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Humanising Language Teaching
Year 3; Issue 3; May 2001

Readers Letters
Inadequate Reviews

Dear Mario,

The anonymous reviewer of Poetry as a Foreign Language, the March 2001 Issue of HLT takes this volume as further evidence of the desire of some of our colleagues to professionalize UK EFL.
When will the review of this very good book appear?

Peter Grundy, University of Durham, UK.

Dear Peter,

If you would like to offer HLT readers a second review of Poetry as a Foreign Language, I'd be happy to put it up. I am delighted when I can publish stuff that is in accord with the expressed wishes of readers.

Mario, editor, HLT.

The Metaphoric Intelligence

Dear Jeannette Littlemore,

I read your article on the Metaphoric Intelligence in HLT, March 2001 with interest and appreciated the mention you gave to my book on Multiple Intelligences. However, I am afraid I have to disagree with you on a number of points.

Gardner only mentions the Naturalist Intelligence in his book Intelligence reframed, and originally there were only seven intelligences listed in Frames of Mind, 1986. You list rhythmic but surely it was visual-spatial.

The case for a Metaphoric Intelligence cannot be justified in Gardner's eyes, unless it fulfils all of the criteria he lists. There is no research evidence to indicate that it does.

Moreover the ability to make the kind of connections required for the formation of novel metaphors is much more likely to be indicative of Spiritual Intelligence. You can read about this in Diana Zohar's book Spiritual Intelligence, the ultimate Intelligence, published by Bloomsbury last year. I talked about developing the Spiritual Intelligence through ELT at my IATEFL workshop in April 2001.

Best Wishes
Michael Berman

Ps: for details of my latest book, ELT through Multiple Intelligences, contact www.netlearnpublications.com

Dear Svante,

Sorry for my late answer to your letter. Please excuse my English. French is my mother tongue. You see, my knowledge of English is mostly from secondary school which gave me a bad experience of learning the language.
I very seldom speak English , about a week or two every two or three years.
When I speak English I have a feeling of a reduction of my ability to express myself ( it could be that this makes the feeling of reduction yet stronger).
Maybe my words to you will express something in a square way though my expressive intention is round! If this happens, please forgive me.

Your letter describes your language learning experience. I will answer you with my experience in this area.
I never had the chance to hear " the rich, sweet and beautiful voice of Mrs Lundquist" who gave you a wonderful first contact with English.
My initial contact with English was "woundful" This is one of the reasons why I later chose German for the Baccalaureat, or school-leaving exam, in preference to English, which was my first foreign language.
I use the term " alienation" in the sense of " putting somebody into a state of otherness". Even though I can usually express what I want to get across, I cannot shake off the feeling of having awful pronunciation ( my strongest negative feeling about English) , bad syntax and vocabulary that does not allow me to communicate in English with the nuances and precision I would like. In writing to you I feel I am using a language which I don't master at all….I feel as being like a "reduced part" of myself. I cannot say this language is my language. It is not the language of my feelings, even if I can express feeling in this language; it is not the language of my thoughts ( those times I have some)… I feel alienated.

It could be that my experience of alienation is a fringe case, but when I see the results of people who have studied French for 7-9 years at secondary school here in Germany, where I work, and when I observe that students here drop French at school as soon as they are allowed to, I have reasons to believe that I am not alone in experiencing alienation on the context of foreign language learning. When I see the "image" of French as a difficult language for German students, an image that is mostly created by the way the language is taught, I am probably right in assuming that most of them did not have the good luck to have Mrs Lundquist as their first teacher.

I guess it is a strong experience to feel her voice and the sounds of her voice in you. Your description of the relationship you have to the foreign language is wonderful and it is an illustration of the way we try to teach in Linguistic Psychodramaturgy,(LPD) through techniques like doubling, mirroring etc…. We offer LDP to teachers and not all of them are a Mrs Lundquist.

If I understand you correctly she gave you not only a good bridge to the other shore of the foreign language, which allowed you to establish familiar contact with the language, but she helped you to rid yourself of the foreign feeling of English in you and integrate it and internalise it fully.

As I understand your letter, the state of alienation I describe did not exist for you and is not worth mentioning as something which makes foreign language learning hard.

Your text about the second alienation does not correspond to my original text in French. I don't know if it corresponds to the English translation as published in HLT.

In the article I do not speak about "traditional communicative approach teaching" ( your letter). I make a difference between "traditional" and "communicative". " Traditional communicative" sounds like a paradox to me.
What's more, I don't know in what sense you mean "communicative". There are some teaching approaches that are called communicative which are not communicative in the full sense of the word. ( The teacher asks questions to which she knows the answer: she appears to be asking but in fact she is checking, or the students are meant to use the linguistic input they have been given in the lesson in a so-called "free stage".) I would not consider this kind of teaching communicative in any real sense.

Here I am referring only to teaching with a coursebook. In using a coursebook, teachers are partly, sometimes mostly, condemned through their training to this sort of communication. For instance, when they ask questions about the content of the text, I often doubt that the contents of the texts and the answers the teacher expects, correspond to the expressive wishes of the students. It is this gap that I consider alienating. They have to say things they would not say if they did not have to respond to the expectations of the teacher and of the institution. In observing FL language lessons I notice that the students have to deal with "linguistic contents" which do not fit with their expressive desires. Some teachers hope that the students will "transfer" linguistic exponents to their own experience, but when I see these teachers at work they mostly expect to hear the exponents re-used. The coursebook usually offers "transfer" activities with these aims in view.

Don't take this as a criticism of the teachers. I criticise the system and the teacher training that has firmly placed them in this situation.

My concern is to develop "open activities" in which the teacher does not decide on the contents and does not come to class with the contents in mind. ( the only exception to this is the first day of a beginner's course where we use a form of doubling in which we try to sensitise the participants to the rhythms, the melody of the foreign language, and to help them acquire some bits of language which help them to express something on the second day.) Then, using these sorts of activities, I don't directly decide which words they have to say or which words they have to use…. I hope to reach a balance between what they manage to get out and what they want to express….

I agree with you, you don't need the factor of double alienation for your work, ( nor do I) and I don't regard the information about alienation as a justification but as a problem strongly linked to teaching with a coursebook ( the most frequent form of instruction.)

By working in certain ways, and I don't mean only LPD, the first alienation can be reduced and the second can be done away with. Working this way influences the way students enter into contact with the language, their retention of language and the way they integrate the language.

I am astonished at the tune of the last paragraph of your letter:
" Simply a straw man you set up to justify your work."
What is it that strikes you so strongly about "double alienation" that you react so strongly, so strongly that you need to sit down and write to me?
You don't need to share my point of view.
If my work helps some teachers to be more sensitised to these factors, this enough for me.

I wish each teacher the capacity of a Mrs Lundquist - ( the ways of working I am suggesting may help them to compensate for the qualities she had and they don't have. I also wish each teacher better students than me!)

Yours sincerely,

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