BACKGROUND OF MY RESEARCH
Why did my former American high school students’ Japanese (JPN) oral proficiency skyrocket with the use of finger action imitation (FAI)?
It is relevant to say that my first year JPN students’ performance had been very poor at the beginning of the1999-2000 school year. At the time of my instruction to the students with weak language background, I created the FAI as well as cartoons, which were pictoral representations of finger action (FA) to show the FA to improve their JPN oral production. The students had difficulty to converse in structured sentences of JPN, including verbs, adjectives, negative and affirmative sentences to questions and particles. It was imperative for me to create an effective teaching method to help the students. I will depict the predisposing, or enabling factors that demonstrated how the students improved their JPN conversation skills by comparing and contrasting their experiences. In order to clarify the experiences, I will first explicate my production, which had contributed to the improvement of my strong language background students’ JPN oral proficiency in class. Second, the weak language background students’ ability in first language (L1) and JPN at the beginning of the school year will be presented. Specifically, their weakness of grammar usage will be described. Third, I will explain the importance of learning grammar for beginners, citing the Higgs and Clifford hypothesis (see Illustration 1) and McKelvey’s proposal (see Illustration 2.) Fourth, I will explain how the difficulty teaching JPN grammar caused discipline problems, if teachers do not have an effective teaching method. Fifth, I will explain how I adapted Total Physical Response-Storytelling (TPR-S), as it is considered to cause the delay of grammar learning. I will also describe the reasons that I have modified the TPR-S to teach JPN grammar. Sixth, I will present a detailed explanation of the visually stimulating and pleasurable FAI activities, which helped with the students’ oral proficiency and motivated the students to learn JPN. Seventh, I will explain how JPN oral improvement with the FAI gave the students a passion to learn the new and difficult language. Finally, I will propose the necessity of investigation of the reasons that the FAI helped with the students’ oral development.
I-1. Puppet Shadow Show
My JPN students (1st year to 4th year) and I performed puppet shadow shows in JPN since 1994. The Japan Center, universities professors, executives at local JPN companies and the PTSA (parents, teachers and students association) at my school provided assistance for this project. Students benefited from participating in this production by developing language skills and by increasing their understanding of culture. There was also a development of computer literacy. This was a chance for my students, their parents, faculty members, people from local JPN communities, and students who did not take JPN classes to share in a different culture. My students also performed a fashion show, wearing costumes from their ancestral countries after the puppet shadow show. After the show we had a reception with ethnic food, which had been cooked by my students, their parents and myself. These activities enabled us to expose a realistic culture rather than an artificial culture. My students’ appreciation of and enthusiasm for the JPN language and culture further improved due to the production.
Without difficulties, I generated the production until 1999, while also developing curriculum, and receiving support from the parents, administrators and students as well as JPN communities. However, the lack of an efficacious teaching method for the weak language background first year JPN students eroded their desire to learn the language, which was complicated for English speakers, although they had motivated to learn JPN at the beginning of the school year (refer to Illustration 3).
Serious discipline problems for the first time in my twenty-five years teaching experience resulted. As the Illustration 3 shows, it takes learners of JPN about three times as long to learn the language as it would take them to learn a language more closely related to English, such as French or Spanish. This only concerns speech. If we also teach Japanese writing systems, it will take students more than three times as long to learn Japanese because the JPN language has four different writing systems. Thus, if the learners would like to become proficient in JPN, they need to plan on spending many years studying it. It was urgent for me to produce a relevant teaching method for the weak background students.
I-2. Weak Background Students
In the fall of 1999, the 9th through 11th graders enrolled in a first year JPN class at my high school. Four different levels of English courses, which were AP, academic gifted, average and basic English, were offered at my high school. Usually students, who took AP and academic gifted English courses, enrolled in my class at my high school. However, many of the first year JPN students in the fall of 1999 were taking average or basic English courses. One of them failed in Spanish level one and others have never taken a foreign language course. The English teachers told me that students of those courses had difficulty to describe themselves in a written form with their first language. Thus, I foresaw that the students would have problems with learning JPN in my class because through my twenty-five years of teaching experience, I had confirmed that students with L1 problems would also have a difficulty to learn second language (L2).
