie and transform it from a conflictual stumbling block into a positive driving force.

The management of anomie may be an important factor in the motivational problem of FL study, but there are undoubtedly additional factors that must be considered. Two of these will be discussed in this and the following section: the development of realistic selfevaluation criteria and the perceived relevance of specific instructional activities.

 

2.4.1 Self-Evaluation Criteria

It is an interesting psychological observation, whose causes are not obvious, that the individual engaged in the study of a FL has some very definite ideas about the progress he believes he is making. Perhaps this pertains to the area of "folk linguistics" which Hoeningswald (1966) brought to our attention in a most interesting and perceptive article. People appear to have strong feelings about what constitutes knowing a language and who is or is not a bilingual. A person who is capable of uttering a few mechanical and superficial sentences in a FL with good pronunciation and accurate syntax is a "good bilingual" and "knows the language well" while a person who is quite fluent and is capable of communicating over a wide range of situations, but whose pronunciation is foreign and whose syntax is inaccurate, but perhaps not more so than the conversational speech of the average native, is nevertheless not considered to be a "good bilingual." A student capable of reading advanced materials in a FL but who cannot understand the spoken language may minimize his actual achievement and knowledge of that FL. A student who speaks a FL with halting hesitations and uses stylistic circumlocutions to make up for a lack of vocabulary richness may grossly underestimate his actual knowledge of the language by a tendency to compare this performance to the effortless and automatic expressiveness he experiences in his mother tongue.

It is not known to what extent these kinds of self-generated presumptions affect the student's maintenance of motivation in FL study but it is not unreasonable to suppose that they may sometimes be a source of discouragement and a cause of loss of interest. The FL teacher can help the student develop more objective and more realistic evaluation criteria for assessing progress and achievement. Students can be given some insight into just how complex a system language is by pointing out the amount of knowledge they must have in order to be able to speak their mother tongue as they do and not be misled by the apparent effortlessness with which they speak it. They may thus gain a greater understanding about why it is that learning a FL requires so much effort and perhaps view with greater respect the "modest" achievements they attain at various stages. The FL teacher could further carefully examine his own brand of "folk linguistics" to see whether he is rewarding meaningful achievement rather than superficialities. Does he insist on an inordinate degree of correct pronunciation and syntax too soon or even at any time? Does he appreciate the student's achievement in terms that are relevant to the latter's ability and effort rather than in terms of some general standard that may be unrealistic or irrelevant for this particular student? Does he have realistic expectations about how much progress can be made under the conditions he is teaching? These are important questions because the teacher is a source of feedback for the student whether this process is made explicit or remains unconscious and unstated.

Finally, the student's parents and their version of "folk linguistics" may be an influential source of encouragement or discouragement to him. In a recent national poll that was publicized over the news wire services, the majority of parents were reported to have said that they consider FL courses the weakest part of the school curriculum and should be the first to go if anything had to be cut (see also Wagner, 1966). In view of the widespread social, cultural, and political forces in favor of FL study which has traditionally existed in this country, this mounting negativism is both paradoxical and alarming. Much of it can undoubtedly be attributed to a gap between what the parents define as progress in a FL and what their judgment is about how close or how far their children approximate it. Again, are their expectations realistic? Are their evaluation criteria accurate and relevant? These are questions which the FL teacher and the school administrator may find it profitable to discuss at PTA meetings.

 

2.4.2 The Student's Attitudes

To the student the purpose of the activities in the classroom and the laboratory or the assigned homework may often appear obscure and mysterious and sometimes even irrelevant and silly. Younger children and the more dull among the older children may not question these practices as much as the older and brighter students. But it is a sign of our times that students in our high schools and in our colleges are increasingly demanding that their studies be relevant to their goals and aspirations. The teacher and educator can view this age of the "New Student" with either alarm and worry or with excitement and confidence depending on whether he defines it as rebelliousness or maturity and involvement. Whatever the case may be, this new development in education is affecting the student's attitude toward and motivation for FL study. It must be dealt with.

