This Week In Language Education (June 23, 2017)

It’s been a slow week, so just a few links:

  • Why You Should Sit Next to a Crazy Person at Starbucks – Researchers found that hearing “meaningful irrelevant speech” in the background caused Chinese readers to re-read words more often than when hearing  “meaningless irrelevant speech.” Who knew there were classifications for “irrelevant speech”?
  • New Journal Proposal: Canine Literacy Studies – I previously reported on a study about kids reading to dogs, but this one just had the dog in the room when kids were reading. Researchers concluded that “the presence of a dog had a minor short-term positive effect on the children’s motivation and reading performance.” There should really be a journal just for this whole dogs & reading thing. It’s certainly as important a topic as the biology and management of arctic and northern ungulates.
  • Affective Filter Setting: High – Researchers looked at when colleges students reported paying attention in foreign language classes and when they were dreaming about this Friday’s kegger. The abstract says that “more active learning moments, for example, calling on students randomly, increased the attentional system, and more passive moments, such as listening to peers speak, decreased this system.”
  • Which Languages Should Your Child Study? – The famed business and applied linguistics analysts at London’s Heathrow Airport think they have the answer. According to their press release (covered by Reader’s Digest), you can maximize your child’s success economically by picking up German, French, and Chinese (the Digest headline says you will be raising a “future CEO”). The release doesn’t say how they arrived at these three languages, but Heathrow has started a “Little Linguists” initiative to give kids “Mr Adventure themed flashcards” to help them study.
  • Perhaps There’s Hope? From the founder of an EFL school in India comes these crazy ideas:
    -“We learn a language primarily through listening, and by interpreting non-verbal cues and the context. When a child learns language in such an environment, the process is quick, effortless, and joyful.”
    -“Of the 10,000–12,000 words you know to be able to speak English fluently, how many of these do you think you learnt from the dictionary and how many did you discover through context?”
    -“[O]ur minds learn syntax intuitively. One simply has to be in this ‘environment’ where the language is spoken, so that its meaning can be derived through context and non-verbal cues.”
    There’s no mention in the article about whether he might have picked up some of these ideas from elsewhere, but his website shows he’s successful. A good sign.
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