My teaching methods, which integrated communicative, structuralist and the audio-lingual method had been successful in the past, but totally failed to guide the students. I had a certain pride in the fact that I had had training at Bryn Mawr College and Columbia University, where leading authorities in JPN language pedagogy had instructed me. When I taught them self- introductions in JPN, they conversed with their classmates and me fairly well, though they had fumbled a little with vocabulary.
At the time of introduction of grammar concepts, they totally shuffled their JPN conversation skills because of their inability to facilitate grammar, and synthesize their vocabulary and phonological knowledge. The textbook for my class had been comprised by structurists, who had adapted the communicative approach. The syntactical structure, vocabulary, and pronunciation of the JPN language are entirely dissimilar to those of English. Apparently, they had suffered from the large difference between the two languages. In addition, many of the JPN first year students in 1999 had weak language backgrounds. It was no doubt that many of them did not have good study habits either. Consequently, their limited language capability inhibited the use of the methods, which had been successful in teaching other high school JPN students at my high school for the past eight years.
Specifically, they had problems conjugating verbs and adverbs, forming
structured sentences, including how to respond with negative and affirmative
sentences to questions. Specifically, various inflection forms and particles
were an enormous obstacle for them, partly because they are not part of
the English language. They struggled with inflectional forms, the
particles, semantics and complicated syntactical structures such as how
to respond with negative and affirmative sentences to questions, even though
I set up situations and used JPN toys and picture cards, that had pleased
my previous years students and that had helped with enhancement of their
inflectional forms as well as particles and syntactical abilities. The
weak language background students hit a wall trying to learn JPN, in contrast,
their learning capabilities in a certain situational settings in the absence
of verb conjugations, particles and problematical syntactical structure
for American high school students.
They were capable of pronouncing JPN words because of two reasons. One of them is that there is no remarkable difficulty for English speakers with JPN phonology, other than the absence of the /l/ phoneme and its replacement, where it is required e.g. to pronounce foreign words, by /r/. Another account would be the use of the audio-lingual method; thus their phonological competence enabled us to have JPN conversations when I set up situations. However, I had virtually foreseen that the students would have difficulties with those rules in JPN because in the past, even students with strong language background had encountered some degree of difficulty with applying their knowledge of the rules to JPN conversations. It appeared that the complex syntactical configuration, particles, and the inflectional forms of verbs and adverbs impaired and hampered their ability to have JPN conversations with me.
I-3. Importance of learning grammar
I-3-1. Higgs and Clifford hypothesis
Why is teaching grammar critical in a foreign language (FL) and L2 classroom? There are two accounts for this. First, Higgs and Clifford (1982) proposed their hypothesis to learn foreign languages. They consider that vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation would be crucial to master FL at the beginners’ level.
While the most efficient way to achieve survival level proficiency would be a course that stressed vocabulary, our experience indicates that such a program would work to the disadvantage of students who wished to develop higher levels of proficiency. Students entering such a program would have to be warned of its potentially negative effect on their long-range aspirations (p.73.)
Participating in my puppet shadow show production, which includes learning stories in FL with inflectional forms of words, particles, and intricate syntactical construction, is a demanding task for American high school students to learn JPN, thus it was crucial for me to modify my teaching situation.
I-3-2. McKelvey’s propose for grammar instruction
In addition to Clifford and Higgs’ hypothesis, McKelvey proposes a more eclectic approach. He presented a model that suggests beginning level students need more structure, repetition, and support. Therefore the teacher’s control to beginners is the gateway to communication success, practicing pronunciation with the audio-lingual method, and integrating pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary, which are the crucial points to assist the beginners to acquire some level of proficiency. I hypothesize that the students’ difficulty existed in the lack of support in internalizing and retrieving grammar at the time of my instruction.
I-4. Difficulty teaching syntactical structures to weak language background students.
As they realized the degree of complexity to learn JPN with the introduction of certain rules of the JPN language, the novelty of learning a new language wore off quite rapidly. Lack of effective teaching methods for the students left me unable to handle their discipline problems. I modified my teaching methods to fit their ability; however, the modifications did not help with their progress. Inevitably, this led to students’ misbehavior. My motivation to teach JPN gradually eroded because the lack of effective teaching methods derived from an examined theory. I considered relegating my teaching standard to fit their language ability; however I was unable to do so because if I lowered my standards, they would not be able to improve their JPN language abilities. Worse yet, I was anxious about the potential problems associated with their participation in my puppet shadow show production. As I stated before, performing the show requires the demanding JPN language tasks.
