[EDLING:187] Re: L2 in US Schools

Leo VanLier lvanlier at MIIS.EDU
Thu May 13 12:53:38 UTC 2004

I grew up in the Netherlands and here are some observations from our
language learning in those days (60s). I'm sure things have changed, but I
don't know if success rates have changed.

a) we started languages at age 12 or 13 (7th grade in most cases)
b) the methods were not particularly brilliant in my recollection: a lot
of boring translating and rote memorization. However, we also read lots of
simplified readers, had teachers who spoke the target languages well and
often (and often included jokes, puns, stories), and we had oral
examinations as well as written ones. We had to answer questions in the
target language, recite from books, write summaries of reading texts, etc.
I can't remember any group work.
c) we only had two or three lessons a week in each language. In my school
we had to do three languages simultaneously: French, German and English.
d) as part of a successful education, everyone was expected to succeed in
language classes. At age 16 or 17 we were reading original novels in three
languages, and could converse with native speakers. I personally was
translating lyrics from the Beatles and Bob Dylan and became a fan of
Graham Greene's early novels. At age 17/18 I remember we were reading
orginal work of Somerset Maugham, Jean Paul Sartre, and Wolfgang von
Goethe in class, among other books.

I think there is no magic bullet (age, method, intensity, or whatever -
all these things can help, but none of them are a guarantee). If there is
one ingredient that stands out in my mind it is EXPECTATIONS. It was
simply expected that an educated person spoke the three foreign languages,
plus in many cases knew Latin and Greek. When my educated uncle came to
visit( the only one in the family who had finished secondary school and
went on to higher ed) he made me recite my French and commented on my
pronunciation, grammar, etc. So there was a culture of success. Foreign
languages were considered very important, on a par with science, math,

edling at ccat.sas.upenn.edu writes:
>Another question you should ask is how many hours of teaching per week
>German friend had during his years of teaching. Here in England the
>is much smaller than in most continental European countries, and one
>calculated that we achieve about as much per hour of teaching as other
>countries do.

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