Friday, February 5, 2016

Responses to Comment - Complexity #2

I already posted a response to a question earlier here about complexity.

But in light of a conversation I have had with a few students I think this illustrates my point in questioning our understanding of complexity by traditional terms.

Example 1:
In my Spanish 1 classes, as recommended by Blaine Ray in his Look I can Talk books, we can teach the kids past and present in Spanish 1.  The more we expose them to both, the less they will rely on just the present tense.  So that's what I do. I tell oral stories in the past tense and do readings/movietalks/etc in the present tense.  When we talk about their lives, we might switch between tenses and I'll occasionally do a pop-up point about "Why did I say: querías (you wanted) instead of quieres (you want)?"

So some of my former students have come back to visit and I've asked them if they feel as though I prepared them for their Spanish 2 classes.  They tell me that it's different, but they are doing fine because if they can say things in the past tense, they automatically get a much higher grade.

Interesting! Right?  Since the teachers are assuming my kids don't already have some exposure to the past tense, they are giving them a higher score simply because "past tense" is a Spanish 2 thing.

But is the past really anymore complex than the present? From a grammatical perspective, yes. It's a mess with irregular verbs, etc.  But if kids hear the forms enough, they can use them without any problem whatsoever.

I've noticed that in storytelling, "fue a" (s/he went to... which is irregular) is one of the first thing many students pick up!

But that's irregular and confusing, right?!

Example 2:
This also reminds me of when a Spanish 1 student last year used the phrase, "Javier quiere que Mario tome fotos de Paula" on a quiz/test from the book Agentes Secretos y el mural de Picasso.  This was impressive to me because I didn't repeat that a whole lot and yet the student remembered it really well.

But just because the student remembered a subjunctive phrase, does that really show me that they are a top student? Ironically this student was one of my middle-range students who didn't absorb as fast as the rest normally (due to thinking about other things in class).

Yet they used the present subjunctive!  Is the present subjunctive really something kids have to learn after going through Spanish for 3 or so years? Or is it just a part of the language that kids can be exposed to even in Spanish 1 because it's not a big deal when meaning is the purpose.

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