Adult Students Not Getting Much Better

Well, yes. However, I think it’s also because some of these concepts simply aren’t natural to a native Chinese speaker. In the instances where my wife seems to more frequently conjugate verbs correctly, it’s because they’re really, really common verbs, so I wonder if it’s simply because she has literally heard a particular conjugation of a very particular verb tens of thousands of times, but with other verbs (which she gets wrong), it’s because they’re fairly novel or uncommon (even though the grammatical rule is regular).

Prepositions are probably really difficult for anyone. I remember having issues with them studying French because there isn’t a one-to-one correspondence from one language to another. As has been mentioned, the student has to let go of his own L1’s conventions, but that’s not so easy to do.

All of this is despite my wife coming out with some pretty low frequency vocabulary or odd idioms that I know she has picked up from me after only hearing them (and asking what they were) a few times. I knew a guy here who moved to the U.S. when he was fourteen and went right through college in Canada and then worked there for a few years (so he’d spent half of his life in North America) and he still routinely said, “Open the light.” (Turn on the light.)

I don’t think it’s always lack of effort on the part of a language learner. I should imagine that if an L1 Indo-European language learner and an L1 Mandarin language learner both started learning a new language that had verb conjugations, the L1 Indo-European student would pick them up much more easily than the L1 Mandarin student because these concepts are integral to the former student’s L1, but not the latter student’s. Likewise, I’m sure if my wife and I both tried to learn Thai, or maybe even something like one of the tonal African languages, she’d find the tones much easier than I would.[/quote]

This is why that despite the vast amount of money spent on language education in Taiwan and China that Indonesians do better on the IELTS.

Well, some Asian students in the US speak very little English. Of course there are Asians who mix and mingle and their English is usually better. Graduating from a Canadian or American university does not mean that the person in question actually spoke English during those four years. They may have passively sat in class, taken the test, and graduated.

Thanks for all the feedback. I feel reassured in my already reached, tentative conclusions as to how to root out these repeated errors 1. the students don’t have enough time a week with me, 2. the answer - as always - includes more exposure to English, and 3. they need some well targeted exercises to make them more aware of their mistakes as they happen.

  1. Is not going to change - they don’t have the time or money for another class. (ok, maybe time) 2, they are already attempting with studio classroom, regular reading, and an all English day once a week. 3, is where I can hopefully add something that will make a difference.

I like what tsukinodeynatsu has to say (once more to the rescue - thanks mate), and Bob, too, has a line of great sounding ideas I’d like to try out. Taping the class is one I’ve heard before but never seriously considered. Little scary, actually.

We’ll see how it goes. I have actually spent quite a bit of time in the past noting, and then going over their mistakes with them. The difference it seems to have made is slight to my ear - hence my frustration. I suspect I haven’t been diligent enough about keeping it up long term. After a while the class picked up and the conversations became so good that I cut back on this type of review exercise. Maybe that’s my answer right there - too much fluency and content type communication, and not enough intensive, slowed down attention to detail and error correction.

And, of course, as a couple of posters have also pointed out, patience and time is required. Not to mention many Taiwanese students never get that far. These students work hard and are a great class, I’d like to see them do better.

Dial, while some errors may be permanently ingrained in the brains of your students, which you will not be able to overcome. One major obstacle that you are facing is that your students brains will not be activated enough times to ingrain the targeted speech in their heads. Using the targeted language patterns once a week or less is not enough to make this structures permanent in their brains.

I know the people you’re talking about and I’ve met many of them. That wasn’t the case with him. He spoke English at native speaker fluency, except that he would occasionally come out with little things that betrayed that English wasn’t his first language.

The OP’s problem is something I’d like to figure out as well. An idea I’ve mulled over is introducing a “guest” conversationalist once a month who can discuss a chosen topic with the student. It would allow me to sit on the sidelines and pay closer attention to the bad conversation habits of my student which can then be discussed in subsequent lessons. I’m thinking that someone different to talk to would remove my student from the teacher/student comfort zone and force the student to focus on the problems I’ll have highlighted. I’d think it would be especially helpful if my “guest” didn’t correct my student but feigned not understanding what was said thus forcing a little more concentration on the correct usage.