What is the New Student's attitude toward FL study? A survey conducted at the University of Illinois (Urbana) in 1968 by a student committee of the Students Council of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences provides some answers. The survey was planned, executed, and analyzed by the student government representatives entirely on their own initiative. Five thousand questionnaires were distributed to the student body of which 863 were returned. The questionnaire consisted of 21 questions. The distribution of answers for 13 of these is presented below: (see also Chapter 5, Section 5.2).

a. Were your grades in language lower than your grades in other courses outside your major field?

Yes (444) No (374) Blank (20)

b. Did you start with a language, then find that you had difficulty with it and then switch to another language?

Yes (53) No (785)

c. Do you prefer a language course oriented toward understanding of grammar and reading comprehension rather than a course oriented toward oral-aural comprehension?

Yes (414) No (392) Blank (28)

d. Has the time spent in the language laboratory been beneficial to your study of a language?

Yes (160) No (650) Blank (28)

e. Do you feel that you have to study more for a language course (per credit hour) than for other courses?

Yes (676) No (137) Blank (25)

e.1 If so, do you feel that this is unfair?

Yes (536) No or Blank (140)

f. Do you read any material voluntarily in the language you are taking or have taken?

Yes (233) No (598) Blank (7)

g. Has the language requirement [for graduation in LAS at the University of Illinois] prevented you from taking other courses in which you were very interested?

Yes (514) No (312) Blank (12)

h. Do you plan to be able to use the foreign language which you studied to meet graduate school requirements?

Yes (373) No (446) Blank (19)

i. Has foreign language helped you to develop discipline or learn better study habits?

Yes (145) No (679) Blank (14)

j. Do you approve of the present foreign language requirement in LAS?

Yes (199) No (634) Blank (5)

k. Do you think more language should be required, or less?

More (53) Less (674) Blank (111)

1. What is your attitude toward foreign language study?

Interested (306)

Study primarily for the grade (521)

Blank (11)

m. Would you prefer the alternative of taking a two-semester sequence on the literature (in English translation) of the language rather than 103 and 104 of that language? [Note: 103 and 104 are primarily

audio-lingual courses.]

Yes (561) No (261) Blank (16)

n. Overall do you think that your study of foreign language here

has been beneficial or detrimental to you?

Beneficial (427) Detrimental (339) Blank (72)

If the opinions of students at the University of Illinois can be taken to be fairly representative of the national college population, then this survey shows that all is not well with the college FL curriculum. Several of the answers are in fact quite disturbing. While the LAS college curriculum forces everyone to take audiolingual courses, only 47 per cent of the students are actually interested in "oral-aural comprehension" and 50 per cent would prefer "grammar and reading comprehension." The evidence for a lack of an intrinsic interest in FL study is clear: only 28 per cent read any material voluntarily in the language they are taking, 80 per cent feel that they have to work harder in FL courses-a situation which they consider unfair, and for 61 per cent of the students this extra work prevents them from taking other courses in which they are interested. Furthermore, 53 per cent don't even feel that they would be able to use the FL they studied for meeting graduate school requirements, and 80 per cent doubt that FL study is helpful in developing "discipline" or "better study habits." Finally, 76 per cent disapprove of the FL requirement and 40 per cent feel that FL study in college has actually been detrimental to them.

In considering the significance of these results two important questions pose themselves: Should the school curriculum be determined by a majority opinion of students or by the considered professional judgment of educators? and: Given a lack of intrinsic interest in FL study on the part of many students what should be done about it? Let us examine the implications of both questions.

Given the pedagogical philosophy that is prevalent in our society today very few educators would allow the school curriculum to be dictated by a student body vote, and in any event, the students themselves would be just as opposed to such a process. The real issue is not so much as who makes the specific decisions as whether the decisions made allow for sufficient flexibility to accommodate individual needs and interests. For instance, it would seem that the insistence on a single goal for FL study is open to question on both educational and philosophical grounds. If roughly half of the college student body is interested in a reading knowledge of a FL is it good educational policy to insist on everyone taking an audiolingual course? Given the low degree of success attained by some students in speaking and reading a FL, would it not be more educationally profitable to allow these particular students to study a foreign culture through the medium of their mother tongue and thus still gain some, if not a completely adequate, knowledge of other peoples in the world? Just how useful is it to develop speaking and reading skills in a FL when the educational system fails to provide meaningful opportunities for the use of these skills? It would seem that to make FL study more meaningful to the student it would be desirable to integrate the FL study with the rest of the educational curriculum. For instance, the student could be encouraged to use his FL skills in pursuing projects in other courses in the sciences and the humanities by reading relevant materials in a FL. Travel and study abroad, foreign films and plays, games and play-acting (Lee, 1965, Morgan, 1967), "The French Club" (see Kansas State Teachers College, 1967), summer "language camps" (Haukebo, 1967), interaction with aliens in this country, are all activities which are encouraged and made increasingly available to the students in recognition of this principle, and the more we move in these directions the less we will encounter a motivational problem" in FL study.

