Fluency in the language of life

February 4th, 2015 | Tags: , ,

I began using a language study tool, [Duolingo], a few weeks ago, after the burning shame of being unable to call my Spanish-speaking students’ parents directly got to be too much to bear. So far, I’m learning a lot about elefantes y platos, but also about how yo como mientras leo. It’s nice for someone with a command of a highly-inflected language, but the pace can be maddeningly slow. It does help with vocabulary retention, though. I can bull through a lot of it with a broad knowledge of English–granjero is cognate with granger ( = farmer), for instance.

Magistrula is working out very well, also; I am in the process of developing a homework sheet around it. Rather than come up with specific assignments every single night, I can shift some of the burden to the students (with an option to assign something specific once in a while), allowing them to direct their own studies to supplement what we learn in class. Ted Gellar-Goad’s [excellent article on automaticity] was a shot in the arm for me, reminding me of the broader concepts and terminology to aid my own thinking about my teaching. Ms. Andresian has been wildly responsive to my feedback and requests, and already it’s become an integral part of my classroom, saving time spent before on things the students can now take ownership of, while in the class allowing us to move still faster as well. I use it for drills and warmups, and I also use it to seed our games. It works as an excellent random vocab generator, which allows students to engage in the forms without the contempt of familiarity obscuring their vision of the different parts of the words.

Fluency is as much a matter of knowing what not to say, and I have been learning how to say less. I am faced with a poverty of time, and prioritizing means accepting that not everyone needs to be communicated with by words–sometimes action or inaction speaks volumes, and words can actually dilute the message rather than supplement it. But I’m doing more listening, less talking, and more action, and that is making so much of a positive difference in my life. I have begun writing letters, and allowing time and space to ferment the words into something richer and more valuable than a phone call or email can provide. If you’re inclined, send me your address, and I’ll send you a letter. I’ll try to write something worth reading.

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