Does early speaking lead to fossilized mistakes?

General discussion about learning languages
s_allard
Green Belt
Posts: 477
Joined: Sat Jul 25, 2015 3:01 pm
Location: Canada
Languages: French (N), English (N), Spanish (B2), Polish (beginner)
x 687

Re: Does early speaking lead to fossilized mistakes?

Postby s_allard » Tue Apr 18, 2017 10:05 pm

My position on early French immersion in Canada and immersion in general is pretty clear. I'll let parents and history be the judge. I see no shortage of wealthy people lining up to send their children to expensive private international schools. Neither do I see a shortage of less wealthy people in Canada lining up to send their children to free public French immersion schools.

But don't listen to me. Listen to the Canadian Parents for French (CPF) http://cpf.ca/ Whether it's French immersion, a regular French program or attending an all-French school, the fundamental message is that learning a second language (in this case French) is good for you and the earlier the better. Of course there are all sorts of ifs and buts and endless details of scientific research that claim to show that this is a complex subject.

But I'm amazed at how someone who claims to be interested in language learning can squirm and wiggle endlessly trying to prove that immersion at an early age is not a good thing. Of course there are all sorts of circumstances and nuances but the plain truth is that it is best to start learning a language at an early age, and the earlier the better. And it doesn't have to be in school. There can be forms of immersion outside school. Every single perfectly bilingual person I have ever met, seen or heard ever has learned the second language as a youth.

Rich people have always known this. The really rich would have tutors or nannies with foreign languages for their children. Their kids have always attended these international schools or went abroad to perfect their language skills. Being able to speak multiple languages well was a sign of high social class. The graduates of these schools go on to positions of power and prestige in the world with their excellent language skills.

When less wealthy people try to do the same thing in public French immersion programs, all of a sudden people complain about how elitist, divisive and inefficient French immersion is. What is good for the rich is suddenly not so good for the less wealthy

Most parents of course don't believe this hogwash. What they understand is what the rich have always understood. Bilingual education is a good for the brain, the mind, learning and certainly good for a future career. Mind you, implementation may be at times deficient. State French immersion is not the same as attending that posh lycée français at the cost of a new car every year, but the results are not bad.

As for the results of French immersion in terms of this language skills, yes, we have to admit that depending on the duration and form of French immersion here in Canada, the proficiency can be lacking when compared to native speakers. There can be lots of fossilized mistakes or stubborn bad habits in grammar and vocabulary because of interference from the L1. But we also notice excellent pronunciation and ease in communication.

As a teacher I love working with adult graduates of immersion because they have a good foundation of basic skills. They improve very quickly because they already have the basics. It's just a question of reawakening a lot of dormant skills. Those 25 hours of French a week at age 6 twenty years ago have left their mark.

That's the key advantage of early exposure. It provides a foundation that will probably be there forever, just waiting to be called up again. I'm not saying that learning at a later age cannot be just as effective. It's just that I believe it's best to start early.
0 x

User avatar
reineke
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1776
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2016 7:34 pm
Languages: Engrish
x 2690

Re: Does early speaking lead to fossilized mistakes?

Postby reineke » Tue Apr 18, 2017 10:09 pm

Cainntear wrote:
aaleks wrote:The key words here are “as a little girl”, I think.

I personally think the key words are "in Canada". No-one has denied that children thrive in truly immersive situations, where they are surrounded by native speakers. No academics have ever argued against this.

But there are a great many well-respected academics who challenge the idea that attempts at artificial immersion can ever replicate that success. Immersion where the majority of the class aren't natives doesn't lead to anywhere near the same level of success, and while many will proponents of immersion will defend it by simply saying "well of course it's not as good, but it's good enough", but that all comes down to saying that the numerous systemic mistakes are in a category of "acceptable" mistakes, an assertion that I've never seen backed up with data. In the end, it's an ideologically-driven view.


In a thread titled How are Foreign Languages Taught in your Country? EmmaC02 shared her experience with the French Immersion program in Ontario, Canada where she developed... passive skills.

viewtopic.php?f=14&t=3073

Immersion situations are an interesting and valuable source of information about fossilization. I don't think you'll find many "enemies" of immersion here.
3 x

Cavesa
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1807
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 9:46 am
Languages: Czech (N), English (C1), French (C2), Spanish (intermediate), German (somewhere on the path), Italian (beginner)
x 4460

Re: Does early speaking lead to fossilized mistakes?

