E-merging forum 5: Some related notes to opening plenary

Hmm this is going to be tough trying to blog fast enough about the E-merging Forum 5 due mainly to time zone differences. Luckily there are a bunch of bloggers doing that, a couple of official ones and some unofficial ones e.g. eltgeek, nastyageinrikhenglishclassroom07. Note there are a couple of other bloggers but could not locate their tagged posts.

So do check them.

I was able to catch a bit of the opening plenary talk by Herbert Puchta and one of his topics was about the best age to teach children a second language. This interested me as a parent of an almost 3yr old and from a paper I was reading on that very question.

The paper by Alison Wray called The puzzle of language learning: From child’s play to ‘linguaphobia’ describes some differences in second language learning between young children and adults.

Drawing from some case studies of children aged 5 to 10 she reports that successful language users of age 5 use language functionally to manipulate their environment. In particular they are not afraid to use formulaic phrases (e.g. right here, in the high school, when I come home) in random situations with no visible meaning.

This contrasts with older children in school settings from 11 onwards and adults who come to see language as something intellectual that needs analyzing. And when older children and adults try to use formulaic language they often can’t resist analyzing and breaking down the chunks and end up making mistakes.

According to Wray the implications are two-fold, one is that we should leave second language learning to when children are much older and only for those who show an interest and have the aptitude.

The second implication involves using formulaic language with young kids but restrain from providing explanations or analyzing the formulas.

Note that although Wray’s interest in the paper is in formulaic language the importance of highly trained teachers is noted, a key concern that was evident in what I was able to catch from Puchta’s talk.

The coming talks all look good, shame not going to be able to catch the live stream of Catherine Walter’s talk.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget you can follow live stream action and/or twitter action #emf5.