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Program Proposal for Summer 2018

Winter Student Exchange with Teacher’s College

The majority of the Colegio´s Spanish Language students are retired Americans and Canadians who live in Ajijic and take a weekly class to be able to speak Spanish and enhance their retirement years in this special town.

I would like to begin a Spanish Language Program  where students could learn Spanish in an intensive setting, living with and in the village of Ajijic and interacting in the Spanish language with the students from the teacher´s college.

It would be ideal if the participating Spanish language students were also teacher-candidates from US and Canadian univeristies, but anyone with a desire to learn Spanish and interact with Mexican Teacher canidates is welcome

In the Spring of 2015 43 students from the rural teacher´s college in Ayotzinapa, were kidnapped and killed. Anabel Hernandez´ book “The True Night of Iguala” (http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-missing-forty-three-the-governments-case-collapses) tells the horrifying story.

As a teacher and social activist, I wanted to help in some way and several retired teachers and I went to talk to the director of the Escuela Normal de Atequiza, which is another such school about an hour away from Ajijic.

The director told us that he had two teachers to cover English language instruction for 500 students.

We arranged for the rural college students to come to the Colegio de Axixic  every Wednesday to learn English, using the same program as the Spanish language students.

These are not traditional college students; they come from poor rural areas and get free tuition, room and board and a guaranteed teaching position in rural schools in the state of Jalisco. But they have had little or no exposure to the English language.

That is why I came up with the idea to match these English language learners with Spanish language learners who would interact in both languages, thus enriching not only their language acquision, but also connecting them and showing them a Mexico that is not available in traditional Summer Intensive Programs.

This program would be tailor-suited to Spanish language students who would like the experience of a rapid acquisition Spanish program (the Colegio´s signature is getting the student to speak Spanish rather than conjugate verbs, and grammar) along with an opportunity to interact with students whose native language is Spanish and share many of the concerns and ideas of other young people.

Available options for home-stay or private accomodations are available, as well as field trips to neighboring cities and states, as well as horseback riding, spa treatments, great restaurants, hiking in the hills and kayaking on the lake. Community service would also be an option an option for those whose wish.

 

Gray Matter

SPEAKING two languages rather than just one has obvious practical benefits in an increasingly globalized world. But in recent years, scientists have begun to show that the advantages of bilingualism are even more fundamental than being able to converse with a wider range of people. Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.

This view of bilingualism is remarkably different from the understanding of bilingualism through much of the 20th century. Researchers, educators and policy makers long considered a second language to be an interference, cognitively speaking, that hindered a child’s academic and intellectual development.

They were not wrong about the interference: there is ample evidence that in a bilingual’s brain both language systems are active even when he is using only one language, thus creating situations in which one system obstructs the other. But this interference, researchers are finding out, isn’t so much a handicap as a blessing in disguise. It forces the brain to resolve internal conflict, giving the mind a workout that strengthens its cognitive muscles.

Bilinguals, for instance, seem to be more adept than monolinguals at solving certain kinds of mental puzzles. In a 2004 study by the psychologists Ellen Bialystok and Michelle Martin-Rhee, bilingual and monolingual preschoolers were asked to sort blue circles and red squares presented on a computer screen into two digital bins — one marked with a blue square and the other marked with a red circle.

In the first task, the children had to sort the shapes by color, placing blue circles in the bin marked with the blue square and red squares in the bin marked with the red circle. Both groups did this with comparable ease. Next, the children were asked to sort by shape, which was more challenging because it required placing the images in a bin marked with a conflicting color. The bilinguals were quicker at performing this task.

The collective evidence from a number of such studies suggests that the bilingual experience improves the brain’s so-called executive function — a command system that directs the attention processes that we use for planning, solving problems and performing various other mentally demanding tasks. These processes include ignoring distractions to stay focused, switching attention willfully from one thing to another and holding information in mind — like remembering a sequence of directions while driving.

Why does the tussle between two simultaneously active language systems improve these aspects of cognition? Until recently, researchers thought the bilingual advantage stemmed primarily from an ability for inhibition that was honed by the exercise of suppressing one language system: this suppression, it was thought, would help train the bilingual mind to ignore distractions in other contexts. But that explanation increasingly appears to be inadequate, since studies have shown that bilinguals perform better than monolinguals even at tasks that do not require inhibition, like threading a line through an ascending series of numbers scattered randomly on a page.

