Cainntear wrote:But that conclusion does not change the fact that the Latin terms are intrinsically meaningless to speakers of almost all modern languages, and do more to confuse than to clarify.
This would be true, if loanwords didn't exist. Words like "verb" are no longer just Latin. It is a perfectly normal English word by now, isn't it? So, why invent nonsense like "action word" instead? "Conjugation", "adjective", or "verb" are now normal words in English.
My point is that they have no meaning beyond the meaning in jargon. "Conjugation" in Latin is formed of clear, common roots. I don't speak Latin, so I might be wrong, but my understanding is that it means "a joining together", and conjugate is "to join together"
And is learning a term "subjunctive" any worse than learning a new word "natrium"? I don't think it is. Every area of knowledge has some terminology. It started somewhere, often in another language (like Latin) and now it is normal vocabulary.
It's jargon, not normal vocabulary.
That said, I don't have a good alternative for the subjunctive, and so I would always use the term if teaching a language with a subjunctive... no, let me correct myself there: I would always use the term if teaching a language which is normally described using the term
, because I would never use it when teaching Gaelic which has a stricter subjunctive than Spanish or French, in that it always occurs after a sub
tion. Why not? Because nobody else does, and it doesn't help. Spanish and French don't even have a true subjunctive, yet I still call it that, even though it doesn't help, because everyone else does.
Talk about meaningless jargon!
Vocabulary like "verb" should not confuse anyone. Or do other loanwords like "ballet" or "waffle" confuse people?
They are names for a readily understood concept, and things you can physically experience.
That's completely different from terminology for teaching. The Greeks and the Romans specifically chose most of their terms to be self-explanatory (and sometimes failed, but that's a different matter). They are not self-explanatory to people who don't speak Latin, therefore they do not fulfil their original purpose.
I would definitely agree that teaching the word "subjunctive" as a by product that can be forgotten, once the concept is mastered, is perfect. The problem is not teaching the word at first and therefore not defining the concept well. In such a case, the student is not likely to get to the stage of its mastery, and is also having a hard time finding different learning sources, because of not knowing the term.
The target language terminology is in my opinion the only one worth teaching. Because the more advanced the student is, the more they are gonna be using the monolingual sources.
Well I'm obviously speaking from the point-of-view of Western-European-privilege here, but I very rarely use monolingual sources. I have a fantastic grammar of Spanish that explains things specifically for native English speakers to understand. When I learn less common European languages, I might have to learn them via books in French, Spanish or Italian, but I will choose that over a native-speaker's grammar every time.
A grammar for native speakers is designed to highlight patterns that the speaker already knows about and hang a name on them (eg a Spanish-speaking child already understands the Spanish subjunctive implicitly, just isn't consciously aware of it as a "thing" or have a name for it) and alert them to acceptable variations that might not be part of their local dialect; whereas a learner grammar is designed with the express purpose of explaining to someone who has no implicit understanding of the structure in question.
Monolingual learner grammars are a matter of pragmatics -- there has to be a big enough market to justify a book, and there can't be much of a market for Czech grammars of Wolof. But in your case, why wouldn't you go for the English grammar than attempting to work from a monolingual Wolof grammar (if such a thing even exists).
So, teaching them a different terminology instead creates a future obstacle. The foreign term is just as "unnatural" as the supposedly easier term in the student's native language.
But words that you know how to pronounce are easier to learn than ones you don't.
(There are very few uncontroversial facts in language learning, but this is one of them.)
But this brings up something important: to me, the perfect aspect is a perfect example of how inappropriate Latin terminology is. "Subjunctive" is confusing enough, because it's an essentially meaningless term, but "perfect" is a common word, and is used here with a meaning that is radically different from common use -- that makes it very difficult for learners to process. The French have done away with the term, because it doesn't suit their purposes any more.
Another prime example is the articles: "definite" and "indefinite". This confuses every native English speaker, because we all hear these as being synonyms of "certain" and "uncertain". I was discussing grammar in Spanish once, and it dawned on me that "definido" and "indefinido" translate into English as "defined" and "undefined".
The whole meaning of the articles is clear when you translate the terms correctly: the, the definite article, signals that the listener should know which one the speaker is talking about -- i.e. it has been "defined"; a, the indefinite article, signals that the listener isn't expected to know which one the speaker is talking about -- i.e. it remains "undefined". The current terminology obscures meaning, a minor alteration would illuminate.
These are all good examples of why to teach just one terminology (the proper one, invented by the users of the described langauge). And why it is important to introduce the terminology and explain it.[/quote]
I can see why these are examples of why it is important to explain the terminology, but I see no justification in there for why the terms should be used.
And the term "indefinite article" was not invented by speakers of English -- it is a bad translation of medieval Latin, which was naming a phenomenon that only existed in other languages (again, I might be wrong, but my understanding is that there were no articles in Latin).
These terms are utterly counter-intuitive, which means they hinder more than they help. Teaching words that interfere with comprehension is just crazy. We can say "le, la
are French for the
", so why do we even need to talk about "definite articles", and even if we do, why shouldn't
we retranslate it correctly to "defined article"?
