Monday, February 27, 2012
Despite the rigid efforts teachers in college exert in their attempts to curb the seemingly questionable high school English education they supposed to have received, it is certainly impossible to expect significant changes to happen overnight. And by overnight, I mean one semester.
Read more about my advice on Philippine Daily Inquirer published last February 27, 2012: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/152253/how-to-teach-english
In case you are curious about the article I commented in, you can read it here: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/148747/help-her-college-students-dont-know-their-grammar
Monday, February 13, 2012
The buying rate of tech products along with the pace of technological changes are re-defining man's history again, in a rather alarming way especially for the tight-budgeted populace. No statistics would be required to note that in a few month's time, the high-end gadget you bought today may land in the latter end of the endless list of products deemed forgotten by the modern and civilized world.
A friend once told me that a gadget's eye-catching and gossip-generating power lasts for two years. So if you are a self-confessed tech geek who fears of being labelled a primitive man for failing to catch up with the trend, you would have to "upgrade" a gadget by paying a biannual visit to your local tech store (which literally means to buy another one).
However, the frugal public is not solely being pressured by the product's losing "face value," but by the fact that there's a time when you just need to dispose it off because the product has reached the end of its life despite strictly adhering to all care instructions. This time of product maturity normally occurs after the one year limited warranty offered as a proof of product quality by manufacturers to clients. But somehow, the so-called "quality" of today's consumer technology is not anymore true to its value compared to those in the past (at least as far as I can recall).
When I was younger, I remember my parents boasting about a desk fan which was given to them as a gift on their wedding in 1987. The ever loyal desk fan, which was a year older than me, had been our family's constant companion on very hot summer days until we move to another house in 2001. My uncle asked for it after helping us transfer our things to our new house and after convincing my father that it's not a good idea to bring along old things in a new house. From then on, I never heard of the faithful desk fan again. But those were 14 memorable years. The electric fans that graced our home are all history now.
In the year 2001, my mother bought me my first ever phone. It was the classic Nokia 3310, the ever-faithful mobile phone that stood all the test time could ever give for a gadget. It became the family phone until my youngest sister lost it on her way home in 2007.
But in 2010, I received the mobile phone my eyes pried on for several months as a Christmas gift. The mobile phone was then the best-seller of a prominent company. It was even labelled in a few reviews as "cellphone ng bayan" [public's mobile phone]. My colleagues at work even bought the same model as a year-end gift for themselves.
However, before the end of 2011, it started showing signs of breakage. I needed to shout during calls for the other end to hear what I say. I learned that my colleague's phone is even in a worse condition. She can't use it at all for calls because both the speaker and microphone failed. The only choice for both of us was to buy yet another mobile phone as a personal gift last Christmas. And now, I'm crossing my fingers in hope that I would enjoy the two-year grace period my friend was telling me about for a gadget.
I am certain that my story is only one among the many silent ones out there. Though modern life is now equated with the ownership of high-end devices, on top of the ever deteriorating quality of life in the country, typical consumers like me are one in hope that this realization is not the result of unethical capitalist practice but just a genuine question of care on the part of consumers.
Saturday, January 28, 2012
I found this still posted on my bedroom wall, written in a yellowing half side of a legal-sized bond paper. This was the first English poem I wrote, and if my memory serves me right, the only one so far. I wrote this in our Stylistics class back in college. The requirement was to produce a short poem out of five words/ phrases we picked from a box with several strips of paper. The words/phrases I picked were: bottle, fame, vigor, lion's heart, and sunshine. Though this was a product of a time-bound activity, whenever I read this, it feels like I'm reading it again for the first time.
He rose from beneath the surface of forgotten plain.
His bottled fame with pungent shame,
Left him naked, off to the thorny grass
Now weeding, now fading.
He rose to watch the bright sunshine aglow,
Which spring commence, with bare lamence
With eyes full of vigor as a lion's heart,
Here he comes rising, never he shall part.
I can't exactly remember the emotion that triggered me to let out these words. But what I know is, I was then trying to prove something.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
This is yet another reason why we should take every moment in our lives a valuable learning process.
posted from Bloggeroid
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Sunday, January 22, 2012
However, the debate between Jean Piaget, a Swiss biologist and scholar, and Noam Chomsky, an American linguist and political critic, is, in general sense, worth examining given the fact that their debate has been “compared more and more frequently” (Piatelli-Palmarini, 1982: xiv) in the scholarly sphere. Their works about language and cognition have immensely influenced many other fields particularly and more importantly the pedagogy, which perhaps instigated historically notable paradigm shifts.
A radical constructivist, Jean Piaget has earlier offered his own explanation of the relationship between the two through his rigidly reviewed theory on child development which is dubbed as “cognitive determinism” (Owens, 1996: 131). Piaget believes that intellectual development is a direct continuation of inborn biological attributes which undergoes four stages1 as the child grows old.
Language development, which he considers part of intellectual development is therefore not independent and may generally be regarded as an offshoot of the child’s ability to represent reality as he continues to cultivate those inborn attributes through organization and adaptation. In other words, cognition is responsible for language development (see Fig.1) because as Piaget puts it, “…in the first place, adults convey different modes of thought by means of speech… [and] his language serves only to assert,… state objective facts [which] are closely bound up with cognition” (Piaget, 1959: 1).
|Fig. 1. Language is both based on and determined by thought. (cognitive determinism)|
For Chomsky, human language, aside from being species-specific, is innate and not just borne out of the need to express thought as Piaget proposes. He considers the “language organ,” which is embedded within the broader architecture of the mind/brain2, responsible for the innate ability of the child to use language to convey thoughts. As an organ, compared to vital systems such as circulatory system, visual system, and immune system among others, it harnesses its full potentials through growth, predetermined by an initial state and equally complemented by the growth of other organs. This means that as a child grows, his language organ grows together with the increasing complexity of thought and his other body organs. Interaction, therefore, of these systems is a necessary requirement to carry out tasks such as expression of ideas. This interaction is explained more precisely by Chomsky (2000) in the following example which highlights the important role of language in generating expressions in the phonological level:
“The sensorimotor systems, for example, have to be able to read the instructions having to do with sound, that is the ‘phonetic representations’ generated by the language. The articulatory and perceptual apparatus have specific design that enables them to interpret certain phonetic properties, not others. These systems… must provide expressions with the proper phonetic form” (p.9).
