Ci & tprs


With a false-intermediate (which is how I think of those students -- and I get a lot of them after they've become disillusioned with the language schools), the thing to do is to sort of feel around and get a sense for which patterns they don't yet know and which vocabulary they really haven't internalized, and then bang on those in disguise. The disguise is an interesting topic or lots of embroidery and addition of truly new items that they've never heard of, so that they'll tolerate the repetition they need to get the basics where they belong.

I find this sort of student challenging because my bad teacher brain is always thinking, "But they already know this!" Actually, they might know it, but they haven't acquired it, and it's not why they've come to me for lessons when there are hundreds of Chinese teachers available for less money in Taiwan. A lot of the problem ends up being in my head, not theirs.


A few more to consider:
how long
how often
how long _____ it take
what time
what kind of


How can often be translated as "duo" when asking questions where how is followed by an adjective.
I fail to see though how that will actually help learning. Would it really be worth it to translate every single possible phrase? Wouldn't that be some glorified version of grammar translation.
If you really wanted to to drive home "how often" wouldn't it be more beneficial to put "often" on the board and then repeat questions like How often do you pay computer games John? Do you play computer games every evening? John plays computer games every day. That's very often. How often do you play computer games Peter? Do you play computer games on weekends? Only on weekends? Peter plays computer games on weekends. That's often but not very often. Who plays computer games more often? Yes, John plays computer games more often than Peter. Does Peter play computer games more often than John? No he doesn't. Peter doesn't play computer games more often than John. John plays computer games more often than Peter. He plays computer games every day. That's very often.
How often do you kiss your girlfriend John? You don't have a girlfriend. Oh, John never kisses his girlfriend. He doesn't kiss her very often. My girlfriend is Jolin (I was tempted to say Ironlady but I am afraid my post gets tempted). I kiss her every day. How often do I kiss Jolin? Yes I kiss her very often. I kiss her every day. Does John kiss Jolin often. No, he doesn't kiss her very often. I kiss her very often.
John is sad because his girlfriend is angry. She is angry because he plays computer games too often. He finds a new girlfriend. He doesn't kiss her very often. He never kisses her. He plays computer games very often. He plays computer games too often. There is a big computer game competition. I play against John. I don't play computer games often enough. How often do I play computer games. Never. How often does John play computer games. Very often. Every day. Jolin is angry because I lose. She says to John "Lin kisses me too often. He doesn't pay computer games often enough. I want to be your girlfriend. You don't have to kiss me often. We can play computer games every day. I like playing computer games very often." They are happy and the never kiss. They play computer games together very often. How often. Every day for three hours.
If they don't have the meaning of often and how often after 30 minutes of that, they will never get it.
It's like when you teach your kid a new word. What's this? It's popcorn. Do you like popcorn? I love popcorn. Does mommy like popcorn? Oh she loves popcorn to. Who loves popcorn more? Daddy loves popcorn more than mommy. No daddy doesn't love popcorn more than you. I love you the most. Popcorn is number two and mommy is number three. Do you want to have some popcorn. The let's run to seven and grab some popcorn. Then when we get home we can pop some popcorn. Popcorn is great.
I seriously doubt that translation can ever get to that.
You don't want to move from translating single words to translating chunks. You want to move from translating to learning the language on its own.


Actually, as the title of this thread shows, we are discussing a specific method of language teaching, and that method has specific ideas about the use of translation for very specific reasons. So this isn't really the place for a discussion of whether or how to translate in general.


You totally missed my point. Yes translate as per the method. I meant Bismark and GiT and whomever else should rather translate how as "duo" and then recycle and teach the words that could follow it, instead of translating every possible combination. How long (duo chang) or (duo jiu), how tall (duo gao), how heavy (duo zhong) etc.
The rest of which I typed then used often in a variety of structures, how often, too often, very often, not often enough and had kiss and play computer games as vocabulary items which makes it easy to stay in bounds.
I was responding directly to the method, not trying to start a discussion in translation. The sentence you quoted is meant to mean, don't translate every single chunk of language in which how could appear if it is possible to translate it as a single word and then teach the language associated with it. :slight_smile:


Yeah, but if you were more familiar with the method we're talking about, you would realize that we do not use question words as items for repetition. There's no need, because over the course of the thousands if not tens of thousands of questions that get asked in a good TPRs classroom over the course of a year (average 5-6 per minute when input it going on), the question words get ample repetition. Since we are aiming to have students acquire the question words in this way, rather than in a concentrated manner, we post them on the wall.

TPRS is designed to impart the STRUCTURE of the language, not vocabulary per se. "Often" is not a structure. It's something that needs to be put into a structure and presented as an item for repetition. We would question about the frequency of the action, but we would not use "often" as an item.

