Photo: Kobe, Japan
We are a group of researchers gathered around the Department of Spanish at Kobe City University of Foreign Studies. Our coordinator is Prof. Montserrat Sanz and the team consists of her graduate students, her undergraduate seminar pupils and some colleagues at other Universities (see Members). Our common research theme is L2 acquisition informed by rigorous linguistic and psycholinguistic analyses. We analyze Spanish and Japanese from a theoretical point of view and we take the discoveries of psycholinguistics seriously in search for better methods for language teaching and learning. We constantly examine data of the process of acquisition of Spanish by native speakers of Japanese and viceversa (Spanish native speakers learning Japanese).
Our point of departure is the belief that the premises that commonly guide L2 teaching are based mainly on intuitions and are improvable through insights from the language sciences. Currently, there is a high rate of academic failure regarding L2 learning: millions of people undertake the task of learning a foreign language but, with the exception of citizens of certain societies, most of them do not achieve an advanced level. Instead, they get swallowed in an eternal need for restarting the process when they reach the intermediate level. Furthermore, there is a high incidence of fossilization in the language used by the learners who do get over the intermediate level. Above all, there is a high degree of frustration, suffering and insatisfaction among L2 students. Our motto is that we can learn languages more efficiently.
The following premises are at the origin of the current failures.
IT IS NOT TRUE THAT:
- Using language is the same as learning language
- Thus, language is learned best by practicing it from the beginning stages in meaningful contexts about oneself
- Learning the L2 means being able to communicate in the L2
- There are such things as "simple" structures to be learned earlier than more "complex" ones (i.e., talking about the present is easier than talking about the past, talking about concrete issues is easier than talking about abstract ones).
- Structures are learned separately from one another
- Grammar is what we see. Thus, teaching grammar means describing the final result of utterances, their meaning and form, as if the final form were the cause of the meaning and not the consequence of the interaction of many abstract features
- Vocabulary is a simple storage of idiosyncratic information
- Learning language is like learning how to drive: it is automatized by sheer practice
The above beliefs are fallacious or half-truths. We are on a quest for ways to improve efficiency in language teaching by refining the underlying philosophy and taking science as our basis. Our studies can be called Applied Biolinguistics. We welcome academic and scientific feedback from professionals in the field.