Postby Cavesa » Tue Apr 18, 2017 10:19 pm

I'd say this is a classical strawman fight.

Noone is against immersion. It is just not the panacea and any guarantee, and there are some dark sides, such as the price/results ratio, which is not always that awesome. But in general, yes the early age and immersion are an advantage. But there still can be problems, mistakes taught, bad methodology, teachers who do more harm than good despite being native. Full immersion, including kids talking among themselves just in the language, with various teachers, with the full enviroment, is actually pretty rare and does sort out most of the problems by the sheer quantity of everything (time, people, resources). Most immersion programs do not go that far. And I am talking more generally than just about Quebec.

But what on earth is all that doing in this thread? It has gone far beyond examples illustrating arguments about fossilization and early speaking.
6 x

User avatar
reineke
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1776
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2016 7:34 pm
Languages: Engrish
x 2690

Re: Does early speaking lead to fossilized mistakes?

Postby reineke » Tue Apr 18, 2017 10:36 pm

Immersion threads

Armando
viewtopic.php?f=14&t=3062&p=42683&hilit=Immersion#p42683

Does immersion lay the groundwork for rapid learning?
(What a well thought out title! Don't let it go to waste)
viewtopic.php?f=14&t=1533&hilit=Immersion

Effectiveness of immersion?
viewtopic.php?f=14&t=3319#p44782
0 x

GoSensGo
Posts: 1
Joined: Tue Apr 18, 2017 10:07 pm
Location: Canada
Languages: French
x 10

Re: Does early speaking lead to fossilized mistakes?

Postby GoSensGo » Wed Apr 19, 2017 12:14 am

Hello,

The recent turn in this thread to French Immersion is probably as good as place as any for me to jump into fray considering that I'm a French immersion veteran from Ontario having done it from kindergarten to the end of high school.

I can speak mostly for myself but feel that I can also do so to a certain extent for my former classmates, as far as my memory serves.

When I went through it in the early 1980s, it did not have the same cache as it does now with so many parents nowadays looking for any angle to raise their social standing (see The shrinking English classroom from the Globe and Mail, a daily newspaper in Toronto) or engage in a bit of wishful thinking that French immersion must be better than the English program for their children (see There's just one problem with French immersion ... well, several, actually - also from the Globe and Mail).

In the 1980s, teachers were often stricter, failing a grade was quite possible, rote-learning was acceptable (although it was never done to excess) and Christmas concerts were called just that rather than today's politically correct and neutered "Holiday concert" or some such. Even though I was in French immersion, my younger brother wasn't. For several years, our parents were unimpressed with my progress for some time compared to his, and it was my relative mediocrity which contributed to their not enrolling him in French immersion. My father was especially irked by the arrogance of a few of my teachers in French immersion in primary school who did not take kindly to their suggestions that they adopt a different (and often tougher) approach on me. He got the impression that his concerns were counted for little because his being monolingual in English meant that he was unfit to make any commentary or suggestions about how to get more out of me when it came to schooling in French. In contrast, the teachers in the English stream were more amenable to his input especially when he reassured (and demonstrated to) them that he would not complain to the prinicpal if they turned the academic heat up on my brother as they saw fit.

In any case, my academic fortunes changed starting in Grade 6 with a new teacher who really pushed all the right buttons, and got not only me but many of my classmates to punch above our academic weight (in hindsight, she probably got us punching at our weight since none of our previous teachers was as dynamic, capable or resourceful as she). Finally all the reciting of French conjugation made sense. Finally writing summaries of news articles from La Presse was interesting. Our fortune continued into the first year of high school since that cohort of me and my friends got some solid old-time French immersion teachers in Grades 7 and 8. It was actually quite funny and filled us with pride when we found that not only were our French immersion teachers good at teaching French, but they were solid at teaching math as well. When we all started high school, there was a small core of us "Frenchies" in each Grade 9 math class who ran circles around many of our peers who had come up through English. Starting in Grade 9, we took math in English but our French-inflected grounding followed us even then. It took us some time to get used to using "hypotenuse" and "parallelogram" instead of "hypoténuse" and "parallélogramme" (with the latter pronounced and spelled the French way, comme il faut ;) ).

