Monday, May 30, 2011

Thesis highlights

Ok, I know that most of this will not be interesting for anyone reading this blog, but I am a teacher and this blog is about my teaching abroad, so.  While I don't think my thesis itself would be an interesting read, some of the information I discovered while writing it IS very interesting, either as an educator or as a language learner.

  • I had noticed when I first lived in Hungary, and when I first came from Hungary to Spain, the tendency of Hungarian and Spanish to interfere with each other in my spoken language.  This would either take the form of words from the other foreign language invading while speaking, or (and much more interestingly) grammatical concepts from one language making themselves known while speaking the other.  The most famous example of this is when I visited Spain from Hungary and said "Dos cervezaT quiero, por favor."  This has the combined fun of Hungarian word order and the Hungarian accusative ending working their way into my Spanish.  However, when I speak either of my foreign languages, I have very little English interference.  That isn't to say that I don't think of English words when I'm missing a piece of vocabulary, or that I never use awkward anglicisms, but rather simply that I don't have unconscious interference.  My use of English was almost always deliberate (if unwanted, because I want to be fluent!).  And, it turns out, this is totally a thing.  It's called "the talk foreign phenomenon," which is a horrible name, and it has to do with our cognitive centers apparently storing non-native languages in the same place.  It's simply more easy to "deactivate" our native language.  So, all you third language learners, rejoice!  It's totally a thing!
  • Partner teaching is completely best practices.  It's ideal (when the two teachers get along, of course) because it offers so much more to the students, and allows for the use of different teaching strategies.  World, get on this.  I'm so excited to go back to Krudy and partner teaching.
  • Immersion teaching may well only be the most effective teaching practice for young students, as adolescents and adults can benefit greatly from connections between languages and all of that fun metalinguistic stuff.
  • Code-switching (the practice used by bilinguals, mostly unconsciously but according to rather strict rules, of changing languages in one turn of speech) is not a sign of a lack of proficiency in the non-native language.  In fact, it is more likely to be used by people who are comfortable, if not fluent, with both languages.  It is also much more likely that bilinguals switch into the language which they HEAR most often, even if that is not the dominant language of the pair!  This is fascinating.  It also gives us expats a bit of an excuse for our obnoxiousness of using scattered words and phrases of the local language when speaking English.  We're not showing off... it's science!
  • Actually, very very few people are forced to learn a third (or subsequent) language with a non-native language as the language of instruction.  Very, very little research exists on the subject, and it all seems to deal with either the Basques (whom I can't seem to stop visiting this year) or the Hungarians (whom I love).  So that's interesting.  I'll have to write about it in a few years.


laopan said...

Interesting post. I remember how Chinese sort of "pushed" my Spanish out of my head in a matter of months when I studied in China. I could still read and understand Spanish, but I lost all my fluency in speaking, because Chinese words kept jumping into my mind. It was horrible.

"Dos cervezaT quiero, por favor." This has the combined fun of Hungarian word order and the Hungarian accusative ending

Also, "quiero" sounds similar to "kérek", so that might have helped the confusion.

Lauren said...

I didn't even think about the fact that the two words sound similar, but I bet that DID have something to do with it!

Carissa said...

I <3 the the "talk foreign phenomenon"