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2.2. After your language session is over


Now you have finished your first session. You spent an hour or more preparing for it. The session itself lasted for one or two hours. And you tape-recorded the whole thing. Take a breather. Your work isn't done.

2.2.1 Using tape-recordings of your sessions
2.2.2 Daily record keeping --more than just a frill
2.2.3 Planning each session.
2.2.4 Your daily routine

2.2.1 Using tape-recordings of your sessions

You can extend the value of your session considerably by wise use of the tape-recording you made during the session. You did make a tape, didn't you? I find I get very clear tape recordings if I use lapel microphones. I like to use a stereo recorder with two lapel microphones in case I want to record two native speakers interacting, or to record myself and a native speaker interacting. I also like to use a double cassette recorder so that I can copy sample bits of the session onto a second tape. This second tape will grow from day to day, as I add key excerpts of each day's session. I don't need to save all fifty instances when the LRP said “stand up” during the session. But during the final part of the initial TPR activity I had learned to respond to fifteen commands, and the LRP was rapidly using all of them (in random order), and I was rapidly responding to all fifteen (or however many) commands. Therefore, by dubbing the final few minutes of TPR instructions onto a new tape, I can save a complete record of the expressions I learned in the initial TPR activity of that session. I will similarly dub excerpts of the second (pointing) activity onto the same tape.

With the picture descriptions I may just dub the whole works over onto the abbreviated tape. I can listen to that several times: This is a man, this is a woman, etc. Keeping up with the descriptions and not losing my place is enough of a challenge at this point to force me to keep processing what I am hearing.

As I listen to the recording of the TPR activities, I can actually respond, or I may just recall how I responded during the session. I may even listen to the tape of each entire session a few times during the days following the session. I would hope to be adding a new session every day, but it is important to keep cycling through the taped excerpts of previous sessions.

In the coming weeks, you will be systematically focusing on a large variety of sentence patterns. You will always learn to understand the sentences during your session. However, you could easily forget much of what you learn, were it not for the fact that you keep cycling through the taped excerpts of your earlier sessions. As you listen to excerpts of an earlier session, you can recall what you were doing in the session as you processed and responded to what you heard. If you have difficulty maintaining concentration while listening to the tape, then you can actually perform the responses (for example, point to the appropriate picture upon hearing a sentence about it), as you listen to the tape.

2.2.2 Daily record keeping --more than just a frill

It is important that you devote some time at the end of each day to record keeping. If the alphabet of the language you are learning is similar to the English alphabet (or some other alphabet you are already comfortable with), and if the spelling is closely tied to the pronunciation, then you can begin using the writing system at once. It may be that there is as yet no writing system for the language, or that the writing system is very different from any you have known before and quite difficult. In that case, you will be better off to postpone learning the writing system for awhile. For the sake of your record keeping, just write things down roughly using English letters and whatever symbols (say, accent marks) you find helpful. I am personally capable of writing things in a technical phonetic alphabet, but during the first days of language learning I don't worry about writing down the fine details. That is because I do not use what I write as a basis for my pronunciation anyway. My pronunciation (when I get around to speaking) will be based on what I have heard, not on what I wrote. The writing is for the purpose of keeping track of what I learned, and providing some visual reinforcement, which I find helpful.

One important component of your daily records should be a simple log of the vocabulary you have covered, with a rough English translation for each vocabulary item. This will help you in keeping track of your progress in acquiring vocabulary, and will also assist you as you plan your subsequent sessions, since each session will include some review of previously learned items.

One of your goals can be to learn to recognize thirty new vocabulary items every day. That will be 150 per week. Thus after seven weeks you will be able to recognize over a thousand common vocabulary items. If you're more energetic, you can realistically go for fifty new vocabulary items per day, and thus learn a thousand items in a month. The key is to be well prepared, and to keep listening to your tapes and reviewing previously learned items in subsequent sessions.

You should also write out any observations you may have as to how the language is put together, or why you think certain forms of words may be used in some cases, and different forms in other cases. You can relate this to your goals for covering a broad range of sentence patterns, a matter which I will discuss at length below. You should also mention anything that puzzles you about how the language works.

You will also keep various checklists of ideas for your language sessions. Below I will suggest checklists that you can add to from day to day. You will use them as part of the basis for planning your language sessions. These include a checklist of situations in which you need to use the language, and topics which you need to discuss in the language. You can also have a checklist for special areas of vocabulary that may come to mind. You can go out and look around the community for ideas for vocabulary and examples of daily life situations, and add these to the checklists. I will provide you with many suggestions for vocabulary and sentence patterns to cover. These, too, should be used as checklists.

Another important component of your record keeping is a diary in which you describe your whole experience as a language learner each day. This will have various uses. For one thing, reading back over your diary as the weeks and months go by will help you to appreciate the progress you have made. For another thing, the diary will help you to share your experience with a language learning consultant who may help you, or with other language learners, who may also share their diaries with you. The discipline of diary writing will help you to maintain a high level of self-awareness, which is important in the ongoing process of planning and self-evaluation.

2.2.3 Planning each session.

In preparing for every session, you can plan thirty new vocabulary items, and plan to review at least that many that you have previously learned. In your plan, you will want to include at least three different kinds of language learning activities, as we did in your first session. For example, you might do one activity using vegetables. In a second activity, the LRP may have you get up and go to different parts of the house and do things that are characteristically done there. Third, you may do something with pictures. The exact nature of your three (or more) activities will change from day to day. Keep the sessions fun and interesting for both you and your LRP.

In addition to learning new vocabulary, you will also design your sessions to highlight specific sentence patterns. I'll give examples below. Can you see why you need to spend at least an hour per day getting ready for your time with your LRP?

In summary, each session should include

  1. Activities that increase your vocabulary.
  2. Activities that increase your ability to understand different types of sentences.
  3. Review of material covered in earlier sessions, integrated into what you are now learning for the first time.

2.2.4 Your daily routine

During this early phase of language learning your daily activities might include:

  1. Spend one to two hours planning and preparing for your session with your LRP.
  2. Spend one to two hours with your LRP. Your LRP will follow your instructions and use the new language to communicate with you in ways that require you to hear, process and respond. You will tape record the session.
  3. Go over the tapes, and copy summary excerpts to another tape.
  4. Listen to the abbreviated tape meaningfully (that is, in conjunction with the same pictures, objects, or actions that you used in your session), a number of times.
  5. Do your daily journal writing and record keeping.

Initially, you will be majoring on learning to understand the language. Thus your plan for your session will aim to increase your ability to recognize vocabulary, and to understand different sentence patterns. Later I will give you a lot of specific suggestions regarding vocabulary and sentence patterns to cover in your lessons.

This daily pattern will change with time. Eventually you will be spending more than two hours per day with LRP s, and less time going over the tapes of the sessions. The reason for this is that initially, working with a live speaker is very demanding, and both you and the live speaker tire easily. You can relax with the tape recorder, and process the language input from your session over and over. Once you get rolling in the language, you will feel a need for much more extended live conversational interaction with your LRP.

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Go to SIL home page This page is an extract from the LinguaLinks Library, Version 3.5, published on CD-ROM by SIL International, 1999. [Ordering information.]

Page content last modified: 11 September 1997

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