kitchen table math, the sequel: Doug on French TV

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Doug on French TV

[hmmm... just noticed that headling is a bit misleading - Now appearing on French TV!]

oh, well

I suspect that a part of the advantage of listening to television is that actors and talking heads speak more clearly than the average person on the street but less clearly than a language teacher. IME, language teachers teach platonic forms of a language's phonemes -- forms that are very seldom used in precisely those forms in speech by normal people.

In addition, television uses common idioms from the language, not the artificial phrases used by teachers.

I suspect the combination is quite useful to a language learner.


I find this whole area pretty fascinating.

Here's another research factoid:

Kuhl's earlier research found that 9-month-old American babies who played games with and were read to by Mandarin speakers could still hear Mandarin phonemes at 14 months after only a dozen 25-minute Mandarin sessions. A control group could not. Babies who were exposed to videotaped Mandarin could not.

So why does human connection make a difference?

"The hypothesis is that interaction is what sets the brain up to acquire learning," Kuhl says. "It's an opening of the cellular floodgates . . . There's this arousal thing . . . that might do something biochemically that allows cells to acquire information in a more memorable way. We know that hormones play a role. We know that when children are apprehensive, under stress, they don't learn."
Infant Science

That tends to argue against the "French TV" hypothesis, unless adults have a different set of "social arousal" needs than infants, which is not only possible but, I would imagine, likely.

Still, I think this does speak to the Eternal Quest for learning technology in our schools. I've always had the strongest feeling -- it's an intuition, nothing more -- that the physical presence of the teacher is an "irreducible." You don't have school without a living, breathing teacher in the same room with the kids.

Clifford Stoll has a chapter on the utter failure of "distance learning" that suggests 20 year olds need human teachers, too.


le radical galoisien said...

Which seems to explain why using Wikipedia as a resource for learning math is highly useful when you're actually enrolled in the subject you wish to study, but is absolutely confusing otherwise.

My parents started teaching me Mandarin around the age 1-2. This is probably why I forgot it so easily (compared to English, which was taught from the very start) when I migrated to the US.

It also doesn't help that Singapore Mandarin merges various phonemes that Beijing Mandarin keeps distinct. This makes it a pain to relearn Mandarin using online resources, because they cater to the Beijing pronunciation only and it is difficult to link it back to the Singapore Mandarin I *do* know.

Catherine Johnson said...

ok, you've got your hands full

i just want to learn calculus


ms-teacher said...

Happy birthday to both boys! Welcome to the teen years :)

rightwingprof said...

It's easier to hear and produce allophones, or sounds that are not phonemes but are in your native language's phonetic inventory. All phonemes have allophones, different forms, which appear in different environments. To take a foreign phoneme that doesn't exist in American English, there's the German /x/ (ach!). After low vowels, its allophone is the sound everybody associates with it (a voiceless guttural fricative). But after high vowels, its allophone is a sound we have in English, (the first sound of huge or Hugh), a voiceless palatal fricative. Once you point this out to English speakers learning German, they can easily produce and hear that allophone.