Modeling in ESL
Jun 8, 2014 English as a Second Language (ESL) 6928 Views
What is modeling? Although some of you may be thinking that it is the act of walking down a runway in New York City, London, or Rome in order to show new clothing designs, the type of modeling that will be discussed here is quite different.
Modeling is a term used in psychology that means to demonstrate or show a correct behavior so that another person can imitate or reproduce the behavior. In ESL, conversation teachers strive to induce students to follow their verbal cues to the letter when teaching new words or sentences.
Everyone is a Parrot
Some years ago, when I was learning to speak Portuguese during those first days, weeks, and months, I used to hear the word "papagaio" and then laughter directed toward me. Well, because I couldn´t understand what was being said, I asked my wife the meaning of "papagaio". She said that it meant parrot, because I only repeated what I heard others say.
Of course, my first reaction was to be offended, but then after thinking about this idea of being a parrot, I realized that we all are parrots. How can this be the case? Frankly, it is quite easy to know and show how we are all parrots. For example, when your mother gave you your first baby bottle, she repeated baby bottle to you while showing the baby bottle and then placed it in your mouth. After many repetitions of baby bottle, you began to model your mother´s words asking for a "babry brottle" or something close to this effort in order to be understood and get another baby bottle.
You soon learned that the better your efforts in pronouncing baby bottle correctly, the more milk, juice, or other delicious drinks would be forthcoming. Repetitive training drills in ESL are essentially teaching people like you would teach a parrot. Everyone grows up learning this way. Teachers teach, for example, colors by repeating nearly identical sentences such as the following:
Tom likes blue cars.
Tom likes red cars.
Tom likes orange cars.
Tom likes brown cars.
Tom likes black cars.
Tom likes green cars.
This repetitive training is utilized by teachers to guarantee that students "over learn" the language. In this way, these new words enter into students' long-term memories and remain available for later use.
There is not a baby on the planet that read a book to learn how to ask for a baby bottle, rattle, pacifier, diaper, powder, or other comfort item. Learning a new language comes from modeling the language.
So the next time you are going to or leaving your English class and someone calls you a "parrot", accept it as a compliment, because every person on the planet has been a parrot at some time. The good thing in your case is that you are a parrot learning another language by modeling the word pronunciations in the correct manner.