Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Vocabulary and affective filters

It seems that I've been making a return to previous topics recently, both here and at work, but that's OK: we all need to revisit things from time to time, to re-evaluate and appraise.
I'm returning to a subject that I covered ages ago - namely, is there a linguistic hierarchy of needs?

You've probably heard of Maslow's Hierarchy, and how it relates to things like esteem and self-actualization - here's a diagram:

Anyway, it got me thinking about how some students just never seem to get past the intermediate level, and how some learners seem to resent their learning - that they have a high affective filter.
Now, some of this is understandable from the simple fact that English has a relatively small common core vocabulary, meaning that it's possible to reach a B1 level of use quite quickly. However, progressing beyond this, in particular with stepping beyond the confines of using our basic lemmas (e.g. changing use into useful, useless, usability, or swim to swam, swum, swimming etc) is tougher. However, there is also the fact that some learners simply find it hard to progress because, for them, there is a seeming limitation on them as people caused by the lack of language ability. In particular, I'm thinking of ESOL learners, who have to live, function and work within an English-speaking environment.
Here are three questions to ask your learners: Do you feel 'different' when you speak English? Do you sometimes feel like a child, or disabled? Why?
I think part of the issue is the kind of vocabulary we use to express ourselves. If we were to map the 100 most common English verbs on to Maslow's hierarchy, where would they go? Clearly, verbs such as 'eat', 'drink' and 'sleep' would be in the Physiological category. What about modals? Where would we put those? What about verbs of perception, feeling, and opinion? What happens when we map the entire Common Core against this hierarchy?
It strikes me that as a part of course design, we should consider the psychological effects of teaching certain lexical items and chunks. Put simply, if we can elicit words and phrases that we associate with the 'esteem' and 'self-actualisation' categories, we may well find that we have more contented, more fulfilled and more confident language learners. 
Having said that, we all know that the key to learning any language is a)using it and b) practising it. If a learner is unwilling to do this, he or she will never make much headway. But if a learner is not practising/using simply because he/she believes that they'll never get it, then focusing on the kind of language that makes them feel as if they can talk about anything surely will get them to have greater confidence in their abilities.
We should also, of course, consider what kind of topics students need to be able to discuss - for an adult ESOL learner, for example, he/she may need to handle things such as work and employment (possibly with a specialised vocabulary for their field of work), dealing with their children's schools and so on, so delivering content that allows them to deal confidently with these issues is crucial to making them feel better about language learning.

No comments:


Motivation (12) ESOL (11) Methodology (8) Acquisition (7) Learning (7) Portfolios (5) Dip TESOL (4) blended learning (4) dogme (4) EFL (3) FE (3) language citizens (3) language commuters (3) language denizens (3) language tourists (3) learner attitudes (3) linguistic hierarchy (3) marking (3) technology (3) #eltchat (2) English (2) Hierarchy of needs (2) L1 (2) Maslow (2) Natural Approach (2) SATs (2) SLA (2) Silent Way (2) Speaker and listener roles (2) The Language City (2) Turkish (2) VLEs (2) attitudes (2) differentiation (2) elt (2) handling and manipulating (2) iPad (2) language and depression (2) language at intermediate level (2) language city model (2) lesson (2) lesson planning (2) moodle (2) phonology and phonetics (2) smart phones (2) speaking (2) teaching (2) ALTE (1) Arabic (1) CEFR (1) CLL (1) Cadbury's Creme Eggs (1) Classroom activity (1) Communication (1) DTLLS (1) ELT Unplugged (1) ETS (1) French As An Evil Language (1) GLAW profilies (1) Higher level students (1) L1 context (1) Language Interaction (1) Observations (1) P4C (1) Steve Krashen (1) Syllabus (1) TPR (1) actuive vocabulary (1) advice (1) affective filter (1) ambiguous language (1) approaches (1) apps (1) articulator (1) aspect (1) blockbuster (1) boardwork (1) bullying (1) childhood acquisition (1) citizen (1) citizenship (1) city guide (1) classroom techniques (1) cognitive tasks (1) conjunctions (1) copyright (1) creating content (1) curating content (1) diagram (1) digital literacy (1) dimension (1) disruption (1) distance learning (1) e-learning (1) easter (1) encoding (1) english uk (1) examiner (1) experiments (1) failure (1) fossilization (1) future forms (1) grade scales (1) grading (1) grammar (1) group work (1) handedness (1) holistic learning (1) integration (1) interlanguage (1) l2 (1) lesson ideas (1) lexis (1) listening (1) literacy (1) manager (1) meaningful interaction (1) mindfulness (1) mondays (1) neologism (1) online content (1) page o rama (1) passive grammar (1) passive vocabulary (1) podcast (1) politics (1) power law distributions (1) presentation (1) problem solving (1) provider (1) register (1) research (1) resolutions (1) routine (1) sentence structure (1) silent running (1) skills and systems (1) stereotypes (1) style (1) suggestopedia (1) teacher talk time (1) tense (1) tenses (1) total bloody genius (1) tutorial aids (1) tutors (1) twitter (1) using IT (1) validity (1) varieties of English (1) web profiles (1) world englishes (1) writing (1)