I showed a videotape of our past production to motivate them; however,
many of first year JPN students did not show their interest in the production.
Due to the deficiency in discernible connection to improve their JPN language
proficiency, they lacked a clear goal to learn the JPN language and culture.
One day, I saw a book for the TPR-S written by Blaine Ray, on a bookshelf at my home. I had purchased it at a nationwide conference. As I read the book, I thought the TPR-S might be relevant to improve the students’ proficiency and inspire them to study JPN because the TPR-S had been popular in Spanish and worked very well to improve Spanish students proficiency. Blaine Ray stated that:
Although formal grammar instruction in TPR-S is delayed, test results show that grammar is nevertheless successfully acquired early in the program. In spring 1993, middle school students in a pilot Pre-Spanish One introductory TPR-S program at Phoenix County Day School actually scored ABOVE the national average on the Level One National Spanish Exam.
After reading this, I recalled that my colleague, who taught Spanish, had said to me, “ Tae, I have to teach Spanish to students who do not understand English grammar.” I immediately decided to fly to Texas where the ACTFL, which has a TPR-S session every year, held a conference in November 1999, wondering if delaying teaching grammar in my class might cause problems later. I thought that if the TPR-S worked for weak language background students, my students might get a benefit from the TPR-S.
I-5. FAI is a teaching method which expanded from TPR-S
I-5-1. TPR-S Workshop at ACTFL
My first voyage, which was serendipitous, to Texas would not guarantee a solution to the problems. The exotic atmosphere in Texas intrigued me. The Mexican style colorful buildings, the Cajun food and tropical plants such as red bougainvilleas’ flowers and big hemp palms welcomed me. The conference was held in a huge hotel filled with thousands of language professionals and administrators from across North America. I could feel the powerful FL movement in North America. I was lucky enough to find a seat for the TPR-S session. The presenter for the TPR-S session at the ACTFL was full of excitement and anticipation about teaching an Indian language, which was new for us.
Tae: Isn’t this exciting? A bunch of people would
like to learn the TPR-S! I have problems with my JPN high school
students. Such a disaster has been happening in my class, for instance
no homework ever gets turned in and my students cannot even converse with
me in JPN. I have used teaching methods, which have worked perfect
for my students in the past. But, you know, these methods do not
work for my current first year students at all. I have changed my teaching
style, but no alteration works for them. I am tired. But I
thought that the TPR-S might work for my students. That is why I
am here. How about you?
(I dislike complaining about my students. I had rather avoided describing my students’ bad points; however, my disappointment with my teaching methods for the weak language background students initiated the irrelevant talk.)
JPN participant (JP) A: Oh, yah. Teaching the JPN language is
tough, specifically at high school. I have taught JPN at high school.
But I had discipline problems with high school kids, so now I teach
at a college level.
Tae: JPN is quite difficult for English speakers. It takes three times the length in time for students to attain the same level of proficiency, compared to related languages such as Spanish or French. Do you conduct your classes in JPN to your American college students?
JP A: Sure, except teaching grammar! This is not an easy job for my students and me.
Tae: For sure. How about you?
JP B: I am from California. Since JPN students’ enrolment has increased at my high school, I need to learn more. I heard that the U.S. has the second highest enrolment of students studying JPN.
Tae: Here we are, the presenter has started.
The presenter requested us to be her students for the session. She divided us into small groups and had us practice telling a story using body action, including the FAI as well as gesture and drawings. She first demonstrated how to teach vocabulary using a story with gesture and drawings. Teaching vocabulary is important for beginners to acquire the language. She then requested us to practice telling the story with the actions while pronouncing the words. Finally, she requested some volunteers to come up to the front to perform the story with actions and costumes, which she had brought for the session. The volunteers did a great job, demonstrating the story with their humorous actions and conversations in the Indian language. The presenter and the volunteers received a big round of applause from the participants because of their outstanding performance. I thought that this might work for my first year students. On the way home, I was reflecting on the conference; I had a positive feeling about this newly learned method. However, I realized that I would need to modify the TPR-S by synthesizing the visual and kinesthetic through fun and interesting activities, since solely an analogy of teaching methods often did not work for my class in the past.
