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24 August 2018

Agency in God's Plan

Agency is the capacity to choose; it has sometimes also been called free will. Conditions of liberty allow the greatest possible "space" in which to exercise Agency; tyranny, by definition, is the attempt to oppress or repress another person's Agency.

Next to the bestowal of life itself, the right to direct that life is God’s greatest gift to man. … Freedom of choice is more to be treasured than any possession earth can give. It is inherent in the spirit of man. It is a divine gift. … Whether born in abject poverty or shackled at birth by inherited riches, everyone has this most precious of all life’s endowments—the gift of free agency; man’s inherited and inalienable right.
-David O. McKay, Agency and Responsibility

In the Church, we tend to prefer the term Agency over free will, and I'd guess the reason for that is that modern scripture uses the term in passages like this one:

22 August 2018

Languages By Ear

This post is part of a series.
Part One: Listen, Listen, Listen
Part Two: What To Read
Part Three: A Web of Language
Part Four: {this post}

Gouin talked about the importance of making our first and primary instruction in the foreign language we have chosen aural instruction: the ear, he said, is the primary organ of language learning, not the eye; our children should hear new words before they see them. The same is true for adult students of languages: training the ear is key to success.
How is it, then, that so many people pronounce so badly the foreign languages that they have begun to learn at school? We believe we have found the true answer to the enigma. The first great cause of a bad accent is reading — reading undertaken at the wrong time, too soon. The second cause is reading degenerating into a bad habit; and the third cause still seems to us to be reading. Let us explain.
-Francois Gouin, The Art of Teaching and Studying Languages
Gouin then goes on to explore the three ways that premature and incorrect use of printed materials damage the student’s accent. First, if the student sees the word before he hears it, he will attempt to pronounce it using the phonetic rules he is already familiar with, and of course the pronunciation rules of English applied to French (or any other language) yield terrible results. If this continues uncorrected, the student runs into the second hazard: his reading builds bad habits of pronunciation that become ingrained. In addition, Gouin discusses the way that focusing on written lessons first accustoms the student to translate in his head first, and only speak afterwards, which slows both the recognition and production of sounds and greatly impedes the journey to native-like fluency. The solution he offers is to focus on aural language first: the student should learn with their ears before anything else.

Read more at By Study and Faith.

21 August 2018

Expanding our Linguistic Web

Last spring, I started reading Gouin's Art of Teaching and Studying Languages, I wrote a series of posts about it for By Study and Faith, and we started using our own madeup series of phrases we've been learning in the kitchen. I didn't finish the book at that time because the ereaders I was using couldn't keep my place, and I eventually got frustrated with trying to find where I'd left off, but I slipped it into our most recent book box, and it came the other day, so I've started reading and I'm thinking about foreign language instruction again.

The book is a reprint, and it has a number of typos where the scanning process was imperfect, but even with that, I'm enjoying having a real paper copy to hold in my hands; I like those so much better.

So I found my spot again, and started reading.

In order not to load our text with too many examples, we leave on one side all such exercises as would arise from the possible and ordinary  accidents which are connected with this series and complete it. We will simply point out that, as an aim can be attained, it can also be missed. ... The maid who upsets the water in carrying it to the kitchen would miss her aim. ... The development of the indirect and complementary series of accidents  is hardly less rich in terms and sentences than the development of the direct series itself.
-The Art of Teaching and Studying Languages, (reprinted) p 43

This is an interesting prospect. We've been working on an "Applesauce Series" and it's gradually generalized into whatever fruit (real or pretend) is handy when we're doing it. And we've "cooked" some crazy things, though I think that the real food we've cut up has had more impact on their skills: it seems that real activity is considerably more effective than pretending for this activity. The kids are doing quite well with this in terms of receptive language: I can tell them to do a number of variants on our Series that we've been working with. Productive language is more unsteady, but that is to be expected, and is exaggerated by the fact that I have not been doing well with integrating this into our regular kitchen talk.

But this idea of adding in accidents is interesting. I think that may be just what we need. Maybe a variant Series would go like this:

Pick up the apple.
Place the apple on the cutting board.
Pick up the knife.
Cut the apple in half.
Be careful not to cut your finger.
Move your finger away from the knife.
You have cut your finger.
Your finger is bleeding.
Don't get blood on the apple slices.
Go to the sink.
Wash the cut.
Put a bandaid on the cut.

It is, perhaps, slightly gruesome to just write them out, but this adds several new sentence options to our conversations, and I'm pretty sure that my kids would have a blast hamming it up, acting this one out, and fun is an important element in these activities!

I think that this will be a good way of keeping our exercises fresh. We're also experimenting with how to deal with different conjugations, though I'm finding that aspect tricky: I have to work really hard to stay in the tense that I select through the whole exercise, and while the kids are recognizing the similar stem and fundamental meaning, they're not really getting the finer details that the conjugations give. That's one area where having someone that's genuinely fluent would be really, really useful. But we're making progress, and it's steady, which is the goal.


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