Learners need to focus on form

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EGP
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Re: Learners need to focus on form

Postby EGP » Wed Mar 31, 2021 6:29 am

Oh god, FONFS!

Standing outside my first tutorial, I said to the TESOL professor, really? Are these terms necessary. She basically said yes if you want to be a master in the field and be able to engage in the details.

After reading a hundred articles, it was easy to see that Ellis is by far the most respected when it comes to the subject of grammar acquisition. And I will keep this simple. He said something like:

Depends on the student.

TADA!

And I believe that you can't really distil that much more.

If you have got children learning a language, you have got to go down the fun dancing style.
If you are an analytical mind that needs to know the 'why' then you have got to delve into the meta language.
You have to take into account that we learn socially too.
Others are happy to dig deep with no need for decorations on the tree.
Others don't care if they learn the best way or their own way.

For me personally and being in front of 20 students or 1 student learning alone in the library. There are some commons.

1. Self-discovery (or should I say inquiry-based learning) interests us and makes it sink in.
2. Using the language at some point must happen.

Long lists of grammar or vocabulary or anything in life are lists.

Oddly enough, if you want to get a degree in anything, and that's where parents pay the most money for their students to get a language quickly, there is a long list that you need to learn.

Lists are not how brains work, but we like to see things checked off. That is why the front page of that glossy textbook has got long lists. No matter if they are grammar, or language functions or contexts or themes, they are all quite hideous.

I can totally understand those students that prefer to learn however they want.
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Re: Learners need to focus on form

Postby Cainntear » Wed Mar 31, 2021 7:58 am

EGP wrote:After reading a hundred articles, it was easy to see that Ellis is by far the most respected when it comes to the subject of grammar acquisition. And I will keep this simple. He said something like:

Depends on the student.

TADA!

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” [Albert Einstein]

I believe you've oversimplified Ellis's message here. Unless I'm very much mistaken, Ellis's viewpoint is that the balance of activities depends on the student, and there's a very important difference there.

If you are an analytical mind that needs to know the 'why' then you have got to delve into the meta language.

Metalanguage is not grammar. An analytical mind can happily work without metalanguage.
I can totally understand those students that prefer to learn however they want.

So can I, but preference does not mean effectiveness.

Worth noting that you've made the classic leap from FoF to FoFs. The title of the thread includes "focus on form" and you opened with "Oh god, FONFS!" and yes, FoFs was mentioned too, but we were primarily talking about FoF, not FoFs. You then went on to talk about metalanguage and lists, which are definitely more features of FoFs than FoF.
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Re: Learners need to focus on form

Postby Iversen » Wed Mar 31, 2021 3:18 pm

I can't comment on mr. Ellis's opinions since I don't know anything about them, but I do know that I was one of those students that decided myself how and what to study - whether my teachers liked it or not (but most of them were happy to have at least one student that didn't need to be coached or lured to study).

I do green sheets now, i.e. I take a number of grammars and then try to extract the most salient information (particlularly morphology) and put it on green paper in the most logical form I can come up with. And that's actually also what I did as a student at the Romance Institute of the local university - I wrote my own ultra concise French grammar and passed the exam easily.

The method can also be used outside language studies: when I later studied HD (an economical exam) I told everybody within hearing range (inlcuding the teacher) that our marketing textbook, a fat and expensive thing by an American named Kotler, was hot air and balooney, and I told them that everything you needed to know in that book could be squeezed down to twenty pages - and I did the squeeze and passed the exam in marketing (only problem: I hate commercials!).

By writing your own grammatical manuals you are forced to think about the structures instead of just cram tables and rules passively, and you will also see where there are dubious areas - which may not be your fault, but more likely are the result of grammars that aren't as squeekingly logical in their presentations as they might have been. And if you write your conclusions down in a concise form you can consult your notes later and avoid reading through dozens of pages seeking for the answer to something in a grammar book.

