Q&A on Language Learning
Language learning and all its facets is what I really enjoy doing and writing about. And, whereas Critical Infrastructure for Children is an utterly practical book designed to boost job creation and opportunity, what I write about language learning has less defined benefits. That said, I know that any language program has the opportunity to elevate the experiences of all students, if only they focus on positive change. After teaching and studying languages with total intensity for seven years, and casually for fourteen years, I know that every language learner can experience success and a great deal of joy that comes along with it. This is especially true now, as the world and its many language groups are coming into contact with each other and integrating.
Below are a few specifics of my thoughts on effective language learning. I choose the question and answer format for clarity.
What’s the first tactic for maximizing language programs? A more systematic approach to building vocabulary, combined with forming simple sentences and easy reading. As opposed to learning random lists of words, they should begin by learning the 100 highest frequency words, and then learn to form simple sentences with them.
Why is it best to form simple sentences? Schools too often go to complicated grammar before the students have even mastered the basics. I like my students to learn to write sentences like “the table is big” or “The table is small”, over and and over. They need the building blocks first. Five or so sentences per class and maybe five for homework is good enough.
3. Why are easy readers so important? Reading is the absolute best way to reinforce what has been learned, as it allows for the kind of repetition students need. The problem is that most students never get the vocabulary to read books effectively, which is the reason for easy readers. However, with the books of Blaine Ray, it’s possible for students to begin reading at a vocabulary of 300 words. This is in contrast to what is needed to read normal books, which is around 1500 or so.
How strong is the effect of reading on student learning? Huge; once students can begin to read, they get the huge number of repetitions they need to truly know the language.
What questions in Critical Infrastructure for Children are related to language learning? Questions 47 to 85 are strictly about language learning. If those questions were all responded to in an effective manner, students throughout New England will benefit in a huge way. Especially recent arrivals to this country.
What is a great gift that students can give themselves? To find a study routine that they truly enjoy. Myself, I’m a flash card learner; I can flip flash cards for six or seven hours and enjoy every minute. That said, students that find a way they love to learn can always go to that. Once a good base of vocabulary is established, then daily readings can be a great way to enjoy and better learn the language.
How can the right language programs be great for mental health? They can relax students and help them feel great about what they’re learning.
More to come.