About 15 years ago I planned on going into the field of language learning, but I got sidetracked along the way with flight simulation, computer-based training and the Web. Ken Carroll on Learning is a new blog, with a post this week on language learning, in this case Irish. Since we’ve been running circles around French Immersion in our province, Ken’s perspective may be a welcome change, especially since he’s the founder of the successful ChinesePod language learning service.
Here’s Ken on his own experience:
There is no single reasonÂ for theÂ failureÂ of traditional language teaching. Itâ€™s more like a constellation ofÂ bad pedagogy, irrelevant objectives, a school system that wasÂ calcified inÂ another era,Â etc.Â Crowning it all was theÂ illusion thatÂ you could and should teach a language to children, i.e.Â that you could/should explain it to them.Â TheÂ teachersâ€™ focus was grammatical, rather than psychologicalÂ -Â What are the structures of the language?, rather than How might we induce the language learning process?Â Â It didnâ€™t seem to occur to anyone that if the kids were encouraged to use the language they would pick it up painlessly and quickly. Nothing (and I mean nothing) could have been less relevant than lectures onÂ declensions or theÂ conjugation ofÂ prepositionsÂ (they do that in Irish) to a bunch of children, but thatâ€™s what we got.