By the way: I'm convinced that almost everything in a language (apart from a few purely phonetic phenomena) is meaningful and used for expressive or informative purposes - otherwise it would disappear - but as budding grammarians we can't build our grammatical arguments on soft and squishy semantical gut feelings - linguistics should be treated as a rare opportunity to do hard science within the humanities.
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Re: Learners need to focus on form

Postby mokibao » Wed Mar 31, 2021 4:38 pm

jeff_lindqvist wrote:
Cavesa wrote:Nowadays, we see people like "I've been learning for two months, watching tons of tv and trying to read a novel, and I still cannot understand at all, what is wrong with me?"


That sounds like one of the fellow students in my Russian class some years ago. Four months into the language, as a beginner, they said: "Oh, this is so difficult - I had hoped to be able to read Chekhov!"

It took me years before I read a book in English.


To be fair some Chekhov short stories are really short and can be studied for intensive reading, e.g. first year students of Russian at INALCO already read На даче: http://russe.inalco.chez.com/L1EXP/L1-index-exp.htm

Of course you're not reading comfortably at all and have to look up tons of words but that's kind of the point. Still, with appropriate bite-sized chunks, it's doable. Imo it feels much more rewarding reading an actual literary text, however short, than a textbook appetizer, or a bland news story about some contrived cultural theme.

Then I guess the Russian language is unique with its exceptionally vibrant tradition of writers having mastered the art of short stories. Your mileage may vary, etc.
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Re: Learners need to focus on form

Postby jeff_lindqvist » Wed Mar 31, 2021 5:14 pm

mokibao wrote:To be fair some Chekhov short stories are really short and can be studied for intensive reading, e.g. first year students of Russian at INALCO already read На даче: http://russe.inalco.chez.com/L1EXP/L1-index-exp.htm

Of course you're not reading comfortably at all and have to look up tons of words but that's kind of the point.(...)


I believe you. This course was at half speed, so a much slower progression. We did read (adapted) Russian texts during the second term, i.e. what would normally be the second half of the first term. Short stories such as "Косточка" by Tolstoy, "Из воспоминаний идеалиста" by Chekhov; excerpts from War and Peace and The Brothers Karamazov. Most of them were recorded as well, so this was one of my first attempts at listening-reading.
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Re: Learners need to focus on form

Postby Cainntear » Wed Mar 31, 2021 7:02 pm

Iversen wrote:think about the structures instead of just cram tables and rules passively,

This is exactly the difference between "focus on form" and "focus on forms". As I've already said, the terminology is confusing, but "focus on form" is not memorising tables and rules passively; it's doing meaningful activity and thinking to get grammar structures learnt alongside meaning, not independent of it. Focus on forms is the confusingly similar term used to describe rote learning of rules.
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Re: Learners need to focus on form

Postby Maiwenn » Wed Mar 31, 2021 7:06 pm

mokibao wrote:To be fair some Chekhov short stories are really short and can be studied for intensive reading, e.g. first year students of Russian at INALCO already read На даче: http://russe.inalco.chez.com/L1EXP/L1-index-exp.htm


For those unfamiliar with the French system, a student in the first year of their Licence in a language would already have some working knowledge of said language. For the Inalco L1 in Russian, the student is required to have taken Russian in secondary school and received at least 14/20 on their Bac for Russian *or* pass a qualifying language test *or* receive the diplôme d'initiation in Russian from the INALCO.
L’entrée en Licence 1ère année exige un prérequis en langue russe :
• russe étudié dans le secondaire en LV1 ou LV2 avec une note minimale de 14/20 au bac;
• test de niveau réussi ou Diplôme d’Initiation au russe de l’INALCO.