When it comes to the results as an adult, being in French immersion was ultimately worth it for me. When I was younger I wanted to stay because I didn't want to leave my friends despite my parents' concern about my middling academic performance. After a certain age there was also a sense of shame or pity if you or your friend in French immersion switched to English. I knew a few kids who switched out, and a couple turned out quite OK (not just in high school but in life). God knows what happened to the others (or for that matter some of my former classmates, successful as they were then). Of course, from Grade 6 on there was no more talk of switching me to English which suited me just fine. It was a definite plus that by then I was going to school not just to see my friends but that I had a decent chance of learning something new and getting good marks. It was my fluency in French that got me my first full-time job in insurance right after finishing university. My hiring manager was a Montrealer and I had no problems when we started to conduct the interview in French mid-stream nor did she have a problem with my accent, minimal as it was. As for fossilization, it's hard to say since I've never really thought about my experience letting bad habits get set from an early age although I suspect that my problem is that French is foreign to me. It's not too unusual for me to think about something in English and then put out a French translation of it orally or in writing. French immersion made me a bit more open to learning or dealing with languages other than English and French, although it's definitely not to the same degree as some of you on this board. You won't see me rushing out to buy Assimil Italien sans peine, let alone Beginner's Georgian.

However I still don't share s_allard's enthusiasm over French immersion, despite my being a potential success story. The few classmates from the old days whom I still in touch with rarely use their French and through simple disuse have lost a lot of their knowledge. Moreover none of them as far as I can recall are seriously interested in languages, although they seem to be getting on OK in life whether they're corporate lawyers, early childhood educators or interior designers. In my case, I still do use French on the job (my handle should tell you where I'm from) and so I get enough exposure to keep it up. Bilingual education to me doesn't mean that the French immersion technique needs to be replicated worldwide with kids needing to start learning the second language in kindergarten. I have a couple of acquaintances from Germany who're here on a working holiday visa and their English is excellent in terms of grammar and vocabulary, although there's a bit of a German accent. They started learning English at age 10 and went through it until the end of high school (all in Germany). No doubt they got plenty of chances to practice outside class not just passively by watching Hollywood or listening to what's on the Billboard charts, but actively when meeting exchange students at their universities, and afterwards travelling in a world where English is the lingua franca.

What I got out of my run through French immersion is that for the right kid with the right teacher, there can be a pretty good reward. However, a mediocre teacher and a disinterested kid can make it a drain, and just more trouble than it's worth. I can't imagine being that disinterested kid in classes taught in some language that not even my family understands and is crowded out by all of the English stuff available to me. On a practical level, whom could I turn to for help on some writing exercise in French? At least with math homework, I'd have a better chance of getting some help from my parents (or maybe even an older sibling). Put on top of that a teacher who just doesn't get the class going and I'd wonder if I could ever learn anything in a classroom. Cavesa's view hits the nail on the head for me in that immersion isn't a magic bullet, and may I add that after a certain point, fossilization needn't be a fatal flaw unless we're trying to ace a language exam or get letter-perfect translation/intepretation in politics, law or business. It just seems kind of weird (dumb?) to talk about fossilization and benefit of immersion if the entire learning process gets sabotaged because of student apathy and/or educational incompetence which I have experienced first-hand.
9 x

s_allard
Green Belt
Posts: 477
Joined: Sat Jul 25, 2015 3:01 pm
Location: Canada
Languages: French (N), English (N), Spanish (B2), Polish (beginner)
x 687

Re: Does early speaking lead to fossilized mistakes?

Postby s_allard » Wed Apr 19, 2017 3:06 am

Congrats to to GoSensGo for a great post about a first-person experience in French immersion. I've put in bold a key element for me.

GoSensGo wrote:... It was a definite plus that by then I was going to school not just to see my friends but that I had a decent chance of learning something new and getting good marks. It was my fluency in French that got me my first full-time job in insurance right after finishing university. My hiring manager was a Montrealer and I had no problems when we started to conduct the interview in French mid-stream nor did she have a problem with my accent, minimal as it was. As for fossilization, it's hard to say since I've never really thought about my experience letting bad habits get set from an early age although I suspect that my problem is that French is foreign to me. It's not too unusual for me to think about something in English and then put out a French translation of it orally or in writing. French immersion made me a bit more open to learning or dealing with languages other than English and French, although it's definitely not to the same degree as some of you on this board. You won't see me rushing out to buy Assimil Italien sans peine, let alone Beginner's Georgian.

