[b-greek] Great Divide

From: Warren Fulton (warren@inlingua.at)
Date: Wed Sep 20 2000 - 17:19:36 EDT

c.s.bartholomew wrote:

> If you work from the bottom up (phonology - morphology - phrase and
> clause syntax) you are a formal language feature aficionado (FLFA). If
> you start out by looking at the high-level semantic structure you are a
> semantic priority aficionado (SPA).

To which Brian Swedburg replied:

> Am I correct in recognizing this as a hermeneutical proposition?

No doubt, but Clay's final target is pedagogy:

> [...] most NT Greek students become by default hard core and
> incurable FLFA's. They spend so many hundreds of hours mastering a
> reasonable subset of the language that they become inordinately
> preoccupied with formal language features for the rest of their life. This is
> all exacerbated by pedagogy which promotes micro level analysis over
> reading.

I can verify this as a consistent pattern in modern language learners as well. Every student
who enrolls with us does an oral interview. Having done thousands of placement interviews over
the years, I can spot within 3 utterances the graduates of formal language schooling who have
never really synthesized language beyond the sentence level. Main symptom: absence of
connectors. They fail to post signs that signal general directional flows of their thought
streams: "Besides that ..." (supportive argument), "in other words ..." (summary), "by the way
..." (abrupt transition). In contrast, candidates who come to us from having lived abroad often
boldly post the signs only to get bogged down in forms before they can finish their idea.

Which type of language user is more communicative? The one who paints broad brush strokes or
the one who crosses his Ts? Depends on the sharpness of detail you need to extract from the
messages. Certainly it's easier to surmise details once you've got the general outline than it
is to piece together a mood, an editorial slant, or an overarching theme out of a string of
sentence snipets.

Clay is right. We language teachers do perpetuate FLFAs by failing to create sufficient
practice opportunities for larger units of speech. We need to place more emphasis on:

- overall context within which one desires to communicate
- sustained discourse using several arguments or illustrations
- presentations and essays, not just sentence-based drills
- introductory, transitional, and wrap-up phrases
- completion and expansion exercises, paragraph building, etc.

By encouraging this kind of language production in the teaching process, our students will
naturally take a more balanced approach to reading, textual analysis, and hermeneutics.

Warren Fulton
Inlingua School of Languages
Vienna, Austria

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