Tag Archives: authentic language learning

An alternative to Chinese summer camp: Hire tutor

Stumbled across this blog post by an adult Chinese learner, who, instead of heading off to Chinese summer camp, decided to hire a tutor to work with him and his family for a week.

An excerpt: “We really loved it because it was completely personalized. Our teacher was able to support us exactly where we needed to be without worrying about other students or families.  We were able to tailor the days to our needs. Whether it was cooking food, going to the park, or playing a game at home, we could easily focus on and practice language related to the everyday activities we needed to talk about. This was a huge help for us and much better than having the teacher create a lesson plan from some boring book or irrelevant text. …This not only greatly helps memory retention, but keeps things interesting.”

A growing body of evidence points to the importance of “authentic language learning,” or giving students real-life, developmentally appropriate opportunities to express themselves in their second language. For instance, a lesson on cooking steamed buns exposes them to everyday words, such as “measuring cup, flour, water, mix and temperature.” It gives them a chance to put their Mandarin to practical use. And learning about Chinese culture enriches their language instruction by exposing them to: regional and class-based accents; new vocabulary; conventions of different literary forms, such as rap and poetry; appropriateness of expression in different contexts (conventions of politeness, street language versus school language).

A lot of the research on the importance of “authentic language learning,” is out of Canada, the birthplace of modern language immersion. Here are excerpts from one of the most commonly cited papers, “Immersion Education for the Millennium: What We Have Learned from 30 Years of Research on Second Language Instruction,” by Jim Cummins at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto:

“For immersion education to attain its maximum potential it must be integrated into an educational philosophy that goes beyond just the discipline of Applied Linguistics. Students must have opportunities to communicate powerfully in the target language if they are going to integrate their language and cognitive development with their growing personal identities.”