However I still don't share s_allard's enthusiasm over French immersion, despite my being a potential success story. The few classmates from the old days whom I still in touch with rarely use their French and through simple disuse have lost a lot of their knowledge. Moreover none of them as far as I can recall are seriously interested in languages, although they seem to be getting on OK in life whether they're corporate lawyers, early childhood educators or interior designers. In my case, I still do use French on the job (my handle should tell you where I'm from) and so I get enough exposure to keep it up. Bilingual education to me doesn't mean that the French immersion technique needs to be replicated worldwide with kids needing to start learning the second language in kindergarten. I have a couple of acquaintances from Germany who're here on a working holiday visa and their English is excellent in terms of grammar and vocabulary, although there's a bit of a German accent. They started learning English at age 10 and went through it until the end of high school (all in Germany). No doubt they got plenty of chances to practice outside class not just passively by watching Hollywood or listening to what's on the Billboard charts, but actively when meeting exchange students at their universities, and afterwards travelling in a world where English is the lingua franca.

What I got out of my run through French immersion is that for the right kid with the right teacher, there can be a pretty good reward. However, a mediocre teacher and a disinterested kid can make it a drain, and just more trouble than it's worth. ...

When someone says "It was my fluency in French that got me my first full-time job..." that should make many parents proud of a decision made many years earlier. Maybe there were a bunch of other people just as qualified for that job but proficiency in French made all the difference.

I can understand that not everybody shares my enthusiasm for French immersion. As GoSensGo points out, it doesn't work for everybody, and success depends on many variables. Immersion can begin at age 10 or at any age. All of that is true but the basic principle remains the same: languages are best learned at an earlier age.

At the same time I acknowledge that many people, and certainly most people in North America, and even in Canada can have wonderful lives without knowing a word of French or another language. As a matter of fact, you don't have to be bilingual to get a job in Canada. Yet every single bilingual person I've met has said that it is an advantage. An every one has said that they would want their children to be bilingual.

At this moment, the two main opposition political parties of Canada are choosing their next leader who could be the next Prime Minister. The candidates have to conduct certain debates in French. This makes for some funny entertainment. I would bet my bottom dollar that many of these candidates wished they had gone through French immersion. But, at the time their parents didn't think it was worth it. Now it's too late. That's the same mistake that hundreds of thousands of parents don't want to make.
0 x

Online
User avatar
sfuqua
Blue Belt
Posts: 762
Joined: Sun Jul 19, 2015 5:05 am
Location: san jose, california
Languages: English(N),
Samoan(FSI 4+, rusty),
Tagalog (33 years speaking daily),
Spanish (5000 pages of novels, 150 hours of TV)
French (120 hours of study, 500 pages read)
Language Log: http://how-to-learn-any-language.org/vi ... f=15&t=772
x 1585

Re: Does early speaking lead to fossilized mistakes?

Postby sfuqua » Wed Apr 19, 2017 4:03 am

Immersion has a couple of meanings. In this thread it seems to describe an organized academic program which attempts to maximize a learner's exposure to the target language while studying a language.
This is a far cry from a more general usage, the rather extreme experiences which happen to children of immigrants who are dropped into a school system in the US with no support. Or immigrants who are dropped into an area where there are no other immigrants from their language.
Or me, when Peace Corps dropped me into a village with no support and A1 (at best) skills.
I don't doubt that an academic program which maximizes time on task can be effective, but dropping a learner into an L2 environment with no support can be pretty rough. The loneliness, headaches, and regular embarrassment I experienced has left a bad taste in my mouth for the very word, immersion...
There is no magic to immersion other than time on task. With no support, this time on task may not be effective and may be miserable.
One shouldn't assume that an immigrant who rapidly learns a language has had a good experience. In my case, even when people were nice, being the village idiot for months on end left some bad feelings.
It did motivate me to study...
8 x
Right now working on glossika for Spanish and French.
And of course, I'm working with a bunch of sentence cards in an anki deck.
I listen to and use my fossilized Tagalog everyday.

User avatar
aaleks
Orange Belt
Posts: 124
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2017 7:04 pm
Location: Russia
Languages: Russian (N)
English (just learning)
x 167

Re: Does early speaking lead to fossilized mistakes?

