Archive for January, 2011

Your Language Budget

With tax time around the corner, it’s time to think about how you’re “spending” your “vocabulary budget” (or budgeting for your students.) A “keeper item” is something you are willing to spend $1 of your $100 language items budget on to “buy”. It is a phrase or word that will serve you in a variety […]

Crutches and calculators

On a noted foreign language teachers’ list, a recent discussion asked about the use of “crutches” by students. Interestingly, I think that CI teachers are much less opposed to crutches, simply because we do not have to fear that the use of a vocabulary list or “cheat sheet” will cause output to break down. Since […]

The CI teacher as basketball coach

Someone recently asked on another board why CI doesn’t use guessing. Most folks were brought up to understand that the ability to guess an unknown word is crucial for a foreign language learner. Isn’t CI shortchanging learners by always telling them what things mean? For beginners, CI instruction is concerned with trying to find the […]

Question from Out There: How can I help my students conquer accents that are strange to them?

Accent is a systematic substitution of sounds for other sounds that you would normally expect (“normal” here depending on where you’re from and what you learned, etc. etc., the usual disclaimers…) This is really closely related to Giles and his theories about simultaneous interpreting and brain load. Essentially — and from experience I think this […]

Question from Out There: Is written Chinese easier if you’re fluent first?

I would say it’s easier to learn to read if you are reasonably fluent. Writing involves two “strands” or competencies, if you will. I call them “mechanical literacy” and “compositional literacy”. “Mechanical literacy” means being able to remember how to write the darn character when you need it, and knowing which one you need in a […]

Question from Out There: Don’t radicals make the best mnemonics for writing characters?

Well…there’s no reason you have to use actual “factual” mnemonics for your characters. It’s faster, easier and ultimately more memorable (especially if you harness all the resources of a twisted sense of humor) if you simply make up your own stories about the characters to help you remember how to write them, if writing by […]

But there are thousands of homophones in Chinese!

Sorry, another myth. If you look at a dictionary arranged by Pinyin and tones without regard to characters, so that you’re only seeing the “spoken” language rather than characters, you’ll soon find that there are very, very few homophones in Chinese in terms of words (not individual syllables).  Language is about words, not characters. Characters […]

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