I-5-2. Adaptation of TPR-S
The first stage of the TPR-S involved breaking the ice. It allowed me to explore the extent of my interest in the modification of the method to fit the JPN students. Later, I found that the TPR-S created by Blaine Ray had problems when applied to my students. For instance, Ray suggested the clear seven steps for the TPR-S:
1. Teach the words of a story through gesture. Have students practice
the gesture. (2 minutes max)
2. Assess. When the students know the words, go on to the next step.
3. Use the above words in personalized questions and answers. Also use the words in a mini-situation. The mini-situation will be bizarre (eliminate the expected) and have elements from the students' lives and exaggeration. We exaggerate size and numbers to create interest and to aid in long-term memory. Students act out the story.
4. Teacher retells the same story two more times. S/he asks questions while s/he retells. This gives the students much more input. It also gives them a great deal of repetition of the new words from that day.
5. Students retell. They retell in groups and to the class. (5 min. max)
6. Teacher teaches students how to retell from another perspective. (Retell the story as if you were in the story. All changes must be made in the story so it is grammatically correct from the point of view of the narrator.)
7.Students retell from perspective.
The TPR-S is an excellent way to teach FL. It consists of innovative ways, including using a story and gesture as well as drawings; however, I encountered four different problems with this procedure. I propose critique of the TPR-S, though I realize that the TPR-S is a groundbreaking way to teach FL. First, my problem with the weak language background students was teaching grammar; however the TPR-S is delayed formal grammar instruction. The students, who need immediate assistance to improve grammatical use for conversations, could not get immediate benefit from the TPR-S. Second, following the exact procedure of the TPR-S does not allow teachers to create their own ways to fit their students’ proficiency and motivation. For instance, he suggests that gesture should be used for two minutes at maximum; however I used much more than two minutes in my class. Third, creating many interesting stories was difficult for me because I taught at three different levels at middle school, high school and college. Time limitation hindered the creation of stories. Fourth, evaluating students’ comprehension of the stories is too simple for JPN students. Therefore, I have produced my own way, including activities with the FAI as well as drawings, which assist with the students’ JPN grammar ability. The revelation of lack of the resilience of the TPR-S for the students led me to creative ways with the FAI as well as cartoons.
I-6. Creation of activities with observation
and FAI, integrating communicative, structurist approaches and audio-lingual
I will describe the details of my JPN students’ improvement in my class. I created finger action and cartoons for my students to learn vocabulary and syntax. I tried to create memorable visual images with the cartoons. My teaching points are from the bottom- up and from the top-down. Thus, I organized my teaching of simple skills in isolation as learners can only initially handle simple information. After embodiment of the simple information, I had them process the information slowly and progressively in more complex situations. As I mentioned before, my teaching method is derived from communicative and structurist approaches, as well as the audio-lingual method. In this section, I will first describe how I organize activities with the FAI. Second, I will explain the importance of deferred imitation to learn language. Third, I will describe the top-down procedure to assess their JPN oral proficiency without the FAI. Finally, I will propose that necessary investigation should be conducted to explore the role of FAI.
II-6-1. Stimulation and Pleasure to Learn the
JPN language with FAI
I-6-1-2. Bottom-up with FAI
Assigned homework for the students was repeating sentences after an audiotape and copying each sentence from a textbook on their notebook in JPN and English. Since I had provided them with the textbook of English translation, they did not have any problems understanding JPN sentences in the textbook. Another homework assignment was practicing the sentences with the FA and cartoons. I requested them to do homework everyday at least thirty minutes because Cooper (1998) says that the more homework students completed, the higher their achievement (p. 51.) In addition, many teachers follow these homework guidelines:
Grades 1-3: 20 minutes of homework per day
Grades 4-6: 20 to 40 minutes per day
Grades 7-9: 2 hours per day
In addition, I requested them to give me their parents’ note, which described the reasons that they could not have done homework, if they did not submit their homework. I also requested them to study two hours at home for each conversation test.