In this case, production of language and thought are two separately maturing human abilities which are, in certain extents, interdependent with one another as well as with other body organs (see Fig. 2).
|Fig. 2. Language and thought are independent but related abilities|
While both agree on the concept of a non-empty, genetically-determined initial state (fixed nucleus), followed by an intermediate state, and later on by a stable state of certain features of the human brain, which is developed through learning “in an external environment characterized by problems” (Cellerier in Piatelli-Palmarini, 1982: 68), the disagreement lies in the question how much is innate and how much is acquired.
In Chomsky’s point of view, humans are born with abstract concepts of language universals such as a system of rules and structures which we use to express thought in a grammatical and comprehensible manner. Since we are born with these, “knowledge of language is normally attained through ‘brief’ exposure…” (Chomsky, 1968: ix). He regards this intrinsic knowledge of language as linguistic competence, which is manifested through linguistic performance. Thus, language is a nature of man, which doesn’t necessarily require formal training and exposure.
Chomsky also points out that one would expect that human language should directly reflect the characteristics of human intellectual capacities, that language should be a direct “mirror of the mind.” In essence, language nurtures cognition in the onset of child development.
Contrary to this assumption, Piaget believes that man’s “fixed nucleus” or his practical intelligence should be organized and coordinated, adapting to the demands of the environment in which a person dwells. However, in order to accomplish this, a more formal knowledge of structure and “problem space” is required. The formal knowledge spells a general sense of coordination among processes such as mental and motor compositions. This, therefore, proposes the need to nurture the cognitive faculty, which covers the linguistic ability of man in order to coordinately perform tasks to successfully pass through the stages of development.
These conflicting points were instrumental to the academe’s radical adoption of approaches in teaching language. Chomskyan linguistics, for one, has a dramatic impact on the Cognitive Approach in language teaching. As a response to the inadequacies posed by the behaviourist features of the earlier predominant approach (i.e.-audiolingualism), the cognitive approach views language learning as rule acquisition, not habit formation. In addition, the approach doesn’t give much attention to the teaching of grammar, but if needed, it should be taught deductively (i.e. – rule first, practice later) (Celce-Murcia, 2006). Chomsky’s theory therefore, led to the removal of explicit grammar knowledge in the teaching of language since the child is believed to possess the innate capacity to learn the rules of the language even without explicit instruction.
Meanwhile, Piaget’s position on cognitive development profoundly influenced, not just language teaching but the entire academe as a whole. As a forerunner of the Theory of Constructivism in Learning, he proposed that in order for the child to harness his full cognitive potentials, “teachers as instructional managers should ensure that the learning environment should be rich in physical (concrete) experiences because growth in any one stage depends upon activity” (Simatwa, 2010: 370). Following these principles, constant exposure to the target language, in terms of language teaching can be regarded as a major requirement for language development. This means that teachers should expose children to realistic situations by allowing them to “play” in their environment.
These significant theorists and their theoretical innovations, as proven in the preceding paragraphs, have indeed carved their own space in the rich history of man’s search for truth and meaning. Because of their debate in the concept of language and cognition, more light was shed in this previously obscured domain of human knowledge.
1. Jean Piaget theorized that the child from birth undergoes four stages of development – sensorimotor, pre-operational, concrete operational and formal operational stage.
2. Chomsky recognizes the fact the faculty of language, being a very recent revolutionary development, is “biologically isolated in crucial respects” (Chomsky, 2000). He hopes that Biolinguistic inquiry would some day give the slash “/” in mind and brain substantive content in the future.
Beilin, H. (1975). Studies in the cognitive basis of language development. USA: Academic Press.
Celce-Murcia, M. (2006). “Language teaching approaches: An overview.” In Celce-Murcia, M (Ed.), Teaching of English as a second or foreign language, 3rd Ed. Singapore: Heinle & Heinle.
Chomsky, N. (1968). Language and mind. USA: Harcourt Brace Javanovich.
Chomsky, N. (2000). New horizons in the study of language and mind. UK: Cambridge University Press.
Owens, R.E. (1996). Language development: An introduction. USA: Allyn & Bacon.
Piaget, J. (1959/2002). The language and thought of the child. UK: Routledge.
Piatelli-Palmarini, M. (1982). Language and learning: The debate between Jean Piaget and Noam Chomsky. UK: Routledge.
Philip, J. (2001). Psycholinguistics: Influences on Language Pedagogy. Date retrieved: November 30, 2011 from http://golum.riv.csu.edu.au/~srelf/SOTE/EML504/Chomsky.htm.
Simatwa, E. (2010, July). “Piaget’s theory of intellectual development and its implication for instructional management at pre-secondary school level.” Educational Research and Reviews. Date retrieved: November 30, 2011 from http://www.academicjournals.org/err/PDF/Pdf%202010/July/Simatwa.pdf.
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Wednesday, January 11, 2012
While a number of people around the world enjoy the gift of freedom of choice, some are still imprisoned by society-induced incarceration with apparently unwise cultural practices happening in developing countries.
Children marriages in certain cultures are disturbing eye-openers of disparity between civilized and uncivilized dogmas. Much worse, the usual victims of which are girls whose minds are immature for married life.