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Old 01-04-2009, 09:43 PM
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Maria Maria is offline
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 130
Default Fossilized Adult Learners

There is an interesting point referred to in this article:


It states that “success happens too soon“ for students using strictly communicative language learning techniques (from reading the article you can deduce this refers to no explicit grammar instruction at all in 100% task-based/situation-based learning environment). By this the author means that once students are able to get a point across with some degree of comprehensibility on the part of the listener, the student is less motivated to learn and correct his or her grammar. “…any subsequent language input appears secondary and unnecessary to the learner, as they have already communicated their message.”

I find this to be so true! In the US, and I imagine other English speaking countries with immigrants, many non-native speakers don't have the chance to take formal English lessons until they have been in the new country, learning English "off the street" for several years. These students are the most challenging to me because they have been successful communicants for several years. When they get to a place in their lives when they register for formal classes, it is very hard for an instructor to "undo" what, for the student, has worked all right for him or her over the years.

After all, we can all understand the meaning of "I going now" or "I no like this" or "You want?" , so if the learner is getting his or her needs met using this level of English, subconsciously, there may not be a burning desire to improve.

I sometimes think these students are inadvertently sabotaging their own success. On the one hand, they are in the class because they recognize they are lacking something. (This eye-opener often comes after not getting promotions at work, or not being able to get a better, non-physical job.) Yet on the other hand, they sometimes act defensively, like their success isn't recognized, and after all, their English has got them this far, so the problem must be with their instructor or their boss. So I sense a front being put up, a "go ahead and teach me what you can" attitude that can be hard to reach through.

For me, direct grammar instruction- with rules, drills, guided practice, etc. has been the only approach that has even had a modicum of success with some of these adult students. (That and also some awareness activities usually POST the exercises mentioned above.)

What do others do to overcome fossilization or to make learners aware of their true learning needs?
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