Interesting paper goes over 50 years of language teaching at FSI

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Found an interesting paper here the other day, written in 1999, going over some lessons in language teaching acquired by the FSI (Foreign Service Institute) over fifty years. Particularly interesting are:



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This next one is particularly important - something I wrote/ranted about back in 2008:


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The end of this next one is particularly important, and is something many of us have encountered in life: a schoolmate who is fluent in two languages thanks to their parents (often English and Chinese in Canada), but who simply can't learn foreign languages. To them, their first two languages are simply part of them and no more helpful than knowing one is to someone else.


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This last one is also critical. One-on-one demonstrations of 'fluency' are often simply one person controlling the conversation. That is a great tip when learning a language (don't let the conversation get out of control or you'll get lost), but often a rather dishonest way to demonstrate mastery. Sometimes, of course, this is unintentionally dishonest: when speaking only to one person at a time (Skype for example) one can begin to get the impression that fluency is just around the corner when you are in fact just talking about easy topics that you are keeping good control over.

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