Monday, February 19, 2007

Incidental learning

By P. Ilangovan, Freelance Teacher Trainer, Teacher & Materials writer, India

Quite a few people have now pointed out the fallibility of trying to learn a language by isolating its elements. And as one teacher pointed out in an earlier mail, even when a teacher is presenting a grammatical item to her class the Ss are most probably also learning bits of pronunciation, vocabulary and so on.

This means that they are not only focusing on what their teacher wants them to, but also "paying attention" to the other things that their SUBCONSCIOUS minds want them to attend to.

It is a fallacy of post-modern thinking (Outcome = or > Input) that Ss will only learn what teachers present

Many years ago Dick Allwright wrote a paper called, "Why don't learners learn what teachers teach?" in which he answered in part the questions he raised

Why learners do not learn everything they are taught,
How learners manage to learn things they are not taught,
How learners manage to learn things they are taught -- some learners learned bits of language that they had done in interactive work (comprehending...) for.

Visit this URL to read his paper: Dick Allwright - Language Learning in Formal and Informal Contexts

All said and done, Ss appear to learn (and acquire) languages when they are LEAST focused on any one single item during communal learning. In other words, the more focus teacher gives to an element of language, there is less likelihood of all Ss in class of learning it.

Consequently, the less focus that teacher gives to the items to be learnt (in other words, the more embedded in discourse context they are) the geater the chances of Ss picking them up! THAT INDEED IS THE POWER OF SUB-CONSCIOUS LANGUAGE LEARNING!

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