(2) Emphasis of Listening Practice
I strongly encouraged them to focus on listening practice at home because undoubtedly students, who had problems with repetition practice in my class, had constrained abilities to repeat after me. Thus, they could not acquire Japanese conversation skills. It was apparent that a fair amount listening practice was necessary due to phonological dissimilarity to English. In order to convince them to the importance of listening to the tape, I explained my experiences during my school days. The grammar-translation method of foreign language teaching, which was one of the most traditional methods, dating back to the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Japan, affected learning English. This method, originally used to teach Latin and Greek, reflected "the view of faculty psychologists that mental discipline was essential for strengthening the powers of the mind." (Omaggio 1993, p. 89.) Undoubtedly, the emphasis on achieving'correct grammar with little regard for the free application and oral production is the greatest disadvantage to this method. Readings in the target language are translated directly and then discussed in the native language, often in-depth comparisons of the two languages themselves. Grammar is taught with extensive explanations in the native language, and only later applied to creation of sentences through translation from one language to the other. Testing of the students is done almost entirely through translation. Crucially, no class time is allocated to allow students to produce their own sentences, and no time is spent on oral practice, though repetition practices are provided. In addition, students lacked discernible connections to English speaking countries, to people in those countries and cultures. Seriously, inevitable result of teachers’ correction that this method requires is destructive to the students' learning processes: "students are clearly in a defensive learning environment where right answers are expected." (Omaggio 1993, p. 91.)
Despite all of these disadvantages, certain positive traits are found in such a constraint environment. My middle and high school English classes in the 1960s was entirely grammar-translation based. After studying English for six years with grammar and translation method at middle school and high school in Japan, I realized lack of my listening comprehension ability in English at the time of listening to the tape, though I was able to comprehend the same sentences as those in a written form. I was quite shocked because of my inability to comprehend English sentences through my ears. I considered that my insufficient exposure to listening to English sentences impaired my comprehension ability. At that time, English textbooks did not accompany audiotapes, thus teachers and students did not have a chance to get the tapes for the textbooks in Japan. Needless to say, I foresaw possible problems to improve my English skills, if I do not rectify the situation. My inability of listening comprehension initiated me pervasive and intensive ear training with the audiotapes. Thus I primed to experience as much of listening to the tapes in English as possible and I therefore forced myself to listen to English with a tape recorder from early in the morning till midnight almost everyday to train my ears, immersing myself completely in listening to English, even while I cleaned my room and took a bath. I explored the extent of my interest in the enterprise, intending to fill the missing link between listening comprehension and written words until I made myself intelligible to the audiotape. I do not remember how long it took for me to acquire listening comprehension ability in English. One day I suddenly realized that I understood what the audiotape said to me. This experience pleased me enormously. My listening comprehension ability, remained dormant for many years, was abruptly activated. Consequently, I began to seek conversation partners to speak in English. This is a starting point for me to progress oral production in English, which is second language. Fabrro (2001) states that: Further, bilinguals seem to have specific and independent channels according to the direction of translation (p. 219.)
Thus, after explanation of the reasons that they should listen to the
tape, almost all of them listened to the tape diligently. If they
did not have time to listen to the tape at home, they did it in their car
or on their school bus on the way to school. As in my earlier discussion
about learning a foreign language, they found that listening to the tape
was very crucial for oral development of Japanese students as well.
(3) Classroom activities
In my class, I used the FAI, which is a part of gesture. First, I explained grammar and necessary vocabulary for sentences to my students. It seemed that understanding the grammar concept was not difficult for my students; however they were unable to synchronize their understanding of grammar and vocabularies for oral production. Thus, I provided them with the FA as well as the cartoons for vocabulary and grammar to help them internalize vocabularies and grammar. In contrast to the text only handouts, handouts of cartoon character drawings for the FA were evocative for them. These pictographic cartoons demonstrated happy face representations of actions and emotional states for syntax. Secondly, I performed the FA to explain the actions for the cartoons, accompanying speech and the facial expressions. They observed my FA and facial expressions with full attention. My actions and speech seemed to get into the two modalities of their brain, which were nonverbal and verbal, while they were observing my FA. This enabled them to synchronize certain information. My FA seemingly generated some crucial areas in their brain using face-to-face communication. Thirdly, I had them imitate the FA with speech. It seems plausible that visualization by the actions as well as cartoons and speech provided them with the creation of the internal motor programs for the action in their brain. I utilized the audio-lingual method so that they could pronounce JPN words and sentences appropriately. Then, I assigned them exercises with the FA, cartoons, and speech in a small group and had them play with the FAI games, including repetitious practices with imitated actions and speech. The aim was to fasten their memory in their brain. It seemed that repetition of the observation and imitation with the game accelerated the embodiment of JPN words and syntax. Fourthly, the next challenge was having the students have a conversation in JPN, which required the students to integrate their phonological, semantic and syntactical skills.
