Bryon is a French language learner for middle intermediary level. During a French language test, he was asked to talk about his relationship with his neighbor. At that time, he wished he knew at least how they looked like so that he could answer: he realized that he had no relationship with the people around him. After the test, he went back home and started getting close to one of his neighbors; he later found out that they had a common interest for sports and the two became good friends.
This story reveals how some individuals could be distant from their neighbors and how social activities can change people’s minds and enable them build a healthy relationship with people around them. One social activity that could help us do that is learning a new language. The language class is a social group where language interaction should be close enough to reality. According to the new approach of learning a foreign language, class activities should be as close as possible to what learners encounter in their day to day activities. How does a language become a social representation of our real life?
The above pictures depict the neighborhood relationship diagram of two French classes on the topic “parler de son voisinage”.The diagrams shows the links between each learner and his or her immediate neighbors. As we can notice, learners knew little about each other and in each case they did not know their names. Students were asked to say and write in French what they know about their neighbors. Though the activity was in French, we could all notice that we didn’t know who lives near us. The learners acknowledged that they had never thought of trying to know about their neighbors except in the French class where it came to pass.
The difference between a good language learner and a poor one could be that the former relates to what he learns in real life while latter is learning the book to have good scores. Scores are good but if you can’t communicate on issues around you, then learning is a waste of time. How do you develop your competences with your environment?
The diagram below shows how a learner improves her vocabulary and grammar competences by writing the words attached to her university status.
After writing the words, the next thing was to construct at least three sentences with each of those words. You can imagine the numerous numbers of sentences she was able to construct around her environment. The next thing to do is to find someone with whom she could speak those sentences and improve on her pronunciation and accent.
As simple as it seems, it requires determination and a focused mind. It goes beyond what has been taught in the classroom even when the trainer did the activities around real life issues.
Hervé-Boris Ngaté, Psychologist / Language and Cross-Cultural Trainer