Recent advances in self-instructional FL courses (see for example, Valdman, 1966b) represent another promising development not only because of the efficiency associated with programmed instruction but also because these types of courses succeed in eliminating some of the motivational problems discussed in this section. Carroll (1966b) reports certain cases in which "well-developed programs of instruction, particularly of the 'programmed' variety, yielded low correlation’s between [FL] aptitude and performance suggesting that the obstacle of low aptitude may sometimes be surmounted by the use of small-step increment materials that do not challenge language aptitudes" (p. 29). For instance, Mueller and Harris (1966) attempted to reduce the high drop-out rate in an audiolingual French course in college which a previous survey (Mueller and Leutenegger, 1964) had suggested is attributable to the students' disturbance over having to talk too soon and their feeling that too much emphasis was

being put on sounds. A reduction in drop-out rate was achieved when a special French course called "Audio-Lingual Language Program (ALLP)" was developed. The course uses programmed instruction techniques and states its terminal goal as the "native-like pronunciation and facility in speaking the language equivalent to that of a seven-year old." The sounds of French are taught with "very little visual support" and sound drills are carried out sometimes without knowledge of the meaning of what is being said. These authors believe that the aversion to the sound emphasis which students often feel is overcome under conditions of programmed instruction where the students aren't being overwhelmed thanks to the step by step progression and immediate feedback.

The experienced FL teacher is well aware of the fact that the problem of student motivation is complex and multidimensional and cannot be solved by any one "trick." The solution attempted by Mueller and Harris just discussed seemed to work for them (drop-out rate was reduced by 20 per cent at the end of the first year of study) but may not be equally successful in other situations and with different students. Its interesting feature was that it first determined what the students found objectionable then attempted to solve the problem by eliminating the source of dissatisfaction without changing the original goals of the course. The FL teacher ought to be aware of the possibility that the explicitly stated objections which students formulate merely represent their personal hypotheses about the dissatisfactions they feel and in these they may in fact be in error. Thus when students state a preference for reading comprehension courses it may reflect either a genuine interest in reading over speaking or a reaction against boring drills in the laboratory or a demand for more "content" or a discouragement with a perceived (real or imagined) lack of progress, or several other possibilities. The solution is not necessarily to change the goals of the course, although that too ought to be considered, but to locate the real source of dissatisfaction and change it. The numerous studies that have been carried out with the purpose of determining which method of instruction is most effective have m general led to disappointing results. It is clear that an important reason for this failure is that the concept of "a method of instruction" actually subsumes a very large number of separate and variable instructional activities in the classroom and laboratory. A much more realistic objective for comparison studies would be to examine the effects of such specific and limited instructional activities. Hayes, Lambert, and Tucker (1968) have recently published a check list of several hundred of such specif1c activities associated with FL instruction and efforts of this kind are more likely to yield real progress than the more traditional monolithic studies on "overall methods."

 

2.5 SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

The major theme of this chapter has been the exposition of two curious paradoxes that beset the FL teaching field today. The first paradox consists of the widespread tendency on the part of FL teachers to seek justification for their practices in the classroom in originally weak and currently outdated scientific theories despite the fact that few experimentalists ever claim for their theories this kind of infallible generalizability to situations outside the laboratory. The most unfortunate consequence of such an outlook has been that classroom practices have tended to become rigidified in the attempt to follow closely the dictates and prescriptions of so-called scientific principles. Thus, the New Key to FL instruction has turned into a mechanistic exercise of rote habit drills in which the original goal of liberated and sustained expression-that of communicative competence-has been in practice lost sight of and relegated to a supposedly utopian and unattainable status for the majority of students.

