CI & TPRS

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Re: CI & TPRS

Postby ironlady » 25 May 2012, 05:56

It would seem to require more hours, but then again, you are working on everything at once, so in that regard, it saves time.

I'm not sure how many hours. The other issue, of course, is that you just don't have kids getting CI instruction from start to finish. I estimate that it takes about 200 hours to get through the major structures of Mandarin, but there are fewer than in English. Spanish CI usually takes four years to get through all the grammar -- 100 hours in a school year, more or less. There are more verb forms in Spanish than in English, but there are more pesky exceptions and suchlike in English, so maybe it's a wash. I'm guessing, though. It's an interesting question.
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Re: CI & TPRS

Postby GuyInTaiwan » 25 May 2012, 08:20

Teddoman: Without going into too much detail, I couldn't run a cram school and work in this job. There would be a contractual conflict of interest. Furthermore, to be honest, I don't think many people here actually do send their kids to cram schools because education isn't highly valued in this part of Taiwan, and people are also very poor here (though there are some people who are wealthy). I'd estimate that it would be maybe three to five students per class. To put that in perspective, my junior high school has six classes. Every elementary school around here has one class at each level, so seven including kindergarten, but the numbers of students at grade four and below are astonishingly small (one elementary school has three students in grade one). We're talking about a really small pool of potential students. I've tried setting up group classes before, but getting numbers is hard, especially when they insist on it all being directed at test preparation.

As for the exams they do here, there's a general reluctance to admit error, coupled with general bureaucratic change that moves at a glacial pace. Things will change here eventually, but we're probably talking a couple of decades, which is not a time period I'm willing to wait for. I'm also not willing to make this my "cause" to the exclusion of all else in my life. My exit strategy does involve possible other businesses, though teaching in my own cram school is not really on the cards for a number of reasons, which I'll briefly outline. Firstly, as I mentioned, there'd be a contractual conflict of interest. I'd have to choose. To get any cram school up to the point where it would be making me the same amount as my current job would require a fairly large run up, if it could be done at all. The demographics around here are a big red flag for me. I think this is going to be a problem generally for the EFL industry in Taiwan, but it's going to be really bad in the countryside which is basically in complete demographic collapse (where I live, you are basically either a government employee, one of a handful of people who made their money elsewhere and then moved here to set up a tourism/tea/organic fruit business, a poor farmer, or you leave). The other thing would be the start up costs, which I'm not really willing to put in, especially given the dubious potential of the whole enterprise. I can get a better average return on my money elsewhere, I believe. Actually, of more concern to me even than the potential return on my money is the risk to the principal. I believe there is a significant risk to the principal in setting up a cram school. Warren Buffett's first rule of investing: Don't lose money. His second: See the first rule.

That brings me to the main part of my exit strategy, which is investing, coupled with Taiwan's low cost of living. I'm looking at getting out of this industry within nine years if I can and that's quite doable based upon the (conservative) calculations I've made. We're not talking sailing around the Bahamas on a yacht level of getting out, but still getting out on at least what I'm making now. Of course, I could be way off base, the world economy could collapse, etc. and I could be stuck in this job until I die. :(
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Re: CI & TPRS

Postby bismarck » 25 May 2012, 11:07

ironlady wrote:It would seem to require more hours, but then again, you are working on everything at once, so in that regard, it saves time.

I'm not sure how many hours. The other issue, of course, is that you just don't have kids getting CI instruction from start to finish. I estimate that it takes about 200 hours to get through the major structures of Mandarin, but there are fewer than in English. Spanish CI usually takes four years to get through all the grammar -- 100 hours in a school year, more or less. There are more verb forms in Spanish than in English, but there are more pesky exceptions and suchlike in English, so maybe it's a wash. I'm guessing, though. It's an interesting question.

But this is why I asked my question several pages back that we haven't satisfactorily answered. What structures are they, how many are they, is there a list somewhere that one can see what to get through. The only structures you seem to find online are the basic English grammar patterns I posted about before. So what would the "curriculum" be? IMO unless we have a basic idea on what that is, we're still just teaching the patterns they have in the books (aka grammar patterns/structures). Or are we just taking a stab at random structures as they come up? And this is, at least in this thread so far, where the crappy traditional approach is better off, because at least in a series of books they have a logical flow from most basic (Hello, what's your name?) to "advanced" (While I was in France, my brother was studying English at Oxford.).