They don't state what CEFR level this is equivalent to, but my university requires A2 minimum for entry into the language Licence programmes. This isn't the same as a first-year Russian student in the US in Russian 101.
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Re: Learners need to focus on form

Postby Cavesa » Wed Mar 31, 2021 8:06 pm

Maiwenn wrote:
mokibao wrote:To be fair some Chekhov short stories are really short and can be studied for intensive reading, e.g. first year students of Russian at INALCO already read На даче: http://russe.inalco.chez.com/L1EXP/L1-index-exp.htm


For those unfamiliar with the French system, a student in the first year of their Licence in a language would already have some working knowledge of said language. For the Inalco L1 in Russian, the student is required to have taken Russian in secondary school and received at least 14/20 on their Bac for Russian *or* pass a qualifying language test *or* receive the diplôme d'initiation in Russian from the INALCO.
L’entrée en Licence 1ère année exige un prérequis en langue russe :
• russe étudié dans le secondaire en LV1 ou LV2 avec une note minimale de 14/20 au bac;
• test de niveau réussi ou Diplôme d’Initiation au russe de l’INALCO.

They don't state what CEFR level this is equivalent to, but my university requires A2 minimum for entry into the language Licence programmes. This isn't the same as a first-year Russian student in the US in Russian 101.


Yes, this is an important difference that people from some countries forget. In many countries, you actually need to already be rather good at the language, in order to be accepted to university. Only less popular languages take people, who don't know them yet.

The French Bac is supposed to be B2 for LV1 and B1 for LV2. Whether it really is so, I don't know. Honestly, I have my doubts (based on for example the usual English level of my peers in France). But it is still the official standard, and I suppose the people really going for a language degree will be at such a level.

Taking total beginners into university language programs is simply viewed in most european countries as a complete waste of resources, like taking a first grader from primary school into a maths degree. But it is done in case of the "rarer" languages, which are not being taught in high schools.

So, reading a book is a totally normal thing to be expected from the students right from the start.
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Re: Learners need to focus on form

Postby EGP » Wed Mar 31, 2021 9:08 pm

Cainntear wrote:Ellis's viewpoint is that the balance of activities depends on the student, and there's a very important difference there.


My reference is not directly to the title. It is more to the multitude of viewpoints expressed that I found scanning through this thread.
Most of the research that I read was not just should we teach form to a student, but what is the best way to acquire language. And every difference of opinion we would have in tutorials with 20 experienced teachers tended to come down to the student. Or should I have added: the context.

Metalanguage is not grammar. An analytical mind can happily work without metalanguage.


I do agree. And with my last point, unless I specify exactly the context we would disagree more. This is the 'student' I visualised:

One of the 10,000 Chinese students that were sent to Australia to go from A2 to B2 as quickly as possible to enter university. They on the whole have been taught the 'Chinese' way and dealing with that expectation to continue in an Australian context is pretty hard. In a nutshell, many of those students expect more metalanguage. When I say metalanguage, I mean words we use to describe language such as: 'fronting', 'noun clauses', etc. (Not TESOL MA metalanguage: FOFS FOF)

In this context, students expect feedback to contain that metalanguage. And it can be quite efficient to say, "for homework check p. 777 hedging."

Look, I believe we have the same opinions, I am just not the best at expressing mine.

I read lots of Ellis looking for a smoking gun. The last thing I probably read was when to turn to form. Is it before, during or after a task, for example. The research never really points to a perfect way to always do grammar. We could organise 50 lessons around grammar points, or around tasks, or texts etc. And draw out the language to be noticed.

Me personally, I love having a focus on form in the middle of the lesson. Some say it is disruptive, but others love it.

1. The students are reading or listening to a text or performing a task.
2. There is a form that is come across in context. Either they bring it up or the teacher believes it to be useful. For example, why is the subject and verb inverted in this line?
3. Then the students are asked to produce the form in a way that is meaningful.

Right there you have: Form, meaning and use. They are using the language, they are analysing the language, they are using the language. Repeat. Whether or not you use metalanguage depends on your students and context.

Sounds better than "today we are learning about inversion. Step 1 present simple inversion, step to past simple etc. Tomorrow we will learn about future simple inversion. Now do an exercise where we convert that across the tenses and write it back into Chinese." FONFS + translation.

EDIT: To Iversen,

Why did you use green? I have never heard of using green sheets before.
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Re: Learners need to focus on form

Postby Iversen » Wed Mar 31, 2021 10:17 pm

If I had used white paper the grammar sheets might get lost between all the other white sheets I produce.
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