The second paradox lies in the fact that although we have achieved in the last twenty years a major breakthrough in the technology of teaching FL's the success of the FL curriculum in our schools has remained extremely limited. Serious dissatisfaction with it is being expressed at all levels by teachers, students, and parents despite the fact that strong social forces remain in this country for the maintenance of an interest in FL's and foreign cultures. Being bombarded by criticisms from both external and internal sources, the FL teaching field now finds itself on the defensive after enjoying two decades of unparalleled expansion and support.

This then is the sobering assessment with which the field is confronted today and the situation from which it must recover Corrective measures are clearly in order, but what are they to be and which direction are they to take? There is a danger here which must be avoided and which lies in the fact that redressive activities that stem from a reaction to the inadequacies of existing conditions tend to overshoot the mark whether it be in the area of politics, legislation, or education. The present shortcomings of the not-so-new audiolingualism may be viewed in part as attributable to the unchecked swing of the pendulum away from the earlier traditionalist emphasis on prescriptive grammar, translation, and the reading of belletristic literature. The danger, now that audiolingualism is on the defensive and students are increasingly demanding "reading" courses is that the pendulum might be allowed to swing back too far so that we lose sight of the vastly superior instructional technology which we now have at our disposal but was nonexistent in the earlier dark ages of FL teaching. We must strive to reach a correct balance between what our educational technology gives us the potential to achieve and what the students are interested in attaining. The key to this balance (the Newer Key, one might say in jest), lies in individuated FL instruction that is sufficiently flexible to adjust to the particularized characteristics of the individual learner and the learning context. Let us review here the arguments that are presented in this chapter concerning the psychology of second language learning and teaching. These might perhaps serve as guidelines to the corrective measures that are needed.

a. There is no one single proper goal for FL study which can logically be demonstrated. There is no proof that speaking is necessarily primary or more desirable to reading and, of course, vice versa. Neither can one rationally justify the claim that proficiency in all four skills should be the ultimate goal of FL study. We must recognize that students have different interests, needs, and aptitudes and to refuse to accept this fact has the simple and devastating consequence that they shall learn nothing of significance.

b. The goals of a particular course in a FL program must be clearly defined in specific terms that specify the terminal knowledge and skills to be reached. To purport to teach general language skills is a retreat from reality in that it ignores the facts of the matter which are that under such conditions a substantial proportion of students fail to derive any demonstrable value out of their FL study. The extent of specificity of goals to be defined for any particular course would seem to depend on the conditions that hold for that situation: the specific needs, interests, and aptitude of the students involved, the time available for study, the age of the learners, the overall FL program and its cumulative effect, the wider conditions of social support and maintenance interests, the particular language and culture involved, and so on. Some examples of such specific goals may be, "to be able to read German literature on chemistry" or, "to be able to obtain information for travel purposes" or, "to be able to understand radio broadcasts" or, "to be able to write business letters," etc. The assessment of FL attainment for degree and requirement purposes should not be in terms of course grades or number of years of study but rather in terms of tests that evaluate such terminal behaviors. In that case, a variety of such terminal behaviors and combinations thereof may be defined for different degree and curricular requirements.

c. Not only must we recognize variable goals and interests in FL study but also variable abilities and FL aptitude. In the past differential aptitude was tacitly recognized by the expectation of a distribution of grades in standard FL courses as well as, more explicitly, by the placement of students in classes being taught at different rates. But what is needed is the recognition that different aptitudes permit the attainment of different terminal goals both in range and degree within the time requirements and opportunities to learn provided by the FL program. Students should be counseled with respect to the specific terminal goals they may reasonably be expected to achieve taking into account their aptitude, the time available for study, and the amount of effort it may require within the context of their motivation and their other educational aspirations and requirements.

d. The question of when FL's are to be taught within our educational system is a complex problem that involves political, social, philosophical, and psychological considerations and should not be reduced to a matter of neurophysiology-as it has become fashion able to do in recent years. Since the sociopolitical context varies from place to place, not only on the international plane but also within a particular country, including, of course, the United States, the decision must be considered by each school district in the light of the conditions that prevail within its geographic boundary. The knowledge that has accumulated on this matter indicates that there are both advantages and disadvantages to FL study at any age compared to any other age. Generalizations about the optimum age that fail to take context into account are almost certainly to be false.