Perhaps I may have oversimplified the typology of learners, but so have you. Many people are encouraged by being presented something new and challenging. And they are being denied this in many language classes, because everyone is supposed to be scared by grammar.
You are now oversimplifying the idea of simplicity/difficulty here.
"Challenge" is not a synonym for "difficult".
A challenge is something that is difficult, but achievable. There is no challenge in the impossible, and understanding a meaningless technical term prior to having it explained is impossible.
You are saying a word they don't understand just once or twice, because you start explaining it right away, don't you? Following this logic, no chemistry teacher could start the lesson by saying "today we'll be learning about the ionic bond". They would have to start describing it and explaining it and then after 40 minutes finally tell the students what the whole class was about! I doubt anybody would find this secrecy about the lessons topic helpful, everbody would prefer to be told an unknown term once or twice at first.
Precisely. A good teacher starts with what their students already know, then builds new knowledge from there.
I had a chemistry teacher at high school who could reach 40 minutes into the lesson on certain topics without appearing to talk about the topic at all, then -- BOOM -- he would describe it, and it would all make sense, because everything he'd talked about up to that point was chosen specifically to get us to the point where understanding the new concept was easy.
Starting with the word is wrong, because the word scares some people. This is not because a meaningless word is any more "difficult" to understand for them than for others, it's that they believe that they are supposed to understand, but the ones that aren't scared have cottoned on to the fact that they're not expected to know it. Are the latter more intelligent? Possibly. But starting with the word doesn't help them in any way, it just doesn't hinder
them the way it hinders the others.
Answer me this -- which of these is a more effective teaching strategy and why?
1: The French for "car" is "voiture".
2: "Voiture" is the French for "car".
I didn't mean offence, I apologize for that. But more people in this thread (and elsewhere on the forum) have expressed the frustration of not being given the clear terminology right away. It can be just as confusing as the opposite.
That's people who already understand the terminology, though, and we're not in the majority. The terminology is not "clear" to a language newbie.
But terminology first is what we find normal and helpful in any other subject. Yet, we pretend it is wrong for the languages.
Helpful terminology is helpful, but there is a massive pushback against meaningless jargon across the world, and language is actually quite far behind other fields in doing this. Just have a look at an error message from Windows 10 compared to Windows 95 and you'll see that a lot of the jargon has vanished.
Given your extensive education, would you have prefered your lecturers to not tell you the subject of the lecture at the beginning? You know, like have them talk about the details, show you pictures, and make you guess what is the connection? And then reveal the subject at the end?
That's a strawman. Not talking about terminology doesn't mean not talking about the subject.
For example, there was a great online AI course (can't remember what it was on specifically). Each topic started with a problem, then gave the "intuition" for a solution, and then formalised that solution mathematically.
Each problem was chosen as an archetypal example of a situation where you would use a particular technique, but the name of the technique was not given until the end of the intuition, when the concept was understood and the specifics became important.
Compare this to a supervised lesson where I was introducing the passée composée
in French. I wanted to start off by revising the conjugation of avoir
, because once you have in your head that "I have" is "j'ai", it's absolutely trivial to add in "fait" and get that "I have done" is "j'ai fait". The teacher supervising was absolutely insistent that I should set out the "learning outcomes" right at the start of the class, but I really didn't want to do that, because my goal was to have them thinking about 1 thing only for the first 5-10 minutes: avoir. By forcing me to say we were going to talk about the past right at the start, she basically made me distract the students from the first task and get them thinking about something they weren't doing.
But while I say I was teaching "the passée composée" here, I didn't use the term once in the lesson, I only described its meaning. I didn't even call it "the past tense", I just talked about "talking about things in the past". That's using language, rather than using jargon. Avoiding terminology isn't the same as avoiding grammar!
The mother tongue terminology is no longer helpful, when it is being mixed with the original terminology,
As I say, that's a different problem.
Yes, I used the term "dumbing down". The supposed "simplification" is the goal of the people removing the normal terminology. They are expecting people to be too dumb for the Latin based terminology
...and with that, you are calling people stupid again, and by a circular definition: "This teaching is right, therefore people who don't learn through it are stupid."
Einstein was a big fan of simplification, because it removes obstacles. Removing truth, on the other hand, is a bad thing.
Where terminological simplification has
gone wrong is the way that "tense" is now used as a catch-all for tense, aspect and mood. That all comes from refusing to translate it correctly to "time". Avoiding discussions of aspect leads to all sorts of confusion with multiple past forms.
The result is just confusing for the better students, able to deal with the normal terminology and trying to compensate for their teacher's mistakes by self study from better sources. And it will not help the students who won't learn anyways, no matter how "easy going" you are gonna make the language classes look.
That's only for the best students.
Remember: good learners succeed despite the teaching, and genuinely bad students fail despite the teaching; its the average and mediocre students who pass or fail because of the teaching. No decisions on teaching should be made on the basis of the top of the class -- it's the middle that matters.