August 1st, 2020

meow, cat, Siamese, catty

Bittercon: Japanese in an Hour

Since AnimeIowa has gone virtual this year, most of their panel discussions are more on the order of presentations or demonstrations of how to do something. This one seemed rather interesting, because it is presented as providing some basic vocabulary and grammar to help a person learn how to speak spontaneously, at least on a restricted set of topics.

It made me think of how I studied foreign languages in college right in the middle of a period of upheaval in views on foreign language teaching. As a result, my classes used textbooks that took a number of different approaches, with the result of having no cohesive strategy. One class would have us doing the traditional grammar/vocabulary approach with an emphasis on translation as an indication of mastery. Another class would have us memorizing dialogs, with the idea that if we did enough, we'd intuitively assimilate the language. In another, the teacher walked in on the first day, greeted us in the language, and started naming objects in the room and doing things with them, with the idea that we would absorb the language through practical experience.

There's also the problem of learning styles -- different people learn best in different ways. Memorization of vocabulary may help one student, while another student becomes bored and inattentive, or even work-avoidant. One student may benefit from an immersive learning situation, in which all instruction is conducted in the target language and students have to communicate in it to get through tasks of daily living, while another student may become overwhelmed and freeze like a deer in headlights, and end up withdrawing from the program because the stress is simply too much.

And there's the simple fact that there's a huge difference between something that you study in your spare time because you're interested in it, and something you study to make a grade.