Postby aaleks » Wed Apr 19, 2017 8:10 am

Maybe my conclusion is wrong but if the French immersion is more French lesson per week (every day) and a couple of other subjects are taught in the language, there is a similar type of schools in Russia too. Although no one is called it “immersion school” but just an English school, French school, a German school. The kids who attend such language schools usually have a higher level of a language than kids from non language schools, but not always. It depends, as in GoSensGo’s story, on many factors.
And, anyway, I wouldn’t call studying a language in a language school an immersion. For me, the true immersion is how it is described in sfuqua’s post:
...the rather extreme experiences which happen to children of immigrants who are dropped into a school system in the US with no support. Or immigrants who are dropped into an area where there are no other immigrants from their language.
Or me, when Peace Corps dropped me into a village with no support and A1 (at best) skills.
I don't doubt that an academic program which maximizes time on task can be effective, but dropping a learner into an L2 environment with no support can be pretty rough. The loneliness, headaches, and regular embarrassment I experienced has left a bad taste in my mouth for the very word, immersion...
There is no magic to immersion other than time on task. With no support, this time on task may not be effective and may be miserable.
1 x
Sorry for my errors and mistakes in English. Any corrections are welcome.

s_allard
Green Belt
Posts: 477
Joined: Sat Jul 25, 2015 3:01 pm
Location: Canada
Languages: French (N), English (N), Spanish (B2), Polish (beginner)
x 687

Re: Does early speaking lead to fossilized mistakes?

Postby s_allard » Wed Apr 19, 2017 9:58 am

aaleks wrote:Maybe my conclusion is wrong but if the French immersion is more French lesson per week (every day) and a couple of other subjects are taught in the language, there is a similar type of schools in Russia too. Although no one is called it “immersion school” but just an English school, French school, a German school. The kids who attend such language schools usually have a higher level of a language than kids from non language schools, but not always. It depends, as in GoSensGo’s story, on many factors.
And, anyway, I wouldn’t call studying a language in a language school an immersion. For me, the true immersion is how it is described in sfuqua’s post:...

The discussion has centered on French immersion in Canada so far, but it is true that the word immersion can have different meanings. The Canadian experience is interesting because it makes immersion education available for free in the public education system.

As aaleks rightly points out, and as I explicitly stated a few times above, the idea is nothing really new. There have always been private schools in foreign languages for the wealthy and they aren't called immersion schools. They are often called international schools.

In Canada if you want the ultimate French learning experience for your children you can send them to any number of exclusive and very expensive schools.

What do you get for your money? Small class sizes; teaching staff mostly from France, an academic program and exams from France, all subjects including math and science taught in French, native French-speaking fellow students, a prestigious internationally recognized diploma, extra-curricula activities in French and great snob appeal.

The results in terms of learning French are great. You can't spend 11 years in this system and not end up speaking excellent French.

French immersion in Canadian schools attempts to offer similar with much more limited means for the general public and for free. The results are certainly not as good as what you get in those expensive private institutions but they are way superior to the regular language courses.

Some people have highlighted here the sometimes mediocre language skills of the Canadian French immersion graduates. Of course the results are not the same as what you get in those private all-French schools. But here is what you get: 25 hours a week 40 weeks a year of interaction in French starting at the age of 6. Even if this is only for a few years, it comes at the ideal age and provides a foundation of French that can last forever.

What's the alternative? First of all, French is not compulsory in half of Canada's provinces. Many students get no French at all. In the school systems where French is a regular subject, core French as it's called calls for something like 100 hours of French a year. The results are of course not as good as French immersion.

For the learning of French and despite all its limitations, French immersion is the best deal in town for the price.
1 x

User avatar
aaleks
Orange Belt
Posts: 124
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2017 7:04 pm
Location: Russia
Languages: Russian (N)
English (just learning)
x 167

Re: Does early speaking lead to fossilized mistakes?

Postby aaleks » Wed Apr 19, 2017 11:53 am

I probably have failed to make my previous comment clear. It happens from time to time even when I try to express my thoughts in my native tongue :) The language schools I mentioned in my post are public not private.

And sorry for off-top.
0 x
Sorry for my errors and mistakes in English. Any corrections are welcome.


Return to “General Language Discussion”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: jeff_lindqvist, olim21 and 1 guest