Processing and Acquisitional Foci for Level I

Processing and acquisitional foci at Level I

Students develop a sense of themselves as intelligent and respected learners/users of German based on a continuously modeled and re-created classroom culture that focuses on the communication of meaning and a greater understanding of others and themselves.

I. Features of the classroom culture for acquiring multiple literacies

  • Teacher: Modeling — apprenticing — guiding — framing — balancing of student autonomy and clear understanding of expectations, structure, and fluidity
  • Learner: Autonomy and responsibility — learner self-reflection and awareness of acquisitional phenomena — meaning and concept formation — learner goals and interests

II. Emphasis in language processing

Learning German means thinking of meaningful things to say by carefully using to the greatest advantage, and in endlessly varied ways, the relatively limited linguistic resources that are available to them.
It requires students’ willingness to negotiate continually the requirements of what one wants to say against the available linguistic resources.

III. Insights to be gained

On the part of students
  • No one-to-one relationships, but play with a “probabilistic model”
  • Not between function/meaning and form — PRODUCTION
  • Not between form and function/meaning — COMPREHENSION
  • Not between vocabulary items in L1 and L2
  • Not an additive, mastery-oriented activity
  • But continuous creative construction, approximation — for a very long time (e.g., Subject- Verb Agreement difficulties recurring until very late)
On the part of the teacher

Continuous need to assess the balance/mix between accuracy – fluency – complexity as content is being expressed

IV. Characteristics, constraints, emphases

1. Right from the beginning (over)emphasize the linkage of intonation and pronunciation to the “feel of German in one’s mouth” and to its major pragmatic-semantic-syntactic-lexical features. There has to be some play and delight in this!!

2. Processing proceeds from holistic, formulaic, chunked — to analyzed — to creatively reassembled. “Play” to the greatest advantage with chunks, and formulae.

Set up the movement from an emphasis on message conveyance in terms of L1 conventions (pragmatics of communication) — to beginning to explore the semantics of German meaning-making in terms of syntax — to major features of the German phrase — to morphology — to articulation (segmental and suprasegmental features) AND BACK!

3. Use to greatest advantage for the acquisition of content, function, and form that comprehension (reading and listening) vastly exceeds production (speaking, writing), and that online processing (speaking and listening) is considerably more demanding than is off-line processing (reading and writing)

4. Become aware of the major syntactic patterns through syntactic features used in German, e.g., word order, the inflectional system in case marking and verbal morphology, and overt markers for subordination or coordination. These are supported in oral German by intonation, and in written German by punctuation conventions.

– Subject-verb relationships
– Verb centrality: verb position as a signal for major syntactic patterns. Statement, questions, topicalization in sentence-initial position, subordination.
-Verbal placement in terms of message focus and elaborateness of context for that message focus: Subordinate clause + main clause ; main clause + subordinate clause Verb – noun relationships expressed in case marking. Special emphasis: Semantics of the Dative Preposition noun relationships in terms of case marking Noun-pronoun-case relationships Prenominal modification with adjectives for production; postnominal relative clauses.

5. Emphasize verb centrality within the simple sentence with multiple complements — moving gradually toward the complex sentence with various foci (actor, action, time, place, temporality)

6. Become aware of the patternedness of the lexicon and the transparency of lexical classes, e.g, verb — adjective — noun

Important note : In none of these areas can we expect the accuracy of use, nor fluency, nor complexity. But in all of these areas accuracy of use, fluency, and complexity must be set up in light of future probable development in the learning of German.

For example: “wurde” vs. “würde” , “hatte” vs. “hätte”. The single English forms “would” and “had” are undifferentiated form them with regard to function-form relationships, leading to enormous problems later on.