Publisher: Univ of Chicago Pr (Tx); 1St Edition edition (June 1964)
Review by S. M. Page
Halfway through the second chapter of The Psychologist and the Foreign Language Teacher, I began having flashbacks. Putting on a coat and tie. Walking to class on a clear bright day, carrying a briefcase. Walking to class on a rainy day, whistling, holding an umbrella. Entering the classroom and being called “Prof” and “Teach.” The scent of chalk-dust, the sound of books opening and pens scribbling. The satisfaction I feel when I am helping somebody learn something and I see the look on their face when they realize they have learned something. The cortical sensation I get from stimulating conversation with my advanced students. Having students come up to me after a class and saying, “thanks.” I haven’t taught in two-and-a-half years, but I realize how much I miss it. The book is intelligently written and the “audio-lingual” method is clearly outlined and explained. She is correct in believing that the translation method does not work well. It makes the student lazy and creates too many steps in the neural pathways. The only comment I would make to the author is that the drilling method is only appropriate for the beginner student. I taught many methods, Berlitz style drilling, grammar methods, and natural-speaking methods. The latter seems to work the best, but only on the post-beginner levels. After the first few months the drilling becomes unnatural and a bore. She does bring up a lot of clever points, most notably:
Language is speech . . .Language is a set of habits . . . Teach the language, not about the language . . . listening, speaking, reading, and writing. These four skills must be learned “in that order” (that is the way children learn). . . mastery of the skills must be accompanied by familiarity with the culture the language represents, as well as a larger view of life resulting from the realization that there are many cultures and value systems, some far different from our own . . . Learning to make responses in situations which simulate “real-life” communication situations . . . When language is in action, there is always a speaker. He is always somewhere, speaking to someone, about something . . . and word-lists pairing foreign-language words with “equivalents” in the native language should not be used for teaching purposes.
The book is a technical but good read, and I would recommend it to anyone teaching a foreign language.
You can find the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Psychologist-Foreign-Language-Teacher-Wilga-Rivers/dp/0226720950
No one knows where S. M. Page came from or where he is going, but it rumored he likes Motown music, and that he is part Shawnee and part Apache. It is also reported that he was recently been seen riding his Harley through a mountain pass, wandering a patch of woods with a notebook in his hand, sitting on a beach watching a sunrise, entering a movie theater with his wife, walking his son to school, cheering in the stands of a football match, teaching English to employees in a South American corporate bank, and standing on a stage playing bass in a rock-n-roll band.