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3.3. What about Stage IV?


That naturally brings us to Stage IV. In this stage you are no longer a full-time language learner. Since most of the language you are exposed to in real life is immediately comprehensible to you, your main concern is to be sure that you are exposed to the language in a major way, on an ongoing basis, in real life. This has a lot to do with the choices you make in relation to your lifestyle. Suppose you are now going to work at a desk forty hours per week, and you have two choices. You can rent a plush, spacious, well-furnished, air-conditioned office of the sort commonly rented by the people who held your job before you did. Or alternatively, you can rent a desk in an office shared by a number of local office workers who interact in your new language off and on through the day. Then suppose you need a secretary. You can hire one with excellent English, or you can hire one who finds it much easier to speak your new language with you than to speak English with you. And you can choose a residence that isolates you from people, or one in which you cannot avoid interacting with people. When people try to visit you, you can drop whatever you are doing and communicate a clear message of “Right now, you are more important to me than anything else”, or you can communicate an implicit message of “You're interrupting something important”. Such reactions will be part of what determines whether your visitors are many and frequent, or few and far between.

You may not be an office worker, but whatever you are doing, you will face similar life-style choices. If you choose a work situation, co-workers, a residential situation, and a leisure life which keep you immersed in the language, you will continue to progress in the language, since you'll continue to receive massive comprehensible input (Principle I), to engage in extensive extemporaneous speaking (Principle II), and to get to know the people who speak the language (Principle III). But you may also become burned out before your time. Therefore, as part of your highly effective lifestyle you need to allow for adequate escapes and retreats. Have a place that you can get away to whenever you feel the need for a little peace and quiet. Have a private place where you can go to work when you must have a few days of uninterrupted, concentrated work. And have some close friends among people from your own cultural background or a similar one. Don't spend the majority of your time with them, but do spend quality time with them fairly frequently. And when you are with them, don't fall into the trap of talking negatively about the host society. That can quickly get you feeling down in the dumps. True, there is also a point in talking openly with such friends about your frustrations, and knowing that they won't condemn you for it. But some people get into the habit of flippantly running down the host society, making it a major topic of conversation, whenever they are with fellow foreigners. If you have really been serious about getting to know the people who speak the language (Principle III), such talk will make you uncomfortable, since it is most often rooted in a deep lack of understanding of the host people where you are living.

I don't want to give the impression that you will not want to get further help from someone like an LRP during Stage IV. But it will probably be more of an occasional thing rather than full time. Do you want to perfect your speech? You can continue recording yourself as you use the language in communication, and go over the tapes with an LRP. Almost anybody can serve as an LRP at this point. If you find that you are having trouble with a particular aspect of the language, you can devise a communication activity which will allow you to use the problem construction or vocabulary items repeatedly. Finally, you can work on written composition. When writing the language it is much easier to get all of the grammatical details right than when speaking it, since you have all the time you need to think about what you are writing, and you can easily go back and make corrections. So you may want to write compositions of various sorts and go over them with an LRP to discover varieties of errors you may be unaware of. Actually, it is profitable to work on written composition in this way even during earlier stages, especially Stage III. Similarly, you can benefit considerably from reading, especially if there is a large body of literature in the language. As a matter of fact, to a large extent, you become a good writer as a result of massive comprehensible input which you receive as a reader. When you have difficulty understanding portions of written material that you are reading, these can provide the basis for discussions with an 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.]

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