Methodology and Psychology

Вересень 7th, 20115:52 am

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Methodology and Psychology

Methodology and Psychology

 

Teaching a FL means forming new and appropriate habits and skills and the utilizing previously acquired ones in four main types of activity: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Language study is essentially a habit-forming process, so we must learn to form habits. At present we have much material in the field of psychology which can be applied to TEFL. N. Zhinkin, investigating the mechanism of speech, came to the conclusion that words and rules of combining them are most probably dormant in the kinetic centre of the brain.

When the ear receives a signal it reaches the hearing centre in the brain and then passes to the kinetic centre. In learning a foreign language an essentially new code, another way of receiving and transmitting information is acquired. To understand this new code certain psychological factors, mental factors governing a situation or activity of teaching/learning process must be taken into consideration.

Effective learning of a foreign language largely depends on pupils’ memory. So the teacher must know how he can help his students memorize and retain the language material they learn. P. Zinchenko, a prominent psychologist has proved that in learning a subject both voluntary and involuntary memory is of great importance. In his investigation of involuntary memory P. Zinchenko came to the conclusion that this memory is retentive.

Consequently, in TEFL we should create favourable conditions for involuntary memorizing. Experiments showed that involuntary memorizing is possible only when the learner’s attention is concentrated not on fixing the material in their memory through numerous repetitions, but on solving some mental problems (heuristics) which deal with this material.

Psychology also helps methodology to determine the amount of material for the learners to assimilate at every stage of instruction: the role of the mother tongue; the sequence and ways in which various habits and skills should be developed; the methods and techniques most suitable for presentation, consolidation of the material and for ensuring its retention by the learners.

By natural or spontaneous method the pupils learn unconsciously, therefore they form habits unconsciously.

However great the differences may be between individuals as regards ease of learning foreign languages, they amount to degree only. Though all minds work by the same fundamental psychological laws, the students learn a foreign language with a different degree of facility, depending on the degree of exerting the faculties of association and memory. If in learning languages all learners must make use of the same fundamental psychological processes, and if these faculties are present in all minds, differing only in degree, it can be assumed that all learners will have to travel by the same road, although some will take a longer time for the journey. These considerations will help us to settle for important question – how far the methods of learning languages ought to be the same for all normally and fully developed minds.

The appropriate methods, techniques and approaches will reduce the inequalities between slow and quick mind, good and poor memory to a minimum. However bad the learners’ linguistic memory, however weak their linguistic association may be, they must have some linguistic memory and be capable of forming some linguistic associations, otherwise they won’t be able to learn their native language.

The mere fact of their having learnt their own language shows that they are capable of learning other languages as well. So the difference between the poor learner of language and the born linguist is of degree only. The adult whose natural capacities for unconscious habit-forming have been dormant may reawaken them by means of appropriate exercises. The exercises need not be of a monotonous, parrot-like type, for there exist many psychologically sound repetitive devices and varied drills intended to ensure automatism and interest.

No training will ever make a slow mind or a bad memory equal to those of a great linguist. All pupils can never be expected to reach the ultimate goal with the same ease and quickness. Perfected methods will reduce these inequalities to minimum: we may reasonably hope that those willing to master a foreign language will bring the goal within their reach if they are ready to make the necessary sacrifices of time and effort.

And finally, humanistic theory in psychology has placed great importance on emotions and feelings in recent years. In language learning, two factors that have been found to affect learning are attitudes and self-esteem. The language teacher should be aware of these and other feelings his students may have, since in some cases the change in attitude may lead to much more learning than hours of exercises.

Thus a thorough knowledge of the science of language must be constantly guided by the psychological laws on which memory and the association of ideas depend.

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