The key difference between bilinguals and monolinguals may be more basic: a heightened ability to monitor the environment. “Bilinguals have to switch languages quite often — you may talk to your father in one language and to your mother in another language,” says Albert Costa, a researcher at the University of Pompeu Fabra in Spain. “It requires keeping track of changes around you in the same way that we monitor our surroundings when driving.” In a study comparing German-Italian bilinguals with Italian monolinguals on monitoring tasks, Mr. Costa and his colleagues found that the bilingual subjects not only performed better, but they also did so with less activity in parts of the brain involved in monitoring, indicating that they were more efficient at it.

The bilingual experience appears to influence the brain from infancy to old age (and there is reason to believe that it may also apply to those who learn a second language later in life).

In a 2009 study led by Agnes Kovacs of the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste, Italy, 7-month-old babies exposed to two languages from birth were compared with peers raised with one language. In an initial set of trials, the infants were presented with an audio cue and then shown a puppet on one side of a screen. Both infant groups learned to look at that side of the screen in anticipation of the puppet. But in a later set of trials, when the puppet began appearing on the opposite side of the screen, the babies exposed to a bilingual environment quickly learned to switch their anticipatory gaze in the new direction while the other babies did not.

Bilingualism’s effects also extend into the twilight years. In a recent study of 44 elderly Spanish-English bilinguals, scientists led by the neuropsychologist Tamar Gollan of the University of California, San Diego, found that individuals with a higher degree of bilingualism — measured through a comparative evaluation of proficiency in each language — were more resistant than others to the onset of dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease: the higher the degree of bilingualism, the later the age of onset.

Nobody ever doubted the power of language. But who would have imagined that the words we hear and the sentences we speak might be leaving such a deep imprint?

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Yudhijit Bhattacharjee is a staff writer at Science.

 

Breaking out of Beginner’s Spanish

By Joseph J. Keenan

Inhibitions:
The greatest enemy of learning a language, especially as an adult, is a person’s inhibitions. These vary with the individual, of course. Some people seem to have been born without any, while others are so afraid of making a mistake that they never give themselves the chance to. Methods of overcoming these inhibitions also vary with the individual. Most people lose their fear of sounding silly after a few weeks of speaking a foreign language; others lose all inhibitions entirely after a few cervezas under the stars on the town plaza. One rule applies universally: to learn a language you’ll have to conquer your inhibitions eventually, so the sooner you get started, the better.

One way to get started is to remember that however silly you might sound using your incorrect Spanish, you’ll sound a lot worse trying to speak English to someone who speaks none. Then again, you could simply choose to clam up altogether. After all, as they say, better keep quiet and b thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. If this is your strategy, you’ll neither improve your Spanish nor become acquainted with the new world the Spanish-speaking one that for whatever reason you are making an effort to get to know.

So relax. You’ll definitely make mistakes. But you won’t be the first one to make them.

Learning tricks:
In general, try to speak to as many people in Spanish as possible. While that sounds easy, the sad fact is that it’s often awkward to speak to your fellow citizens in a foreign language, and from there it’s a short jump to seeking out your English speaking friends and then speaking with them in English almost exclusively.

The intellectual energy that goes into starting a conversation in a foreign langue can be quite daunting, especially in the early stages. Sill, it’s worth the effort. Concentrate at first on short ‘conversations’ (or extended greetings) and gradually lengthen them as you find people whom you feel comfortable speaking with (and are able to get away from when your vocabulary expires).

Finally, don’t hesitate to ask others to speak slowly. No one expects you to understand rapid-fire Spanish in your first few months of learning it, yet many people speak that way out of habit and need to be reminded that you comprehend at about one-fifth the rate they’re speaking.

You will progress by small leaps and bounds, followed by long, frustrating plateaus. The plateaus, furthermore, always seem to hit when you think you should be progressing the most – after an intensive course, for example. At times it will seem that your brain is too busy absorbing new information to be bothered with relaying it to your mouth. Fear not. The information is oozing in and assuring itself a place, and one day it will suddenly be available and act as if it had been there all along. So stick with it. The day will come.

