Essay talk:First language effect on second language learning

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[The discussion below was the source material for the first version of the Language families page]

A thought occurs to me: are there different teaching methods for studnts from different language families? It strikes me that teaching English to (eg) German speakers would be a vastly different experience to teaching speakers of Chinese, because the languages are constructed in entirely different ways. Is this a problem in TEFL, and if so, is it worth including it in TEFLpedia? Totnesmartin 14:13, 16 September 2009 (UTC)

The simple answer is yes. The closer the language is to English then the less the student has to learn, though false friends can be a problem. In Spanish for example there are a vast number of words which are similar between the two languages. While the grammar different, it is not totally alien like, for instance, Basque. Also European languages already have a very similar alphabet which is a big help. Furthermore Asian languages are usually tonal which, as you imply, makes learning any European language more difficult for them.
One might also consider how these foreign languages are taught. My impression is that there is more investigation (and hence more theories about) English teaching than other languages simply because English is the most taught language in the world.
My experience of other language learning is that there is a lot more grammar taught up front than there is in English. English gave up on the Grammar Translation Method as a prime teaching tool some time ago and turned to other more communicative systems.
However, it may be that other languages can only be taught after a fair bit of theory has been assimilated. I remember having conversation classes with real total beginners in English (in fact a pretty rare breed these days) but if you give them "to be" and some prepositions and nouns you can say "The pen is on the table", "The pencil is next to the phone." A colleague of mine was teaching Basque in the room next door, also to total beginners and asked me what the hell I did with them. When I explained she told me I was very lucky as in Basque any preposition is incorporated into the noun to which it refers following some complicated rules and verb conjugations run to several pages.
Or take the phrase. "The red cow ran." I can change the number and sex of the subject. Cows, cow, bull bulls and that's all I need to change to make a new phrase. "The red bulls ran". In Spanish every single word would need to be changed for each of the four possible subjects. (Although I must admit that the example is a little contrived.)
I see I rather rambled off you point a bit though.  :-( --Bob M 14:46, 16 September 2009 (UTC)
Not much more I can add to that, but I will. Like Bob, I could go on for hours :) One key consideration is that if the teacher is fully aware of the linguistic difficulties of the students' mother tongue regarding learning another language - be they grammar-related or pronunciation, etc. teaching will obviously be more effective. This is why I insist that, say, a Spaniard with training as an English-language teacher is usually a far more effective teacher to Spaniards than a native English speaker with little or no training in language teaching. This leads on to other discussions regarding use of L1 in the classroom, and so on.
Another important aspect is that teaching a foreign language requires far more than being "merely" a native speaker. One typical ploy here in Spain - and someone will probably slash my car tyres on reading this - is for language schools to advertise things like "We only employ native English teachers with university degrees" - now that you have been forewarned, it's easy to spot how this is deliberately misleading. But students are led to believe that a native speaker is by definition what they need.
Answering your last question, as to whether it's worth including in teflpedia, the answer is... yes and no. Yes, it's worth including on spaces such as the Teflpedia:Teachers' room as a constructive exchange of opinions and experiences, but no, I don't think we can make an actual article page out of it, not least 'cos it would be pure POV and read like an essay.
Looking back over what I've just written, maybe that wouldn't be a bad idea. In fact, maybe teflpedia could offer a formal space for teachers - and students - to write about their language-learning experiences. It would have to be moderated by admins to ensure that nothing libellous were posted and it could include keywords to ease indexing. I'm outta here! --Technopat 15:57, 16 September 2009 (UTC)
Actually, that is sort of what our somewhat virgin "Essay space" is for. It's for people to present a non-neutral point of view about some topic associated with language learning and then for it to be debated on the appropriate talk page.--Bob M 17:28, 16 September 2009 (UTC)
Greetings Bob M - I had no idea - or maybe I had forgotten - that there was an essay space. I've just seen it now at the bottome of the Main page, so I must have read it when I first popped in. Maybe there could be a link on the navigation bar to the left so that it could present in people's minds. Is it moderated? Re. the keywords in my edit above, I'd forgotten that the wikilinks serve that function perfectly. Silly bunt! Cheers!--81.32.110.111 08:22, 17 September 2009 (UTC) Forgot to login (I did click the signature icon, though!) - sorry!--Technopat 08:24, 17 September 2009 (UTC)
I guess it would be moderated at the same level as user pages. Nothing slanderous (which I'm just going to add), obscene, racist or libellous. Is that what you were asking? I don't want to fill up the nav bar with too much stuff, also it's a namespace so you can't really link to it (I think). Every essay would have the category essay though and I could link to that. But it's empty at the moment so I'm not sure that we're ready for it yet. But if it gets some action I'll put it up. Indeed, if we get some interesting or challenging essays we could hi-light them on the mainpage in the featured article spot. --Bob M 08:52, 17 September 2009 (UTC)
I've clarified what would be unacceptable in our Teflpedia:Community Standards. Best to be pro-active.--Bob M 09:00, 17 September 2009 (UTC)

Article Name

The article name "Language families" is a bit too general for the specific topic covered by this article. Please suggest a more encyclopedic name for this article. Maybe:

  • First Language Affect on Second Language Learning
  • L1 Influence on L2 Learning

Other? Please add article name suggestions... --Roger 17:16, 2 July 2012 (CDT)

I can't think of anything better than your first suggestion.--Bob M 04:37, 3 July 2012 (CDT)
I'll move the page to first language's affect on second language learning. --Roger 14:18, 3 July 2012 (CDT)