Sunday, October 14, 2007

big bang

Now I've decided that 'that' is my number one important word, I need to think what other words would make up my four-word vocabulary. I've been thinking about the differences between how a baby would develop a vocabulary and an adult. A baby will certainly add words to his central 'that' based on his immediate environment, and a mind map might look like this:

baby's first words

Of course, the baby won't know the 'category' words - food, object, person, thing - just the things themselves, but a lot more essential words could be added to those two main branches and the following sub-branches. An adult, on the other hand, is perfectly capable of categorising crucial vocabulary in order to make a logical sequence of related words. The starting point of an adult's 'big bang' (I call it this because everything 'explodes' from a central point) could be simply his name.

We can keep adding to this essential vocabulary - which are key words, not grammatical ones like do you/are you/my name is/how old are you etc.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

English- your most important words part 2

Way back in May I wrote about an exercise that involved choosing your four most important words. I had some interesting feedback, especially from a fellow teacher in England who said that her students chose words like boring, Macdonalds, want amongst others.

I suggested that verbs probably wouldn't be a priority if you could only use four words. This is because verbs are action or doing words, as we are taught in primary school. So that means that you can use a gesture to indicate most of them. How many of you teachers have never done a lesson on the present progressive using miming and the question "what I am doing?". The students have to answer, "you're riding a bike", you're having a shower" etc. You get the point.

If you were travelling in Mongolia and nobody around spoke a word of English and you couldn't speak a word of Mongolian, what would be your word number one to learn? I think we can learn a valuable lesson from babies. Generally a baby's first word is mama or papa - not that useful for travelling adults!

But what comes next? Baby wants something that he can see, but doesn't have any vocabulary - so very quickly he learns an incredibly useful word that he can use in conjunction with pointing - THAT!

Now there might ten different translations for the word 'that' in Mongolian, I have no idea. Even so, if you choose one of them that relates to objects or things in general, then you can go into a shop and ask for something to eat - something essential for your survival.