Question Words

I don’t use the L2 left side translations of the question words any more. I only put up the English. I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner.

The reason is glaring. When we do that, when we walk over and put our hand on the question word chart, they have to process the sound that they are hearing but also as well the word that they are seeing in the target language.

Vision dominates heavily over hearing in humans, by a very large margin. Most research indicates that the human experience is over 90% visual. Then what happens in the child’s mind each time we put our hand on the question chart? They look at the word in the TL, right? And they then think about what they are seeing.

But wouldn’t they hear it a lot better if the L2 translation wasn’t there? There would be a more fleeting registering of what the word means, without interruption, and they could focus on the meaning more, and the process of listening to the story would involve less of the conscious mind and therefore less effort, which is the point of the research.

I’m going to try it in Georgia this weekend. I know that Tina is moving in this direction too, with different aspects of one word images. She is stronger than I am on this particular topic. I’ll report back.



12 thoughts on “Question Words”

  1. I think that there is something powerful to this. It is amazing the number of times that we need to hear the sound to 1st) recognize it as a sound and 2nd) to retain it in our short term memory and 3rd) to retain it in our long term memories. I agree that our English decoding system tries to sneak in to recover the now forgotten sound. It helps in an unhelpful waiting by creating a sound based on the English decoding system. By depriving the eyes of the French word students will have to resort to listening.

    I believe this will help to level the playing field. Now all students will have to listen. The “smart” students will have to focus on sound like everybody else. They cannot just invent a sound for a word. And as Ruth said, This may just be the end of “kwand!”

  2. I did a brief stint of teaching beginner Greek after school once. I did not write the words for the students. Being highly motivated science/math kids they had already learned a number of the letters of the Greek alphabet (alpha beta, gamma delta pi omega etc), albeit with English pronunciations for the letters.

    So when I spoke and made the sound comprehensible (pointing/gestures/English), they being the type of students they were, started writing the sounds using the English alphabet, each coming up with their own spellings. But the spellings were the ones they created that would help them to review the words with authentic pronunciation.

    After they were at the point of outputting the words (they had spoken them as one/two-word answers quite a bit), I started to gradually write them on the board. Their responses were along the line of, “Oh, that’s how they spell it.” It was a joyful discovery. They began predicting spelling patterns and accents marks.

    Note: We were on the school trip to Greece together. They were able to read signs and understand them to the amazement of their friends, with one exception. We had focused on lower-case letters and most of the signage was in upper-case. But we all improved as the week progressed.

  3. The issue raised is based on characteristics of sound and light.
    Sound is more powerful. It is palpable. It is based on a force creating a sound wave which reaches our ear and vibrates. But it is more transient and more easily lost.

    Light is more subtle. We can close our eyes. Our pupils adjust.
    We cannot close our ears (we have to manually cover them). Our ear canals do not dilate and contract.

    But when we look away or close/reopen our eyes the written word is still there. We can get continuous and repeated exposures to the written word.

    For the spoken word we must wait, be vigilant and expectant as to its next utterance. We easily miss it and quickly forget it.

    On the other hand, because of its physical impact and our inability to in-obtrusively shut our ears, poor readers who look like they are not paying attention can pick up the sound system effortlessly, while those who default to the written may struggle with the sound system. In Berty Segal’s words, “Language is acoustical, not intellectual.”

    The eyes and ears were wonderfully designed to capture and embrace sound and light. It does us well to reflect on how and when to leverage each of them for the benefit of student language acquisition.

  4. I want to experiment with this Tuesday. (I do need to make sure I have students prepared for independent work on Thursday/Friday, as a number of us in the NEast will be getting together in Lewiston ME for Skip/Beth’s TCI ME NE & B).

    So let us know how this goes in your old stompin’ grounds.

  5. I have actually stopped having any question words up at all. I have found that the context generally provides the meaning. The less I have to point to the more my speech is able to flow. I generally ask the question then if needed I offer a few ideas that demonstrate the answer. For instance:
    Clase, ¿a quién le gusta la patineta? Levanta la mano si tw gusta la patineta.


    ¿Cuál sera la fecha de mañana? ¿El 5 de octubre o el 6?

    1. I had no question words for a while, too, but I didn’t give it enough of a chance. I don’t remember what made me put them back up. They’ll be coming down again right away. I want to try again. Tina, I like what you said. Having to provide more context to assure the kids understand will slow things (me) down, too, in a good way. I always need to remind myself to slow down and to remember how much they can miss without letting me know.
      I like the idea of them listening to me and looking at me speaking rather than looking up at the wall. Many come to rely on the wall and their English ruled decoding.
      Then when we read aloud in French together, they can see the words written.

    2. I haven’t thought about this much before, but you are right, Tina. Sometimes I don’t feel any need to point to the question word because the context provides enough support. Other times, I do feel the need to point to the question word.

      Being aware of this so that I may improve on how to build context so I don’t have to point as much is valuable, as you say, to let the mojo flow along.

      1. …so that I may improve on how to build context….

        Bam! There are no rules in this work. Build context. Build interest. And watch the minutes roll by as great gains are happening in an atmosphere of fun and laughter. Because you built the context necessary to make that happen.

        We build CI. We don’t need to worry about the how as much as just doing it. Each teacher will do it differently Some will do Movietalk, others the Invisibles, whatever. No rules. Just build interesting context in the TL. C’est si bon!

        Related: if anyone wants to know why the French cultural is superior, here’s proof:

        https://and /yhs/search?fr=yhs-Lkry-SF01&hsimp=yhs-SF01&hspart=Lkry&p=c%27est+si+bon%21#id=3&vid=4143966675b40c71df175eaf23c0da34&action=click

  6. I am so intrigued and will experiment with this.
    Some of my Pro L1/L2 Qs: Does mastering these ‘sight words’ in L2 build literacy confidence? For Hebrew (or any non-Romanized alphabet), does it build letter/sound correspondence and therefore a sight word bank?
    Con (L2 only): For pre- and emergent readers, is it confusing that ‘¿Qué?’ is pronounced ‘Keh’ and not ‘Qw’ as in queen? Is it excessive and/or premature to attach the sound to the written code?

    1. I question words on signs in L1 AFTER hearing it a ton this year. I have students hold signs when I say them. I forgot to do it consistently… and all the better! There is better flow, more interaction and my ability to be in the PRESENT moment and reach out to my students instead of the language. When we (re)focus on the people… the language will follow.

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