e. More serious attention must be given to the social-psychological ramifications of FL study. The proposition that bilingualism entails biculturalism has serious implications for both the personal adjustment of the individual and the wider sociocultural character of a nation. There is evidence that it also relates to the type and degree of achievement in FL study, and thus, is an additional important variable which the FL teacher must contend with.

f. Global comparisons between methods of instruction are unrealistic. In general studies that have attempted such comparisons were unproductive. There are two principa1 reasons for this. One is that what is usually defined as a method actually consists of a large variety of instructional activities most of which remain undefined and unobserved. The other reason is that the learner makes his own contribution to the learning situation and these learner strategies are to a greater or lesser extent independent of the teacher's activities. What is needed is a more detailed and explicit description of the specific activities of both the teacher and the student in the instructional situation. Once adequate observation techniques are developed, evaluation criteria of effectiveness can then suggest specific changes in instructional activities.

g. It is necessary to take seriously the oft-quoted distinction between competence and performance, between knowledge and behavior. Experience has indicated that there are no mysterious transfer effects across various language skills and competencies. Not only is it true that ability to read does not insure ability to speak, and vice versa, but also, ability to function in one communicative context is not necessarily matched in other contexts, and this means that the instructional Program that produces school-made bilinguals must

take into account the full "dominance configuration" of the natural bilingual. The question of what it is to know a language is not yet well understood and consequently the language proficiency tests now available and universally used are inadequate because they attempt to measure something that has not been well defined. The tendency to gear the instructional program to enable the achievement of high scores on these tests is thus inappropriate, as is the evaluation of the success of the program in terms of these tests. No doubt due to considerations such as these, some specialists in the language testing field are attempting to develop new kinds of tests that are not based on the notion of sampling the surface manifestations of linguistic items and units but rather the underlying potentialities of functionally significant aspects of utterances. These newer efforts take seriously what every FL teacher knows but often neglects in his teaching, namely that learning a FL cannot be separated from learning about the culture for which it is a vehicle.

h. The instructional process involved in the teaching of a FL must take proper account of the existence of a “folk linguistics," a term used here to refer to assumptions which individuals hold about language and language acquisition. Students have definite ideas about what it is to "know" a language and use self-generated evaluation criteria to assess their progress. These notions are often unrealistic and tend to underestimate both the complexity of the knowledge to be acquired and the extent of their true achievement. The result is frequently discouragement and a consequent loss of motivation. Likewise parents may have inappropriate expectations about the rate of progress of their children, minimize their achievement and ultimately withdraw their support and encouragement for FL study. Teachers, too, may not sufficiently differentiate between essential and nonessential features of variations in their students' performance, may not be sufficiently aware of subcultural and idiolectal variations in codes in the language, and may use general standards of evaluating achievement neglecting in their demands to take account of individual capacities. To take proper account of the existence of folk linguistics would involve activities of the following sort: to determine what notions the student has about language and critically discuss their validity with him; to make the student aware of the true complexity of language so that he may appreciate the difficulty of the task he sets for himself; to justify in terms that are meaningful to the student the relevancy of the classroom activities and study assignments; to disabuse parents of their unrealistic expectations and make them aware of the cumulative long term impact of FL study; and finally, to make sure that the teacher himself is knowledgeable about recent sociolinguistic and ethnolinguistic advances.

It might be well to end this chapter by reminding the reader that teaching is an art and that there are no sure methods of extrapolating scientific knowledge to the classroom. This review represents the point of view of its author, which is one possible vantage point, and it is safe to say that for every argument presented here one can probably find one or more counterarguments. This is the nature of the beast. But some arguments are more convincing than others, not, hopefully, because of their authoritativeness, but because they may be more rational and their assumptions more likely correct in the light of existing knowledge. As long as decisions about educational matters must be made and ineffective practices corrected, it behooves us to be self-critical about our activities as teachers and researchers and to continually strive for the best possible solutions which available knowledge and logical reasoning can provide.

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