The ‘Monitor’

Stephen Krashen (University of Southern California) is an expert in the field of linguistics, specializing in theories of language acquisition and development. Much of his recent research has involved the study of non-English and bilingual language acquisition. During the past 20 years, he has published well over 100 books and articles and has been invited to deliver over 300 lectures at universities throughout the United States and Canada.

This is a brief description of Krashen’s widely known and well accepted theory of the monitor hypothesis.
The Monitor hypothesis explains the relationship between acquisition and learning and defines the influence of the latter on the former. The monitoring function is the practical result of the learned grammar. According to Krashen, the acquisition system is the utterance initiator, while the learning system performs the role of the ‘monitor’ or
the ‘editor’. The ‘monitor’ acts in a planning, editing and correcting function when three specific conditions are met: that is, the second language learner has sufficient time
at his/her disposal, he/she focuses on form or thinks about correctness, and he/she knows the rule.

It appears that the role of conscious learning is somewhat limited in second language performance. According to Krashen, the role of the monitor is – or should be – minor,
being used only to correct deviations from ‘normal’ speech and to give speech a more ‘polished’ appearance.

Krashen also suggests that there is individual variation among language learners with regard to ‘monitor’ use. He distinguishes those learners that use the ‘monitor’ all the time (over-users); those learners who have not learned or who prefer not to use their conscious knowledge (under-users); and those learners that use the ‘monitor’ appropriately (optimal users). An evaluation of the person’s psychological profile can help to determine to what group they belong. Usually extroverts are under-users, while introverts and perfectionists are over-users. Lack of self-confidence is frequently related to the over-use of the ‘monitor’.

Brain of Bilingualism Research

Research to Find Effects on Brain of Bilingualism
A project at Bangor University aims to explore the benefit of being bilingual.

There is evidence bilingualism can sharpen the brain.

Researchers will be recruiting 700 people aged between two and 80 to take part in the £750,000 programme.

Prof Virginia Gathercole said the obvious benefits included being able to converse and to participate in two cultures.

But she said there was also evidence of non-language benefits, such as the ability to protect the brain from ageing.

“The very act of being able to speak, listen, and think in two languages and of using two languages on a daily basis appears to sharpen people’s abilities to pay close attention to a aspects of tasks relevant to good performance,” she added.

“Running two parallel language systems throughout life has had positive benefits in a number of ways”
Prof Virginia Gathercole, Bangor University

Research carried out already had also shown having two languages helped protect against the decline in the brain’s abilities when ageing,” she added.

“We already know that language processing is one of the most complex activities that our brains carry out.

“Running two parallel language systems throughout life has had positive benefits in a number of ways,” she added.

 

Marriage of Sun and Moon

The Marriage of the Sun and the Moon.
Excerpt from Dr, Andrew Weil’s book Publisher in 1980:

I knew that Latin America would be a rich source of information. Therefore, I went to Mexico to learn Spanish. Once in Mexico, I quickly abandoned my plan to take formal language classes in Cuernavaca and settled instead in the nearby village of Tepoztlán. There I became one of the first students in a new, experimental school called the Colegio de Tepoztlán, under the direction of Marco Polonsky, an offbeat teacher and unforgettable character.

Marco’s philosophy of learning languages was out of the ordinary but struck me as correct. He said that we all had the capacity to learn languages, since we did it as infants, that it had nothing to do with intellect but rather was an operation of the unconscious mind. The only abilities it depended upon were accurate listening and accurate imitating. Therefore, the way to learn a new language is to want to learn it badly and immerse yourself in it, letting as much of it flow into the unconscious mind as possible. Whether you understand it or not is irrelevant. Forget about grammar books and formal instruction, Marco said. Just listen and imitate.

Classes were bizarre. Sometimes Marco would have us fall into trance states to the accompaniment of recorded chamber music while he intoned vocabulary words from a Spanish comic book. When pressed for more-structured help, he would decline, saying that there was no way to teach another person a language.

