She who studies during summer vacation.

Now that I’m not working and the apartment is almost finished (Why does it take soooo long to get furniture in France?!?!), I have a lot of free time on my hands. I have been working on my website a little – just uploaded a few lessons from Foreign Service Institute Italian FAST – but sitting at the computer all day when it’s unbearably hot is not ideal. And now that I’ve finally put all the books back on the shelves and I can concentrate on linguistics with few interruptions, I’ve been starting to do research again that I hope will lead into my eventual PhD.

Second Language Acquisition has always been my favorite part of linguistics since I study and teach languages, so naturally I’m interested in how humans actually learn them and therefore, what is the best way to teach them. Too bad I have such a broad range of interests, which is evidenced by the hundreds and hundreds of scholarly articles on my hard drive…

Vocabulary Acquisition: Learning vocabulary is the most important part of learning a language, because even if you know how to conjugate verbs and which gender a noun is, you still cannot actually say anything until you know the WORDS. Concrete words that can be visualized, the most frequently used words, and cognates with the native language are the easiest to learn; so the focus should be on abstract words and words that are the most phonologically different from the native language.

Listening & Repetition: And how do you learn the words? By listening to the language as much as possible. There is a strong link between the phonological properties of a word and how easily it can be stored in long-term memory. It is difficult to access and produce a word from your memory if you do not know how it is pronounced. And even though it sounds clichéd, repetition really is the key to remembering. Repetition helps make up for the lack of exposure to the foreign language, especially when you don’t live in the country where it is spoken. And without enough comprehensible input (i.e. without ever listening to the language), receptive skills cannot be learned and acquisition cannot occur. This is also the reason why it is nearly impossible to learn how to speak without learning how to listen first. How can you produce something from nothing?

Authentic Language: Slang is often ignored by language textbooks because it is seen as too informal or too vulgar. And since textbooks are often concerned with teaching the formal written language, usually for academic purposes of analyzing literature, informal language has no place in the curriculum. But for those students who just want to speak to French people, especially to their peers, it is very frustrating to have never learned the most common slang words or reductions in speech, even after years and years of study in school. Students need to hear the real language as it is actually spoken in everyday life in order to be able to reproduce it and sound more like a native speaker.

Classroom Materials: Textbooks seem to be written based on introspection rather than empirical research. There is a real need for corpora of written and spoken language to be taken into account when creating vocabulary lists so that the most frequent words are included. There is also a need for more independent listening materials since classroom time is woefully inadequate compared to the time needed to be devoted to listening comprehension. By using properties of computer-assisted language learning (CALL), we could develop useful audio and video components and exercises that students can do in language labs or at home. And by using the internet and realia, we could expose students to informal language in both its written and spoken forms that could also be used in or outside of the classroom.

So, from the best way to teach vocabulary and the importance of listening and authentic language to how to use corpora and CALL to design materials and break away from textbook reliance, how am I supposed to narrow that down to one little research topic for a doctoral dissertation???

Happy Independence Day, USA!

+-*See you in two weeks!!!

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The True North strong and free!

+-*Happy Canada Day to my Canadian friends and to those who just love all things Canadian (like me)! I’ve been listening to the national anthem (in English and French, of course) and poking around for a while now. This linguistics-related article was interesting: Canuck-speak like learning a new language Oh, Bob & Doug, I’ve […]

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Dual Citizenship

+-*I just wanted to say Congratulations and Félicitations !! to two ladies who have gained dual citizenship. I am extremely happy and excited for them.  They worked very hard for this and survived the year-long application process. They give me hope that I’ll be able to become a dual citizen one day too. + Erica […]

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Homesick again

+-*Today is my brother’s wedding reception in Michigan. I went to the wedding in April in the Dominican Republic, and since I’m already going home in July for my sister’s wedding, I couldn’t really afford to go home for this reception too. Now I’m realizing that I probably should have just gone home for 6 […]

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How French bureaucracy will drive you insane

+-*My préfecture allows applying for a new carte grise by mail, so I thought, Great! No waiting in line! I can just send everything by mail and be done with it. Oh, but I was wrong. I mailed my old carte grise, a copy of my CDS, a copy of the June quittance de loyer, […]

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Bring on Les Soldes !

+-*The summer sales period in France begins this Wednesday, June 24 at 8 AM and lasts until midnight on July 28. Thanks to the magic of the interwebs, I will be on my computer ordering things for the apartment instead of dealing with crowds at stores. Thank goodness for LaRedoute and 3Suisses ! These huge […]

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New Long-Stay Visa & First Residence Permit Procedures for France

+-*As of June 1st, 2009, holders of long-stay visas no longer have to obtain a carte de séjour after arrival in France or the DOM-TOMS* for students, assistants, lecteurs/lectrices, visitors, salaried workers, temporary workers, and spouses of French nationals (but not other EU nationals – then you don’t need a visa at all). The visa […]

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Changement de Domicile

+-*I’ve spent the past 5 days trying to figure out how/when/where to change my address for all the official things. I’m still not finished. There is a free site that allows you to change your address for a lot of organizations, such as CAF, Pôle emploi, CPAM, EDF, Centre des Impôts, etc.  You can also do réexpédition […]

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Carte de Séjour Vie Privée et Familiale: Chambéry Version

+-*Even though I just renewed my CDS at the end of March in Annecy, since we moved to a new département, I had to apply for a whole new card instead of simply changing my address on it. The last time I moved, I stayed within the same département, so they just put a sticker […]

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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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