In short, what are all the language patterns that we as native speakers have in our heads, and where can we find them, sort them and set up a "curriculum" to get through them with CI?
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Re: CI & TPRS

Postby GuyInTaiwan » 25 May 2012, 12:33

bismarck: I have no idea. Doesn't it depend upon how you define it though?

Do "last Tuesday", "last week", "last August", "last month", last year, etc. count as one pattern or separate patterns? This whole thing seems like it could turn into a bit of a "how long is a piece of string?" kind of thing even if we lumped all of the above together as just one pattern. There must literally be hundreds, right? Think of how many combinations there must be if you only take three nouns and two verbs. Obviously, reducing things down to those half a dozen structures such as S + V + O is probably too reductionist.
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Re: CI & TPRS

Postby Teddoman » 25 May 2012, 20:42

tomthorne wrote:Once their kids get to JHS the majority of parents don't bother with paying extra for a Laowai. A few of the middle class parents continue sending their kids to a teens class once a week, but I would guess that they are very much in the minority.

Yeah, that seems about right. Most of my Hess classes were grades 1-6. Pretty steep drop off after that. Maybe at that age, the "real" cram schooling hasn't quite begun.

ironlady wrote:It would seem to require more hours, but then again, you are working on everything at once, so in that regard, it saves time.

I'm not sure how many hours. The other issue, of course, is that you just don't have kids getting CI instruction from start to finish. I estimate that it takes about 200 hours to get through the major structures of Mandarin, but there are fewer than in English. Spanish CI usually takes four years to get through all the grammar -- 100 hours in a school year, more or less. There are more verb forms in Spanish than in English, but there are more pesky exceptions and suchlike in English, so maybe it's a wash. I'm guessing, though. It's an interesting question.

If English takes, say, 500 CI hours or about 5 years to develop reasonable competency, that's actually quite a short amount of time. Compare that to actual class hours spent 1-12 + college + cram school English.

But is 500 hours just for covering all the structures? That's a much lower bar than developing sufficient competency to pass college entrance exams. And realistically, CI has to be able to get people past the college entrance exams to be ready for prime time in Taiwan.
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Re: CI & TPRS

Postby ironlady » 25 May 2012, 20:56

You have to remember that TPRS (the method of CI that I use the most) is intended ONLY to get structure and basic vocabulary into people's heads. So when students have acquired the basic structure (plus whatever vocabulary that was wrapped in), TPRS is no longer as useful.

The leap from "initial fluency" to "full fluency" (as I call it) is somewhat like the jump from BIC ("basic interpersonal competency") to CALPS (comprehensive academic language proficiency -- I think -- I forget the first letter). IF you take the time to have students acquire all the words they would need for the college exam at the same time that you're pumping structure into their heads, it would take too long, because before students have acquired the structure, it takes many more repetitions to acquire a word, and the language they are given as input has to be "more comprehensible" (=100% comprehensible).

After they have the structure in their heads, they can handle more unknowns, just like native speakers can. We are able to unconsciously "know" what part of speech things are, and how they work, because we're not learning new grammar rules for our native language, just expanding vocabulary.

There aren't any lists of CI items for Chinese, either. What we do is simply to take the language we want them to have at the end of the year (easier to do it year by year -- doing it starting from the test and working backwards would be possible but onerous!), isolate the verbs, nouns, and other words, recombine them (so "da3" and "dian4hua4" end up together, though "da3" will still appear with other nouns when it has another sense in the language) into "chunks" of language that logically go together, rate each one as to whether it's crucial, somewhat important or put into the curriculum/textbook by some idiot who had no clue about what was high frequency, and then start in providing dense CI on the crucial items, then the somewhat important ones (or using the somewhat important ones as differentiation for the faster processors and just making it comprehensible for the others). I do this with every Chinese course I teach, since so far there isn't a comprehensive CI based Chinese materials set available (our bad... :roll: )