He did arrange for us to be apprenticed to local people to force us to talk. I was placed in the care of the village carpenter and spent many pleasant afternoons with him in an outdoor shop, helping to make furniture.

I must say that the Polonsky method worked like a charm. In three months I was speaking passable Spanish and three months after that I was speaking good Spanish. The only other language I ever learned as well was German, and that took four years of painful work in high school. I would never again attempt to learn a language by studying it and I have no doubt that I can learn any language now just by really wanting to and placing myself in the right part of the world.

Language Acquisition

“Language acquisition does not require extensive use of conscious grammatical rules, and does not require tedious drill.”
Stephen Krashen

“Acquisition requires meaningful interaction in the target language – natural communication – in which speakers are concerned not with the form of their utterances but with the messages they are conveying and understanding.”
Stephen Krashen

“The best methods are therefore those that supply ‘comprehensible input’ in low anxiety situations, containing messages that students really want to hear. These methods do not force early production in the second language, but allow students to produce when they are ‘ready’, recognizing that improvement comes from supplying communicative and comprehensible input, and not from forcing and correcting production.”
Stephen Krashen

“In the real world, conversations with sympathetic native speakers who are willing to help the acquirer understand are very helpful.”
Stephen Krashen

Introduction
Stephen Krashen (University of Southern California) is an expert in the field of linguistics, specializing in theories of language acquisition and development. Much of his recent research has involved the study of non-English and bilingual language acquisition. During the past 20 years, he has published well over 100 books and articles and has been invited to deliver over 300 lectures at universities throughout the United States and Canada.

This is a brief description of Krashen’s widely known and well accepted theory of second language acquisition, which has had a large impact in all areas of second language research and teaching since the 1980s.

Description of Krashen’s Theory of Second Language Acquisition

Krashen’s theory of second language acquisition consists of five main hypotheses:

the Acquisition-Learning hypothesis,
the Monitor hypothesis,
the Natural Order hypothesis,
the Input hypothesis,
and the Affective Filter hypothesis.
The Acquisition-Learning distinction is the most fundamental of all the hypotheses in
Krashen’s theory and the most widely known among linguists and language ractitioners.
According to Krashen there are two independent systems of second language performance: ‘the acquired system’ and ‘the learned system’. The ‘acquired system’ or ‘acquisition’ is the product of a subconscious process very similar to the process children undergo when they acquire their first language. It requires meaningful interaction in the target language – natural communication – in which speakers are concentrated not in the form of their utterances , but in the communicative act.

The ‘learned system’ or ‘learning’ is the product of formal instruction and it comprises a
conscious process which results in conscious knowledge ‘about’ the language, for example knowledge of grammar rules. According to Krashen ‘learning’ is less important than ‘acquisition’. (Veja o texto ao lado e também outra página em português sobre
Acquisition/Learning).

The Monitor hypothesis explains the relationship between acquisition and learning and defines the influence of the latter on the former. The monitoring function is the practical result of the learned grammar. According to Krashen, the acquisition system is the utterance initiator, while the learning system performs the role of the ‘monitor’ or the ‘editor’. The ‘monitor’ acts in a planning, editing and correcting function when three specific conditions are met: that is, the second language learner has sufficient time at his/her disposal, he/she focuses on form or thinks about correctness, and he/she knows the rule.

It appears that the role of conscious learning is somewhat limited in second language performance. According to Krashen, the role of the monitor is – or should be – minor, being used only to correct deviations from ‘normal’ speech and to give speech a more ‘polished’ appearance.

Krashen also suggests that there is individual variation among language learners with regard to ‘monitor’ use. He distinguishes those learners that use the ‘monitor’ all the time (over-users); those learners who have not learned or who prefer not to use their conscious knowledge (under-users); and those learners that use the ‘monitor’ appropriately (optimal users). An evaluation of the person’s psychological profile can help to determine to what group they belong. Usually extroverts are under-users, while introverts and perfectionists are over-users. Lack of self-confidence is frequently related to the over-use of the ‘monitor’.

