Studying a foreign language
May 26, 2009 English as a Foreign Language (EFL) 5784 Views
We have lost the gift for being curious. And inventing our ad hoc curiosities while studying a foreign language is a rewarding but exacting task. Learning a foreign language, as I gather after investigating a new clutch of publications recently placed on our bookshelves, is a simple invitation to "eat and repeat". To acquire the knack for formulating self-imposed queries during study would give us a healthy opportunity to widen our language awareness. But we would have to accept that many of our queries might be questionable or ambiguous in themselves, indeed they would allow of more than one galling answer. Better by far, it would seem today, is the easier task of injecting into ourselves ready-made questions from those ghastly glossy grammar books with their ready-made conventional answers. This is most evident when pupils answer a question with a ready-made conditioned answer that he or she learned in a textbook because that is the only answer immediately available off the cuff and does not always correspond to the truth - but at least it shields embarrassment. With or without a mentor, we are compelled to tackle, parrot-fashion, orphaned or isolated situations, may of which irrelevant to the hefty needs of our daily lives. The deplorable quality of modern escape-grammar publications with three or four words on each glossy page "Gee - Hi - Yeah - O really?" invite us to accept their "I'll ask you the question and then give you the answer" stance which in no way goads us to creative study and creative thinking. "If you make people think they are thinking, they will love you. If you really make them think they will hate you" was the old saying. This perpetual lack of creative thinking and giving yourself a contemplated answer in these language-learning publications would seem to convince us that the conventional cobwebs of treadmill learning in schools would be hard to blow away. Not to be occupied with things secular or temporal, these publications take us for astral school trips to Buckingham Palace and the likes, or to some far-flung haven of ephemeral pleasure. Far, indeed, from the streets and cities built by man, or the down-to-earth daily life of dirty wayside hamlets.
Can we no longer study in that worshipful company of Messrs Hunch, Knack and Gumption? Three friends looking for a friend.