That learning by the heart ought not to be lightly dismissed as a deplorable feature of obsolete methods may be gathered from the opinions of leading authorities.
Thus Handschin, a leading American Specialist, writes:
“One of the best exercises of the will is memorizing. We know there is a tendency in some quarters to make school tasks easy by omitting memory work in former periods. But, of course, there must be memory work,... although to overdo it is just as bad… For instance oftentimes a course in elementary language is so conducted as to acquire nothing but memory work.”- Methods of teaching modern languages, p.77.Word Book Company, New York, 1923,
Harold Palmer, one of the most stimulating of modern authorities, asserts that the study of language is in its essence a series of acts of memorizing; whether we are concerned with isolated words, with word-groups, with meaning or with the phenomena of grammar, the fact remains that successful memorizing is the basic of all progress.- The Oral Method of Teaching Languages, p.20.Heffer,1023.
Elsewhere he elaborates his interpretation of the teaching process by analyzing language psychologically as comprising what he call (a) Primary matter and (b) Secondary matter.
He explains primary matter is an appreciable part of language may be seen from the list of categories it comprises. Summed up they are
- All vocabulary (simple, compound and derived).
- (a) All word-group used like single words, e.g.
of course, would rather, in spite of, had better.
(b) Verb phrases, e.g. go out, come back, get up.
(c) The association of prepositions with nouns, adjectives and verbs, e.g. on Sunday, made of, averse to or from.
3. Idiomatic sentences.
4. A large number of regular sentences for use as model in substitution tables.
It must be admitted in the light of Palmers formidable list of categories that there is a considerable amount of language is virtually an act of recall, for all constructed sentences conform to conventional patters. Indeed one of the chief causes of error may be (as Palmer points out) the attempt of pupils to construct secondary matter freely before they have absorbed and mastered sufficient primary matter. Memorising therefore is undoubtedly an essential part of the learning process.
Nevertheless it would be incorrect to interpret Palmers assertion that the study of language is in its essence a series of acts of memorizing as implying that the process is necessarily that of rote learning.
The essential characteristics of language in use are the speed and facility with which the language is received and produced. To be effective there should be little conscious effort but rather the spontaneous use of familiar words and forms. Fluent speech and rapid reading are not simply the application of knowledge; they imply the possession of specific habits; they are in effect a series of unconscious acts of memory. The inculcation of correct language habits is therefore the teachers chief concern. For this purpose extent of vocabulary and grammatical knowledge are not the most vital factors. Fluency is a quality attainable within any range of vocabulary and may be absent despite the knowledge of all the words and forms in the language. It would be right therefore to conclude that foreign-language learning is essentially a skills, or a series of skills, calling for the assimilation of a considerable amount of language matter for reproduction and adaptation without conscious effort.
Vocabulary teaching techniques
There are numerous techniques concerned with vocabulary presentation. However, there are a few things that have to be remembered irrespective of the way new lexical items are presented. If teachers want students to remember new vocabulary, it needs to be learnt in context, practiced, and then revised to prevent students from forgetting. We can tell the same about grammar. Teachers must make sure students have understood the new words, which will be remembered better if introduced in a "memorable way".
Bearing all this in mind, teachers have to remember to employ a variety of techniques for new vocabulary presentation and revision.
Gairns and Redman (1986) suggest the following types of vocabulary presentation techniques:
1. Visual techniques. These pertain to visual memory, which is considered especially helpful with vocabulary retention. Learners remember better the material that has been presented by means of visual aids. Visual techniques lend themselves well to presenting concrete items of vocabulary-nouns; many are also helpful in conveying meanings of verbs and adjectives. They help students associate presented material in a meaningful way and incorporate it into their system of language values.
2. Verbal explanation. This pertains to the use of illustrative situations, synonymy, opposites, scales (Gairns and Redman ), definition (Nation) and categories (Allen and Valette ).
3. Use of dictionaries. Using a dictionary is another technique of finding out meanings of unfamiliar words and expressions. Students can make use of a variety of dictionaries: bilingual, monolingual, pictorial, thesauri, and the like. As French Allen perceives them, dictionaries are "passports to independence," and using them is one of the student-centered learning activities.
The advantages of using games. Many experienced textbook and methodology manuals writers have argued that games are not just time-filling activities but have a great educational value. W. R. Lee holds that most language games make learners use the language instead of thinking about learning the correct forms. He also says that games should be treated as central not peripheral to the foreign language teaching programme. A similar opinion is expressed by Richard-Amato, who believes games to be fun but warns against overlooking their pedagogical value, particularly in foreign language teaching. There are many advantages of using games. "Games can lower anxiety, thus making the acquisition of input more likely" (Richard-Amato).
They are highly motivating and entertaining, and they can give shy students more opportunity to express their opinions and feelings (Hansen). They also enable learners to acquire new experiences within a foreign language which are not always possible during a typical lesson. Furthermore, to quote Richard-Amato, they, "add diversion to the regular classroom activities," break the ice, "[but also] they are used to introduce new ideas". In the easy, relaxed atmosphere which is created by using games, students remember things faster and better (Wierus and Wierus ). Further support comes from Zdybiewska, who believes games to be a good way of practicing language, for they provide a model of what learners will use the language for in real life in the future.
Games encourage, entertain, teach, and promote fluency. If not for any of these reasons, they should be used just because they help students see beauty in a foreign language and not just problems .
Choosing appropriate games. There are many factors to consider while discussing games, one of which is appropriacy. Teachers should be very careful about choosing games if they want to make them profitable for the learning process. If games are to bring desired results, they must correspond to either the student's level, or age, or to the material that is to be introduced or practiced. Not all games are appropriate for all students irrespective of their age. Different age groups require various topics, materials, and modes of games. For example, children benefit most from games which require moving around, imitating a model, competing between groups and the like. Furthermore, structural games that practice or reinforce a certain grammatical aspect of language have to relate to students' abilities and prior knowledge. Games become difficult when the task or the topic is unsuitable or outside the student's experience. Another factor influencing the choice of a game is its length and the time necessary for its completion. Many games have a time limit, but according to Siek-Piskozub, the teacher can either allocate more or less time depending on the students' level, the number of people in a group, or the knowledge of the rules of a game etc.
1. The ability to read silently and rapidly is the ultimate aim.
2. Oral reading is a specific and useful skill but not a major objective; therefore it is not essential for every pupil to acquire proficiency in it.
3. Oral reading is a useful means in the early stages to train the pupils in the technique of rapid reading.
4. Oral reading is useful throughout the course for the purpose of intensive reading in which attention is drawn to vocabulary, idioms and grammatical forms.
- Oral reading is an auxiliary speech exercise.
- It is the reading aloud of the text and not the oral reading practice of the pupils that is most important.
- Silent reading is a valuable form of collective activity and ought to be practiced in class. The class should be called upon (beyond the initial stages) to read a section rapidly and then answer questions