The Natural Order hypothesis is based on research findings (Dulay & Burt, 1974; Fathman, 1975; Makino, 1980 cited in Krashen, 1987) which suggested that the acquisition of grammatical structures follows a ‘natural order’ which is predictable. For a given language, some grammatical structures tend to be acquired early while others late. This order seemed to be independent of the learners’ age, L1 background, conditions of exposure, and although the agreement between individual acquirers was not always 100% in the studies, there were statistically significant similarities that reinforced the existence of a Natural Order of language acquisition. Krashen however points out that the implication of the natural order hypothesis is not that a language program syllabus should be based on the order found in the studies. In fact, he rejects grammatical sequencing when the goal is language acquisition.

The Input hypothesis is Krashen’s attempt to explain how the learner acquires a second language. In other words, this hypothesis is Krashen’s explanation of how second language acquisition takes place. So, the Input hypothesis is only concerned with ‘acquisition’, not ‘learning’. According to this hypothesis, the learner improves and progresses along the ‘natural order’ when he/she receives second language ‘input’ that is one step beyond his/her current stage of linguistic competence. For example, if a learner is at a stage ‘i’, then acquisition takes place when he/she is exposed to ‘Comprehensible Input’ that belongs to level ‘i + 1’. Since not all of the learners can be at the same level of linguistic competence at the same time, Krashen suggests that natural communicative input is the key to designing a syllabus, ensuring in this way that each learner will receive some ‘i + 1’ input that is appropriate for his/her current stage of linguistic competence.

Finally, the fifth hypothesis, the Affective Filter hypothesis, embodies Krashen’s view that a number of ‘affective variables’ play a facilitative, but non-causal, role in second language acquisition. These variables include: motivation, self-confidence and anxiety. Krashen claims that learners with high motivation, self-confidence, a good self-image, and a low level of anxiety are better equipped for success in second language acquisition. Low motivation, low self-esteem, and debilitating anxiety can combine to ‘raise’ the affective filter and form a ‘mental block’ that prevents comprehensible input from being used for acquisition. In other words, when the filter is ‘up’ it impedes language acquisition. On the other hand, positive affect is necessary, but not sufficient on its own, for acquisition to take place.

VAMOS! RADICAL APPROACH TO LEARNING SPANISH IN MEXICO

Global Newsbeat

It’s amazing how much the wandering monoglot can convey with grunts, smiles and gesticulations –but in Latin America, the only way out of the expat bubble is to actually speak Spanish.
Who has time though, for months of classes only to prepare for a week’s vacation?

Help, it turns out, is at hand.

MexicoManLina Polonsky-Doyle (not pictured) was born and raised in Venezuela and lived in the US, as well as Italy and Slovenia. She is running a kind of boot-camp for language learners, where you’re not so much asked to leave conventional notions of language learning behind, as frisked and stripped of them as you enter the room.
“Read this!” she tells me.

I’m not given a children’s book or a grammar hand-out…but a Greek myth. 

It starts off reasonably enough, with Demeter and Persefone gathering flowers in sunlit fields.
As I read the words out phonetically – thankfully most Spanish words sound as they’re spelled – Lina sits at her computer, highlighting the words and phrases I’ve stumbled on, jotting down definitions.
Shortly after, she asks me what the words mean, and then tests me again. In other words, we go straight to the vocabulary, skipping sentence structure, tenses and all the other things you feel you’re supposed to learn when tackling a foreign language.

“Think of how babies learn language!” she yells.
“By pointing at an object, ‘Oh! That is a plate!’ Or ‘…I’m hungry…!’”

If Lina’s method is unconventional, she does not subscribe to the new age philosophy that ‘there is no wrong way’ of doing things. Oh there is indeed. And should you ask how to conjugate the verb this way or that – the beloved sport of conventional language teachers – you’ll get a succinct description of just where you can file such an idea.
Why? Well, when you were a baby, you didn’t learn to speak in full sentences by knowing what a gerund is or by asking how to put your statement in the conditional. No, you simply watched and listened. You imitated those around you, forming sentences to describe needs, feelings and the world around you.

Many instructors emphasize grammar, sprinkling vocabulary along the way. But Lina says that’s backward. “Focusing on grammar is like correcting people before they’ve even started talking!”

Long before other classes have wrapped up the ER and IR verbs, Lina has us reading short stories, translating and even summarizing them in Spanish.

