Learning a new language
Gardner, H (2000) Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century .
James J. Asher, Ph.D.Originator of the Total Physical Response,
Asher, James J. (2003) - Learning Another Language Through Actions (6th edition).
Los Gatos, CA: Sky Oaks Productions, Inc.
- Definitely, comprehension comes first before speaking, reading or writing. Research, by myself and colleagues, established this principle in pioneer studies of Spanish, Japanese, Russian, French, and German completed with the support of grants from the Office of Education, the Office of Naval Research, the Department of Defense, and the State of California
- In any language and in any culture, there is no record of infants speaking before they comprehend a huge chunk of the target language. Infants are silent for at least one year while they internalize a map of the target language. During this silent one year period, infants internalize a blueprint of phonology, grammar and semantics before they utter anything intelligible such as “Mommy” or “Daddy.” They achieve this stunning mapping that I call “language-body” conversations (which is the essence of a technique I call the Total Physical Response, known world wide as TPR).
- Locations in the brain
The second reason for Comprehension First is the brain. Comprehension and speaking are located in different parts of the brain. Comprehension is in Wernicke’s Area which is in the temporal lobe while speaking is in Broca’s Area located in the left frontal lobe.
- If Wernicke’s Area is damaged, the patient can speak but may not be able to understand what people are saying. If Broca’s Area is injured, one may understand but be unable to speak. If still another area of the brain is injured, there is apraxia — a person forgets to do ordinary things such as how to brush one’s teeth.
- If comprehension is important, then why not…
If comprehension is important, then why not translate? Translation sounds good, but it does not work very well. The reason: The student’s brain perceives what the instructor is saying in the target language as lies, lies, lies. And the brain will not store lies in long-term memory. Remember Mark Twain’s comment, “ If you tell the truth, you don’t have to have a good memory.”
- Our brain has its own intelligence and is moving information at lightning velocity, below our radar of awareness, back and forth from one hemisphere to the other.
• Our brain knows the answer to a question one-half second or more before we do.
• The left hemisphere is like a train that can travel on one track only while the right can have many trains on multiple tracks traveling simultaneously.
- The stunning implication for learning languages is this: Second language instruction on the left side of the brain in a traditional class is slow-motion learning because input from the instructor is evaluated by the student’s brain as “lies” and therefore erased almost before the student stands up to leave the classroom.
- But, playing to the right brain first with comprehension means that there is high-speed learning because (a) there is an absence of evaluation by the student’s brain, and (b) the student can understand multiple languages simultaneously without one language interfering with the other. The reason: The right brain does not know the difference between English, Spanish, Arabic or Chinese. To the right brain, these are just patterns which are stored without editing until called upon by the left hemisphere (the site for talking and critical thinking).
Brain Organization And Learning Sousa ch5
p181 "While processing language fMRI scans show that male brains use left-hemisphere regions and that female brains activate regions in both hemispheres."
p183 "The results of these and other studies further indicate that more females are left-hemisphere preferred and more males are right-hemisphere preferred."
p188 "Broca's area and Wernicke's area , located in the left hemisphere, are the two major language processing centers of the brain. The visual cortex across the back of both hemispheres processes visual stimuli, including reading"
p199 "teaching to the whole brain:
Deal with concepts verbally and visually
Design effective visual aids
Discuss concepts logically and intuitively
Avoid conflicting messages
Design activities and assessment for different learning styles"
p201 "we cannot educate just one hemisphere."
Rather, we are ensuring that our daily instruction includes activities that stimulate the whole brain."
this research points out the need for teachers to ensure that the nonverbal form of intellect is not neglected in second language acquisition.
In planning lessons, teachers should
1- not rely heavily on grammar, vocabulary memorization, and mechanical translations, especially during the early stages of instruction
2- do more with contextual language, trial and error, brainstorming of meaning, visual activities, and role-playing.
3- and give students the opportunity to establish the contextual networking they need to grasp meaning , nuance, and idiomatic expressions.