Language Learning Quotes

To get back into full language learning mode, here are some quotes from scholarly journals and books to keep in mind. Citations are on the bibliography page.

1) why textbooks will not teach you to speak a language….

“Textbooks often present forms that are not commonly used, and most non-natives acquiring a language in a classroom learn a style that is too formal.” – Walz

“Books often teach written forms twice and oral forms not at all for words frequently spoken and almost never written.” – Walz

“[Textbooks] tend to teach items simply because the items exist and not because of any usefulness or frequency.” – Walz

“Writers present as many forms as possible without considering whether students can learn them or native speakers use them.” – Walz

“Despite today’s widespread acceptance of teaching language for oral communication, current textbook grammar is still a reflection of classical grammatical rules based on formal, written language.” – Glisan & Drescher

“Formal instruction (i.e., grammar analysis and discrete-point grammar practice) can temporarily improve performance on discrete-point tests, but apparently has relatively little influence on spontaneous language use.” -Schulz

“Language learning – regardless of theoretical orientation – necessitates frequent recycling of lexical and grammatical structures in different contexts. While we pay lip service to to the cyclical nature of language learning, indicating at least an awareness that the frequency in which vocabulary and grammatical patterns are encountered in the input contributes to their eventual retention and use, a large percentage of the words and structures we expect in the students’ active command appear only once or twice in the textbook.” – Schulz

“Teaching vocabulary without incorporating the necessary recycling is wasted effort.” – Harwood

“The belief underlying the use of drills is that production of the correct form is acquisition. However, as we indicated above, this is not the universally accepted position of SLA theory and research, and flies in the face of all the evidence when it comes to the creation of an implicit system. Acquisition of a linguistic system is input-dependent, meaning that learners must be engaged in comprehension in order to construct that system. By consistently and constantly having to process linguistic data in the input, learners push the linguistic system along. Production is not comprehension and thus produced language is not input for the learner. That input must come from others.” – Wong & VanPatten

“There is no SLA theory or hypothesis that suggests that practicing a form leads to its acquisition.” – Wong & VanPatten

2) the importance of listening, cultural input and pronunciation in learning vocabulary…

“L2 learners cannot learn a language if they never hear it; the sounds, the words, the structures have to come from somewhere.” – Cook

“Many important elements of languages, especially those that are unspoken or implicit, do not really exist outside of the culture in which the languages are spoken… not only can culture and language be taught together, they probably should be.” – Bush as in Kramsch

“Too much time is spent teaching imaginary content about fictional people and places rather than real content that tells the students something about the real world and real people.” – Cook

“Authentic materials, particularly audio-visual ones, offer a much richer source of input for learners and have the potential to be exploited in different ways and on different levels to develop learners’ communicative competence.” – Gilmore

“To keep information in working memory from fading it must be constantly repeated.” – Cook (this is called the articulatory loop – the faster you repeat things, the more you can remember)

“If we cannot say the sounds quickly, our short-term memory span will be very restricted and consequently we will face severe difficulties with the processing of language and with storing the language in our long-term memory. The lack of emphasis on pronunciation in language teaching in recent years has hampered not only the students ability to pronounce words, but also their fundamental capacity to process and learn the language. Pronunciation should be taken more seriously, not just for its own sake, but as the basis for speaking and comprehending.” – Cook

3) to summarize the best way to learn new vocabulary…

Notes from Second Language Vocabulary Acquisition edited by Coady & Huckin

New vocabulary items need to be learned in a meaningful and authentic context with plenty of audio-visual reinforcement. They should not be learned in isolation or by rote memorization.  Repetition of words and phrases (out loud!) and linking this new vocabulary to existing knowledge is also essential.

“Rehearsal at regular intervals is much more effective than massive rehearsal at infrequent intervals.” – Hulstijn (i.e. study in short bursts!)

“Learning items together that are near synonyms, opposites, or free associates is much more difficult than learning unrelated items.” – Nation & Newton

The easiest words to learn are:
1. Concrete words that can be  visualized
2. Frequent words which are mostly functional
3. Cognates with the native language

The hardest words to learn are, of course, abstract words and as they are usually forgotten first, they should be the focus of the majority of time devoted to learning vocabulary.

Parc des Bauges : Le Petit Canada

We took a little drive up the mountains into the Parc des Bauges this afternoon. There are several different areas of the park, but we decided to go to Savoie Grand Revard – mostly because it’s pretty close to Chambéry and offers a great view of Lac du Bourget, but also because it’s called le […]

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La Rentrée is coming! La Rentrée is coming!

It’s the last weekend of summer here in France. Kids go back to school this Wednesday and I couldn’t be happier. Hopefully there will be fewer loud scooters on the street after midnight. And I can go shopping without being surrounded by a bazillion annoying, bratty kids. La rentrée means more than just back to […]

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Lac d’Aiguebelette en Savoie

We went to Lac d’Aiguebelette today, about 20 minutes west of Chambéry. It was a bit windy and too chilly for me to go swimming, so we just drove around the entire lake and took pictures of the beautiful countryside.  Next time we’ll rent a pédalo and actually go in the water.  We first attempted […]

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The DOM-TOMS (France outside of France)

I don’t remember how we got on the subject (I was probably going on and on about Quebec again), but David mentioned a few weeks ago that he can ask to be transferred to St. Pierre et Miquelon. These tiny islands south of Newfoundland are not even an overseas département, but a collectivité territoriale. They […]

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Quoi dire, quoi faire

Mon petit canaillou est très, très poilu Parce que ça fait deux mois que je n’ai pas posté de photo de lui et parce que je n’ai rien à dire car il n’y a rien qui se passe dans ma vie. Les vacances, c’est génial, mais c’est mieux quand on a de l’argent pour voyager… […]

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Canicule is not so cool

There’s been a heat wave in southern France and the Rhone Valley for a while, but luckily it’s not as severe as the heat wave of 2003. Savoie isn’t in vigilance orange like the nearby départements of Rhône, Drôme, Ardèche or Vaucluse but it has been hotter than usual here. I can’t even remember the […]

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Why do I live in France?

It’s no secret that I am often homesick for North American culture (and especially the food.) I could move back to the US and get a teaching job or apply to do my PhD in Canada, but I choose to stay in France. David is, of course, the major reason why, but there are are […]

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Concentration, where did you go?

I’m having trouble concentrating these days. I don’t know if it’s because I’m no longer in college or because I moved to France and don’t work much, but I have grown so lazy. I promised myself that I would get back to reading and studying as much as I did before when I was an […]

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Je dors plus la nuit

Why do the effects of jet lag always feel so much worse in Europe? Whenever I’m in the US, I go to bed really early and wake up around 5 AM. When I get back to France, I go to bed at 5 AM and it sucks.

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Why is Jennie no longer in France?

I created this blog in September 2006 when I moved to France from Michigan to teach English. Many of the earlier posts are about my personal life in France, dealing with culture shock, traveling in Europe and becoming fluent in French. In July 2011, I relocated to Australia to start my PhD in Applied Linguistics. Although I am no longer living in France, my research is on foreign language pedagogy and I teach French at a university so these themes appear most often on the blog. I also continue to post about traveling and being an American abroad.

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