The whole idea of a proficiency exam is that it's based on grasp of the structure of a language and knowledge of a pretty good whack of vocabulary but NOT on any specific vocabulary. It's supposed to measure how well you know the language as a whole. Discrete-item tests depend on a list or knowledge of specific vocabulary and don't really get to how much language a person commands. The college exam is still, IMO, mostly discrete-item. A better question for me would be how long would it take to get a student who can handle the IELTS exam through CI (but that's not the standard that most people in Taiwan care about, certainly not parents of buxiban-age kids.)
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Re: CI & TPRS

Postby Teddoman » 25 May 2012, 23:08

So then maybe they're not mutually exclusive methods. If CI is really only to get native-like grammar, then Taiwanese students could still go the traditional route of cram school memorization to build their vocabs after they've had 500 hours of CI for grammar structures?

Is the 500 hours of CI for English grammar structures an estimate for elementary school children, or for adults, or would they acquire grammar structures at the same pace?

If you can do 500 hours for elementary students to get grammar, then would that make CI feasible in a school where one teacher controls grades 1-6? They could also do 500 hours at after school cram school. They could do CI in elementary and then transition into vocab building using traditional methods in junior high and high school.
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Re: CI & TPRS

Postby bismarck » 26 May 2012, 12:38

Well, in a way, that's what native speakers get. We get many more hours of CI, though. Possibly several thousand in the first few years of our lives. After that, the grammar patterns and basic vocabulary is set (and let's face it, most 4-5 year olds speak very basically). After that, kindergarten, 12 years of school, 4 years of university and countless hours of recreational reading and interacting with peers (slang and colloquialisms) build vocabulary.

Even for native speakers it's a long journey, if you think about it.
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Re: CI & TPRS

Postby GuyInTaiwan » 27 May 2012, 21:27

Teddoman: Here is an indication of how many hours kids get (if they don't go to cram school).

Elementary school: Grades 3-6, one or two lessons (40-45 minutes) per week, 40 school weeks per year (though there are interruptions).
Junior high school: Grades 7-9, three lessons (45 minutes) per week, 40 school weeks per year (though there are interruptions). They may get extra English lessons outside of the official school hours that will bump it up to four or five lessons per week.

I don't know about senior high school, but assume it's similar to junior high school.

Thus, kids get: (4 x 2 x 0.75 x 40) + (6 x 5 x 0.75 x 40) = 240 + 900 = 1,140 hours in theory. They don't get that many in practice. I also think that it's largely completely ineffective. When I first got to my current school, I asked all of my students six basic questions:

What's your name?
How old are you?
How do you feel?
What are your hobbies?
How many people are in your family?
Who are they?

Very few of the students, including those in the ninth grade, could actually respond meaningfully to the questions (even after I'd "taught" them the material and they knew what would be on the "test"). Almost all (but not all) could answer the first. About half could answer the second. It was a crap shoot with the third to fifth, and virtually none could answer the sixth. Last year, I asked some other students to first name, and then recognise, colours. Most could get about three. Basically, I take those 200-700 hours they supposedly have by the time they enter and leave junior high school with a complete grain of salt. It seems amazing to me that people could be that incapable after such an amount of time, but that's what the system produces. The Taiwanese teachers obviously have other things in mind (the discrete item tests), but acquisition isn't one of them. I guess they're doing their job, but it has little to nothing to do with any real English acquisition. Any real acquisition seems to either occur outside of school or perhaps with a foreign teacher.
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Re: CI & TPRS

Postby Teddoman » 30 May 2012, 03:56

It is quite amazing that traditional foreign language teaching methods have escaped scrutiny for so long.

Found a really useful thread on EFL testing in Taiwan that I thought was relevant.

I guessing a lot of teachers are against testing, but I wonder if good international tests, ones that also incorporate listening or speaking, might actually support the case for CI methods. After all, Taiwan teachers and cram schools all have future exams in their sights, that's never going to change. But perhaps current tests probably set an abysmally low standard and don't even take into account basic elements of language abilities, such as listening comprehension. A proper test with a higher standard would presumably allow market competition to send traditional methods to the grave, since pupils taught using only traditional methods would not perform as well.

If the reason for reform is that the current system is failing, then you have to be able to measure that failure and then measure the success of another method. So in my mind there's no way around testing. It's just a matter of getting a test that favors those with actual competency in the language.
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