I would not post all the vocabulary GiT speaks of, because I don't want things to deteriorate into a substitution drill. I would post uncommon or "fun" words that we want to use in class for interest but that I do not expect the students to acquire. Generally, they go ahead and acquire them in that situation anyway. :laughing:


I never said use question words for items of repetition. I said use the words that follow how as items of repetition in a variety of structures. There is no point in making a poster for the following words, how often, how tall, how big, how far, how heavy, how expensive, how cheap, how long...etc when how can be put on that poster and like you said acquired over the period of a semester or year as "duo" instead of always thinking that it means "ru he" or "ze me". When the words tall, big, long, expensive, cheap etc have been acquired by use in a variety of structures then any question with how --- will be easily understood.
I also did not say often is a structure, which is why in both my posts I mentioned that it should be learnt in the context of a structure and I even posted "too often, very often, not often enough, how often etc." That would be four different structures and I am sure you could probably think of more. I also said that it is not necessary to limit the class to one structure as they are all easily understood in the context. Similarly, I assume using tall or big as words in those exact same structures would help students acquire them better in a different context.
As for uncommon or fun words - I did mention kiss and play computer games, pretty relevant to Taiwanese students and enough to get some smiles and growls.
I guess the main point I was trying to make is that it is not necessary to translate every question structure in which how appears as a separate question.


I agree with you about the how + adjective construction in general, but I will point out that with regard to what we were discussing here, it would clearly be impossible to post every such combination "on the wall," to begin with. It could be useful to post "how _____".

However, I disagree about "how often" and "how long" (coincidentally the terms that I mentioned previously :cactus: :slight_smile: ) -- these have specific uses that would be useful to give a long-term reminder of.


Posters in TPRS are not intended for long-term reminders (maybe that's not precisely what you meant), or to present vocabulary. They are aids to make input comprehensible, nothing more.

Whenever I use a question word that I am not certain all my students have acquired (at that moment in time), I pause and point to the word on the wall. Done. Made comprehensible. I don't have to translate or gesture or whatever. It's always there for me to use.

I post question words and logical connectors (although, therefore, if, etc.) since these are things that are used no matter what the topic or type of interaction that's going on.


Indeed, that is what I meant.


Excellent! :thumbsup:


ironlady: I don't have any sentence patterns on my wall. I will also probably get rid of most of what I do have on my wall and replace it with the 100 highest frequency words in the English language.

I also think you misread part of what I wrote. I wrote that they should be able to work things out at an unconscious level (i.e. they wouldn't have to think about it).

There is one thing that I find frustrating. There are certain weaker kids in every class who are kind of gaming the system, so to speak. They know that there's a high likelihood that I will check them personally to see if they understand. When I ask if anyone doesn't understand, they put their hands straight up. In theory, that's great. However, I suspect that with some kids, they're doing it to deliberately slow the class down and actually do understand because some other kids give them grief about it, and they amazingly get it the first time I go over it again. In the most egregious examples, right at the start of the lesson, I introduce the three new sentence patterns for that day. There is Chinese next to them. Some kids claim not to understand them. I'm sure they're taking the piss. Or, it's often preceded by them not paying attention. Likewise, there are kids who don't pay attention, and when I do directly question them to see if they understand, they openly admit that they don't know (and don't care). I'm not talking about kids who are paying attention and really do want to understand. I'll give those kids all the time in the world. However, in all of the real problem cases, there's absolutely nothing I can really do to discipline them so they don't screw around while everyone else is paying attention. The most I can do is move them elsewhere, but then they either distract other people or it becomes very confrontational and they deliberately don't pay attention and seek to undermine me at any opportunity.

I know that in theory, they should be engaged in class and classroom discipline should deal with all of this without having to take it beyond that to other discipline, but some kids simply aren't engaged, and I doubt whether they can be. Whether it's poking the kid next to them or having a chat about something, that's much more engaging, and probably always will be. This seems to be a point at which the theory of CI/TPRS and the reality of some students simply run up against each other. I can beat myself up about not engaging everyone. I can blame the kids. I can blame the administration and their former teachers. I can blame their parents. I can blame society. None of that solves this really fundamental problem though. Last year, I used to really get stressed about all of this. This year, I have simply let go and I'm all the less stressed and much happier for it. I'm still trying to get everyone but the most disaffected 10% of the class, but I just don't think I can get those guys and will only drive myself to an early grave trying. Maybe I really am a pretty mediocre teacher at best (and maybe I'm just really bad). I've gone through a fairly long period of introspection, and I've come to accept that. Maybe this is defeatist. I think this grave dilemma I have (which I discussed last year) is an insurmountable problem that is endemic to compulsory, mass education though. I think it also leeches a massive amount of time away from those kids who are willing or capable of learning. As such, I wonder if, after a month of classes, once you've figured out who the bad kids are, it's better to just work on sidelining them so they take as little time away from everyone else as possible.