II-6-1-3. Deferred imitation with FAI to describe student everyday life
Learners’ vocabulary and syntactical acquisition can be enhanced with the embodiment in real-world complicated contexts, which are familiar for them. Thus, I had them have conversations in JPN about their everyday life with their classmates and me, using picture cards. I also had them use the FA to describe their everyday lives. What astounded me was how comfortably they had conversations with their classmates and me in JPN to describe their everyday lives. This is deferred imitation. Merleau-Ponty (1964) states that:
One must distinguish between immediate imitation and deferred imitation (where the model is incorporate into the child’s latent knowledge and is not used until later (p. 19.)
It was easy for them to express their experiences with the FA because they had already developed an academic grasp of grammar and vocabulary in JPN. Finally, they were motivated and challenged by the increased complexity of the learning tasks. It seems that the representation of the visually perceived the FAI generated synchronization of meanings and structure of sentences to speak in JPN by observing and imitating the FAI. Merleau-Ponty (1964) claims that, “the true imitation penetrate beyond conscious limits and becomes global, that is, the acquisition of language.” Ferraris (1996) states:
…in the Essay on the Origin of Language, Rousseau recognizes, in Baconian fashion, the natural priority of gesture as the first form of communication-only to subordinate it in short order to the axiological (which becomes chronological) primacy of speech as the vehicle of feelings (p. 133-134).
The FAI apparently created some vital links in their brain using interactive communication. This might have contributed to the formation of the inner motor programs for the action in their mind, synchronizing auditory information. It seems that the depiction of the visually perceived the FAI created harmonization of meanings and structure of sentences to speak in JPN to describe their everyday life, applying their knowledge of JPN language to their conversations. This activity was certainly light-hearted and enjoyable rather than threatening. They were fairly excited about the game with the activities and JPN conversation to explain their everyday life. Their phonological, semantic and syntactic knowledge orchestrated to speak in JPN. I confirmed that it motivated and challenged them, even though the learning tasks increased the complexity because the FAI, cartoons, and playing games created their intention to speak in JPN. The foundation of the novel method pleased the students enormously. This activity dispelled any enduring feeling of reticence or embarrassment during their attempts to speak in JPN. At this point, they acquired a certain extent of satisfaction in the fact that they were able to show off their abilities to their classmates and family members.
II-6-1-4. Top-down with FAI
After struggling with teaching them for several months, we finally figured out how to converse with each other in JPN. Crucially, at the time of an oral test, they conversed with me in JPN without FA. As they became proficient to speak in JPN, they gradually decreased the use of FA. They had JPN conversations with me in a natural and simple way after instruction with the FAI. It seems plausible that the FAI assisted with holding body memory. By the end of school year, their JPN oral proficiency had improved drastically with the utilization of non-verbal instruction accompanying speech.
II-6-1-5. Weak language background students’
oral proficiency skyrocketed
Their JPN oral proficiency was almost equivalent to that of the previous year’s students when I assessed their JPN conversation ability at the end of the school year. In addition, they were full of enthusiasm to learn this difficult language for English speakers.
What served to breaking the ice, dispel the students’ persistent feeling of inhibition, and enriched their learning experiences? What were the differences between communication without observation, and the FAI? It seemed to me that the FAI played a crucial role to create the embodiment of JPN semantic, syntactical, and phonological internalization. Consequently, their proficiency skyrocketed significantly. Many of the elements supporting their FL learning were in harmony. They realized that learning the new and complicated language was a pleasurable challenge and inspired them to improve their JPN language proficiency. I believe that learning JPN with the FAI and cartoons was the powerful motivation. It had facilitated with the personification, which allowed the students to improve their conversation skills. Interestingly, the FAI with cartoons supported the strong language background students’ writing abilities, as well as those of telling stories in JPN, which is not an easy task for high school students. The discipline problems totally vanished in my class; rather their motivation toward the JPN language and culture initiated further desire to learn the language. Internalizing the various complicated rules to learn the JPN language was challenging for the weak-language-back ground students. It is plausible that the observation, and the FAI and cartoons as well as speech assisted their competency on syntactical ability and semantics a great deal.