Hades has now spotted Persefone, and Demeter is looking for her daughter.
It doesn’t look good.

You’re not only learning new words like gather, harvest, run and return, you’re spurred on by the plot to look them up with a fervor seldom generated by such books as “Fun with Grammar.”

Here, I’m an uncharacteristically keen student, somehow reading in Spanish about an increasingly desperate Persefone. “Qué quieres de mi?” (What do you want of me?) “Ayudame!” (Help me!)

These are more than key words for captives. You’re more likely to learn the words when it helps you unlock a rapidly evolving plot. You see them in the context of a story and use them, rather than read words in disembodied lists, to be seen today and forgotten tomorrow.

Sure, you’ll encounter different tenses, singular and plural. But if you want to go beyond past present and future, and stray into more exotic territory, like asking about various conditional tenses – then you’re on your own. “You can study that at home!”

Lina hands out stories, scripts, a screenplay for a Mexican gangster film – anything containing everyday Spanish. She quotes theorists, such as Noah Chomsky – and Lev Vygotsky, who stresses gradual, repetitive learning. We need to repeat a new word 62 times, for example, before it’s truly anchored in our vocabulary.
Many courses stop short of that, which is perhaps why, when asking someone for directions or ordering food, we’re often at a loss.

“So the waitress has already come and gone…or you’ve already been put in jail – and you’re still looking for the right word!”
Jail? I suppose that’s one incentive to do your homework.

Whether your linguistic arsenal begins and ends with Hola, or you’re an advanced Spanish speaker exploring the finer points of the beautiful language, do make your way into the Lake Chapala area, and on to the cobblestone streets of Ajijic, to el Colegio de Axixic.

Revolutionary Approach

Revolutionary Approach to Learning Languages

The teaching of languages could be revolutionised following ground-breaking research by Victoria University PhD graduate Paul Sulzberger.

Dr Sulzberger has found that the best way to learn a language is through frequent exposure to its sound patterns—even if you haven’t a clue what it all means.

“However crazy it might sound, just listening to the language, even though you don’t understand it, is critical. A lot of language teachers may not accept that,” he says.
”Our ability to learn new words is directly related to how often we have been exposed to the particular combinations of the sounds which make up the words. If you want to learn Spanish, for example, frequently listening to a Spanish language radio station on the internet will dramatically boost your ability to pick up the language and learn new words.

“

Dr Sulzberger’s research challenges existing language learning theory. His main hypothesis is that simply listening to a new language sets up the structures in the brain required to learn the words.

“Neural tissue required to learn and understand a new language will develop automatically from simple exposure to the language—which is how babies learn their first language,” Dr Sulzberger says.

He was prompted to undertake the research after spending seven years teaching Russian to New Zealand students and observing drop-out patterns.

“I was very conscious of the huge difficulties students have when they tackle another language, especially at the beginning. Many drop out because they feel they are not making progress.

“

Dr Sulzberger says he was interested in what makes it so difficult to learn foreign words when we are constantly learning new ones in our native language. He found the answer in the way the brain develops neural structures when hearing new combinations of sounds.

“When we are trying to learn new foreign words we are faced with sounds for which we may have absolutely no neural representation.  A student trying to learn a foreign language may have few pre-existing neural structures to build on in order to remember the words.

“

Dr Sulzberger looked for ways people could develop these structures to make the learning process easier. His finding was simple: extensive exposure to the language, something made easier by globalisation and new technology.

“It is easier to learn languages these days because they are so accessible now. You can go home and watch the news in French on the internet.

“

He says people trying to learn a foreign language in their home country are at a disadvantage compared to those who travel to another country and immerse themselves in its sounds and culture. For the same reason, he says, we need to rethink the way languages are taught.

“Teachers should recognise the importance of extensive aural exposure to a language. One hour a day of studying French text in a classroom is not enough—but an extra hour listening to it on the iPod would make a huge difference,” Dr Sulzberger says.

”

Language is a skill, it’s not like learning a fact. If you want to be a weight lifter, you’ve got to develop the muscle – you can’t learn weightlifting from a book. To learn a language you have to grow the appropriate brain tissue, and you do this by lots of listening—songs and movies are great!”