I was recently at a conference and thought, OK, I should go see what the Intensive Language teachers do, nd went to a workshop called something like “Get Your Beginners Talking!” Every language conference I’ve ever been to has a workshop like this.
Here’s a part of a handout:
So…what do the research and our classroom experience say about these activities?
1. Speaking “practice” as the exercise suggests does not improve aquisition. We’ve heard this from VanPatten, Krashen and of course Kirk (2013).
2. Feedback– in this case on pronunciation– does not work. There are two main reasons for this:
- You can’t produce language in real time while self-monitoring to make sure you are using the feedback correctly (Krashen).
- Conscious info does not end up in the implicit linguistic system, as VanPatten notes (see this).
As BVP puts it,
3. This turns the teacher into the language police. Someone asked the presenter “do they ever speak L1 while doing this?” and they answered “yes, I have to keep an eye on them.” No fun. I personally find using L2 with other L2s “fake” feeling…and I’m a language geek.
4. In terms of personal interest, we have a problem: what if Johnny likes playing with dolls, and doesn’t care that Suzie is really interested in playing Grand Theft Auto? What if these are low-frequency words? If these are the case– and they usually are– the amount of vocab that the kids hear that is repeated is going to be minimal. If I hear about 15 different people’s 15 different activities, I am getting less input per item = less acquisition.
5. The junky output becoming impoverished input problem among L2s is here unaddressed.
6. The repetition would be boring. In the presenter’s example, a classic beginner question is do you like to _____? and kids have to answer Yes, I like… or No, I don’t like… This is going to get old really quickly and of course it would be more natural, easier and faster just to use English.
Anyway…the wayback machine took me to activities that I have never been able to make work. However as they say, your mileage may vary.
I’ve been able to ditch 95% of output-focused activities, and– thanks to the ease and power of comprehensible input– I have ironically managed to build better speakers by avoiding making kids speak. Go figure.