II-7. Passion to Learn the New language
Gaining JPN conversational ability accelerated the cooperation among first year JPN students. They were willing to help each other and studied together at the library or in classrooms after school. Others visited their classmates’ home to help with their homework. There were school regulations such as, students who helped teachers and organizations in the school district earned credits for their volunteer work, and this was a requirement to be promoted to the next grade. Motivated JPN students, who had already qualified for promotion, were still eager to help the other JPN students. These JPN students believed that helping the other students also advanced their JPN language proficiency. Another distinct improvement was that a student, who had been notorious for incomplete homework and other assignments, was ranked on the top in my class, since he was motivated to improve his proficiency significantly. He completed his homework in a timely manner without exception and he assisted other students as well as the production a great deal. Finally, all JPN first year students decided to participate in our puppet shadow show production. The freshness of learning the new language with the new method, the pleasure of participating in the big production, as well as the perceived relevance of learning JPN evoked their passion to learn the new language.
They had already acquired connections between syntactic, semantic and
phonological abilities in English; however the dissimilarity of the JPN
language had hindered their capability to harmonize the three elements
to acquire it. There had been lack of abilities to organizing them.
Learning the JPN with the FAI and cartoons was reminiscent for the students
and further motivated the students to study the JPN language.
Another aspect of their motivation was that gaining recognition from their friends, teachers, administrators, and their parents was important to them. Since one third of the school population observed the show, many of people in the community recognized the students who accomplished the big success. TV crews and newspaper reporters came to our show. We were on local TV stations and appeared in the local newspaper. Because of the recognition from school communities and the mass media, they acquired pride, which helped with their continuing study of the JPN language and culture the following school year. The recognition is their external indicator for the motivation. The pleasure of the accomplishment, including improvement in their language proficiency and the success of the show, was their internal motivation. The motivation contributed to their improvement; however the instruction with the FAI, speech and cartoons had a significant impact on the improvement. Edward Casey asserts (2000) that:
Merleau-Ponty…speaks of the body as “habitual” in the Phenomenology of Perception; which succeeds in according to the body a prominence that it has never before received in philosophical treatments in the West…I am proposing that the body is of central most concern in any adequate assessment of the range of remembering powers (p.147.)
I will focus on exploring the mechanism of the FAI in language training, indicating the contribution of the FAI to the enhancement of a learner’s syntactic capacity, through my twenty-five years of teaching experience.
II-8. What is the heart of FAI?
What created the important difference between the instruction with the FAI and the absence of the FAI? What pleased the students enormously? What initiated the students’ enthusiasm to learn the language? What had the impact on JPN students’ conversation abilities? It is clear that extensive use of the FAI has created the students’ JPN conversation ability. It is my wish to reveal the role of the FAI and discover the heart of the FAI.
It is assumed that humans had used and developed gesture to communicate as they gained languages; however, the process of the transformation from gesture to language has not been verified to date. In zaddition, the relationship between the FAI and language development has not yet been established. Thus, it is my wish to uncover connections among them, describing my experience with the FAI and my former students and existing research on developmental psychologists, and studies on neuroimaging and aphasiology.
their workload when they needed to produce multiple words. Neuroimaging studies show that Broca’s area activates with imitated finger action (Iacoboni, Koski et al. 2001). Interestingly, Broca’s area process auditory syntactical information (Friederici 2002). Second, why did the researchers not research deferred imitation of the children.
Merleau-Ponty as well as Piaget suggests two different imitations such initial and deferred imitation. Deferred imitation was identified by Decety and his colleagues (1998). They assert that:
Also compatible with this idea are the findings that bilateral increases in the posterior STG region have been detected when subjects observe actions for deferred imitation (Gre`zes et al., 1998). Of course, further research is needed to assess this hypothesis (Decety, 2002. p270.)
Deferred imitation is important for children’s language development
as well as initial one. Beside syntactical processing and language
development, gesture might contribute to memory and decrease cognitive
load. Developmental psychologists at the University of Chicago reported
their study in 2001.
This story will continue.