I've taught classes with "special kids" who were to be allowed to put their heads down on the desk during class. They still acquired, because they heard the language over and over. They will get something out of it in spite of themselves. They would get more if they cared enough to pay attention, but what they do take with them may surprise you.


ironlady: Yeah, you're probably right. I just find it incredibly disheartening sometimes. Anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing you again later this year. I hope we can organise another seminar and do more coaching this time. There's still a massive amount I need to learn about TPRS.


It is disheartening, because you care (as do most teachers who care enough to totally change their method mid-career). But TPRS is a method, not a classroom management program. Success does tend to make behavior better, as many kids act out because they can't succeed or believe they can't be successful and it's better to be the "bad" kid than the "stupid" kid. But lots of kids at that age have already had so many awful experiences with English that you're swimming upstream against a whole lot of baggage that you had nothing to do with in the first place. They "know" what English class is all about, or think they do.

I think there are kids these days that will continue to act out in the face of almost any classroom management system, because teachers are increasingly being rendered toothless and without authority. Why should I do what you say if you have no power whatsoever to impose consequences on me? If I'm 8 years old, I'm unlikely to be motivated from some desire for a better world, my ultimate educational attainment, or whatever. In the "old days" if you got in trouble in school, you would get in trouble again when you got home, because people viewed education as a privilege. Attitudes seem to have changed a lot these days. I'm not advocating having kids smacked once in school and again when they get home until they behave well in class, but having admin and parents who are willing to back up the teacher's authority would help.


I hope we can. Unfortunately, the Government Information Office job is ending at the end of this month, so no more financial reason to come to Taiwan. :frowning: Guess I need to find an agent in Taiwan to book me stupid little translation or editing jobs all year so as to build up enough to pay for transportation and a month's lodging.


Yeah, I'm largely a toothless tiger, and the kids know it.

This is another massive issue with things here. The government simply doesn't want to spend the required amount of money on PD. They're not willing to bring anyone out here. Yet who are they going to get then? They might be lucky and have an expert living in Taiwan, but honestly, how many experts are going to live here? It's a career dead end. So, what they do is hold PD sessions that amount to the blind leading the blind. There was supposedly going to be one in February (which never happened), where various teachers were going to get up and talk about their experiences teaching here, and their tips. Yet most of us have been in this programme (or even ESL/EFL or Taiwan) for less than two years. What sort of experts are we? It was amusing to me that at the workshop you hosted, some of the foreigners who were quite resistant towards you had (at that point in time) been in Taiwan for less than four months and had never taught ESL/EFL before. Yet this is what we get here. Because the government is not willing to pay decent money to attract the best teachers, or even the most qualified teachers, and because it's not willing to even pay an airfare to get an expert out, we end up with a system where everyone is bumbling along making it up as they go along, including me!

Yet obviously, if I were to say this to anyone, they'd all look at me like I'd just forced them to eat a lemon, including the rind. How could anyone dare to be so cynical! After all, the kids in 4A all love Teacher Jenny because she's always smiling. Therefore, mission accomplished!


Well, you have to keep in mind that any CI workshop basically consists of a person saying to a lot of teachers, "You've been thinking about everything backwards and doing everything wrong, ever since you were in school." That doesn't go over well in the case of teachers who are "successful". The only teachers who want to change what they're doing are those who see a problem with the results AND link that problem with classroom practice. In the US, most foreign language teachers do see problems with the results, but they prefer to link the problem to external factors ("The kids don't do homework," "They aren't getting enough sleep", "The internet is destroying young people", "Parents today aren't strict enough" or whatever.)

The switch from "they have to work harder" to "I have to provide more input" is a big one, not to mention the adjustments to assessment culture and friction from teachers who don't want to change because they have ten years' worth of tests all written up in a file drawer. CI isn't mainstream -- yet. I think that it will be in 50 years, but not yet. So we're still a lunatic fringe in most people's eyes. :smiley:


From the little I've experienced of academic applied linguistics the majority of the research and theories seem to be about why the communicative approach doesn't work. Critical age, PPP is useless so let's turn it around and call it task based language learning, motivated learners are the only ones who can acquire so how can we make all students motivated etc. There are a lot of people who have reached the conclusion that it's pretty much useless trying to get language into any students aged 7-18. Only once they are mature enough to be motivated to self-learn is it worth trying. Yet we still carry on doing the same thing.

One big problem as I see it is the fact that a lot of senior teachers and academics are what we often describe as natural language learners. That is they seem to be able to gain an acquistion, of sorts, with minimal input and lots of analysis. They then set the rules, write the textbooks, and train the teachers. The rest of us strive to meet these goals by which we are judged.


Yes, both of you make sense. I was actually talking more about the openly absurd situation of a foreign teacher literally fresh off the boat (4 months in Taiwan in some cases) with no prior experience teaching EFL/ESL being quite resistant to ironlady's ideas. It's not even that such a person has a filing cabinet full of materials prepared over a decade. The person probably still doesn't know which direction Taipei is from where they live!