Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Second Language Acquisition Training (aka SLA)

Jim and I are in our last week of training here at the IT(USA) office. I've been home with Kaia and he's diligently been taking notes and briefing me on the sessions when he arrives home.

A big part of what he's been learning is that as English speakers we have a specific set of sounds that we are used to making. At a very young age we learned how to make these sounds, but the cool thing is that different languages have different sets of sounds. So, as native English speakers there are whole groups of sounds that we never even learned or were exposed to...all native speakers go through this process naturally...only learning the sounds that are relevant to their native language. So, when learning a new language we try to fit the sounds of that new language into the vocabulary of sounds with which we are already familiar.

In this course, Jim is learning how to expand his vocabulary of sounds. In addition, he has learned the phonetic alphabet (which is like learning a whole new language in and of itself) as well as received several tools to better understand his learning style and how to get the most out of studying a new language. For us, that will be Spanish.

So really, the end result from this two week course is that he will walk away with a much keener ear; he is now able to decipher how a sound is produced (i.e. what part of the mouth and throat the sound is made in, where the tongue hits, etc...) by a native speaker in order to better mimic the accent and sound being made.

The instructor who teaches the course shared two short videos with the class yesterday that I thought illustrated very well the concept that is being taught through this module of training and also highlights some of the pitfalls and struggles of trying to communicate in a new language.

German Coast Guard Trainee

Practicing English Pronunciation

Our goal is to be true students of Spanish...that we would be able to pick up on the nuances of the language and really be able to speak it well in order to have more credibility and to be able to speak to the hearts of our Ecuadorian friends. The skills we've been learning really will be invaluable as we step into language school and eventually begin serving in Ecuador...

...because you know we don't want to be like the guys in these videos...even if they do make me laugh every time I see them!!

- Suzy<><


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