I know this method is working for me to learn chinese, at least in baby steps, as my ladyfriend introduces words and phrases to my vocabulary and I try to apply them in the real world. To me, nothing says try harder next time like the look of “what the f*ck did bignose just say?” I get when I try to use what I’ve been taught.

As long as your psyche is strong enough that this doesn’t bother you – fine. But you are still applying rules consciously, which is using learned language. That language isn’t yours until it is acquired, and in that case, it will come out correctly even when the Foreign Affairs Police wake you up at 3 am to ask about the plants growing on your yangtai, or your second job teaching 4 year olds.

It won’t stick long-term, but you can definitely get some fine short-term use out of “rules” or terms you learn in this way. (Similarly, there’s no way to remember a new word consciously than to be embarrassed on it during simultaneous interpreting in front of a couple hundred people. But it’s still learning, not acquisition, and still requires the time and attention to apply, rather than coming out naturally as the result of having it called to your attention even in a very marked way.)

[Note: the “yours” above is obviously “one’s”, but it sounds dumb to say “The language isn’t one’s until…”. Not sayin’ you grow weed or teach kindy. Those are issues for other threads.]

With adults, it’s often easiest to begin (and end) the class with a common error that they are making. Give them goals to help them to use specific tenses with specific objects correctly. Say sentences and have them correct you. Write sentences and have them correct you. Teach them to “self-correct” when you paraphrase something back in the correct tense. (This is tricky, because they’re often self-conscious.) Talk to them and find out whether their goal is to be able to understand more English or to use their English to be understood, and make sure that they understand the importance of using tenses correctly in English. An analogy I use is that many foreigners learning Chinese don’t worry about tones, but it makes them sound like they don’t know what they’re talking about, just as using English without regard to tenses does.

Good luck. Let us know what works and what doesn’t; you may have a group of students who just want “English Class” to be an escape from everyday life. And they may NEVER actually level with you…

I sent a number of posts here: Acquisition or learning, comprehensible input or correction?

I also teach mostly adults now. Very good points made here. But face it most adult students just don’t practice. Some of my students have studied for years and feel they don’t progress, and I get frustrated too. But then I asked them what they did outside of class. Most don’t review, preview, speak (hard sometimes), write, or read much at all. Unless they have some serious self motivation which is rare they don’t do enough outside of the class. I know because I’ve asked them. No reinforcement means little progress. When I taught kids we had quizzes, plays, free conversation, assignments, stories they had to rehearse, speeches etc. Often this is outside of class as you know. It can be way too much at times, but at least the reinforced what the learned.

[quote]Dial, while some errors may be permanently ingrained in the brains of your students, which you will not be able to overcome. One major obstacle that you are facing is that your students brains will not be activated enough times to ingrain the targeted speech in their heads. Using the targeted language patterns once a week or less is not enough to make this structures permanent in their brains.[/quote]steelersman

If you show up to 3-4 classes a week it helps, yet in order to progress they need to practice the weaknesses that you point out and talk about… not just in class. I have little time for review where I teach, but I do some anyway. Unless your class is preparing for a special test or can make NT $10,000 more a month for English skills they don’t seem highly motivated to get better, even if they say they are. I try to motivate them, but as said in another thread they would rather hear/chat about my home country, dating habits, movie stars, shopping, games, food and funny exercises. AKA entertainment. Not thier mistakes.

It is like swimming upriver most of the time. But the water is OK :2cents:

That sounds ideal. You have some topics that are compelling to them, stuff that they will pay attention to and will try to comprehend. All that’s needed is to focus on the structures you want to get them to acquire, while talking about the topics they like. Be repetitious, ask lots of questions to see that they comprehend what is being said. All under this interesting conversation about shopping or a movie star, you are pounding over and over on the structure for the day, without coming out and saying “Today we are going to review the present progressive”. Every once in a while, you say, “Jackie Chan is shooting a movie in Antarctica [I have no idea what Jackie Chan is up to these days, just an example here]. What does that -ing on “shooting” tell us? Right, it shows that he is doing that right now. Is Jackie Chan shooting a movie or is he watching a movie?..” and so on. After several thousand applications of -ing forms and tiny micro-grammar-lessons of this sort, you’ll find that the students will be using them correctly.