Language

Gaining the Right Skills

When learning a language I believe that the teacher chooses the pace. This is because the student doesn’t have a starting point, it’s given to them by the teacher. The language could be started off by the student being given a bunch of vocabulary words, they could begin learning how to put a sentence together, or maybe even start off with how to conjugate some verbs. A lot of teachers do a combination of all of these things, and the student is able to get their first understanding of the language through this teaching method. However, both reading skills and oral skills must be developed together for a complete understanding.

When I first started learning Spanish, I was reading short paragraphs by the end of the first semester, and so my reading skills were at par with my oral skills. When I moved to the higher levels, however, the classes were split into Grammar classes that focused on speaking, and Reading classes that focused on researching and writing papers. I took both because I wanted as much immersion as I could get, but it wasn’t required. I found this strange, because reading and speaking are both so vitally important to being able to function in the language.

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Image Credit: http://www.trcb.com (Google)

In the grammar classes, I learned various verb tenses and different ways to string a sentence together, and this aided me in my reading skills. I would be reading a sentence, and maybe didn’t know what the verb tense was of a certain word, but I did recognize the verb and knew what the sentence was saying. Reading helped increase my vocabulary, too, so when I would be writing practice sentences in my grammar class, I was able to have more options in word choice. These seem like minor elements, but when you combine them all together, it really increases how well we function in a language.

For example, when having a conversation, I (like a lot of people) can understand a lot more than I can speak. So, if I hear that strange verb tense, I don’t know what tense they’re speaking in, but I can understand the conversation, and reply back in the wrong tense, but I can reply accurately and contribute to the conversation. Alternatively, with my increased vocabulary from reading, I can talk about more things in my life and enjoy speaking.

Basically, a combination of reading and oral comprehension increases knowledge of the language, which translates (no pun intended) to being more confident in the language. So, why are reading and writing classes not both required in upper levels? There are practical reasons, like not enough time in class to cover both, but the teachers in oral and reading classes assume you’re taking both classes, so they will teach their own class to compliment each other, which includes reading skills in grammar classes, and grammar skills in reading classes. So it makes sense that they both should be required. Thoughts? Arguments? Opinions? Please share them!

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2 thoughts on “Gaining the Right Skills”

  1. Growing up I met many francophones who had learned little english as they were ordinary folks from strictly French communities in the Province. I had learned sufficient French to communicate and we got along fine. I became fluent in French but found few francophones willing to speak French to me even though I spoke clearly and accurately. I have no difficulty with anyone who has difficulty in speaking English to me. I believe education in a second language should be more about communication than perfection. By striving to teach a second language focused on fluency it has resulted in the communication and cultural barriers we have in this province.

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    1. I totally agree that learning a language is about communication. That’s why people want to learn the language in the first place, am I right? Perfection in a language should be taught in the high courses, when working in government translation, or something similar. Otherwise, having every little nit-picky mistake being corrected is frustrating and deterring for most students.

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