Why are languages being taught like math?

Within the past century there have been many great developments in language teaching, especially from American educators. And yet, the majority of foreign language courses taught in America and around the world are very much your standard grammar/translation course mixed in with “communicative” learning. While this is a very valuable method the major drawback is that it needs to be intensive in order to achieve good results. Your 50 minute high school Spanish class 3 times a week doesn’t count as intensive. Even with all of the worksheets assigned for homework.

So now I must ask the question; Why are languages being taught like math? And more importantly why are they being tested and graded like math?

Let’s do a little thought experiment.

Imagine you are in math class. Nothing too crazy, it’s just your typical fourth grade elementary school arithmetic.

Now like any good student you’ve been studying hard and doing a ton of practice problems on worksheets and from your textbook. Every problem is beautifully solved step by step. And like the perfect student you show each step of your work written out in your best penmanship.

You are well prepared for what’s about to come next. The math test. What’s on the test? Long division and multiplication. The test is an hour long with 100 questions.

But, unfortunately the copier in the teacher’s room is broken. So the teacher decides to give the exam orally. And you can’t write anything down. In fact, you have to do all of the math in your head and have to speak your answers aloud. You still have an hour and 100 questions.

Can you do it?

I imagine you won’t do very well unless you’ve been working with a private tutor or teaching yourself on how to do long division in your head.

That’s how many language classes work to prepare the learner for conversation. Most grammar focused courses are very good, but they rarely give the students the skills to do any real work in the language. Communicative classes try to address this issue but usually put the cart before the horse and miss the fine parts of understanding the language. Students say things without understanding.

Why are grammar classes good? Well, if you take a look at Chomsky’s recent works about languages, you’ll understand something very important. Language developed first as a method for thinking not communication. That came afterwards as a result.

However, it’s very hard to think in another language without acquiring the grammar. Grammar courses are focus on making you aware how the language works and how the forms change. Thinking only happens naturally when the brain acquires the grammar patterns and meaning with sounds.

Are they good at helping you acquire that internally? Depends on the class. If the class is heavy in comprehension, it’ll have stronger results. If it’s taught like a series of math puzzles, once the puzzle is solved there is less reason for the brain to retain the pieces of the puzzle.

Now let’s move back to our thought experiment. Acquiring a language is like acquiring another way to do mental math. You can’t simply understand the rules and apply them when in mid conversation. You must have it already internalized. Your brain must be trained to hold the capacity. The brain must process meaning and take mental notes in the language.

Many language courses are taught focused on reading and writing. And it’s done through the scope of  the mother tongue. Very little attention is given to understanding. Dialogue and conversation is stressed. Thinking is glanced over.  It is presented as a set of grammar rules to decode messages. And remembering all of these rules before the brain has fully acquired them causes too much strain on the mental capacities. Especially during an unrehearsed conversation.

Should we teach grammar? Absolutely.

Should languages be taught and tested like math?

What is the end goal?

Summer Reading: Enjoying books with the AC on!

Lately I’ve taken up some good advice on reading. The advice is to read more and read at your level. I’ve started doing this, and it’s been very rewarding. Off and on I’ve had spurts of extensive reading in Japanese, and each time, I’ve greatly improved my reading and understanding abilities. But I still have a long way to go. I must read more. It must be extensive!

Last year it took me a few months to read through ‘Sayonara Aruma’. It was a few hundred pages long. I was super happy to finish the book. It was great, but I read it off and on all while starting a new job.

But this August, I went down to the bookstore and bought myself the book ‘Hontou no sora iro’ or ‘The Real Sky color.’ It’s fantastic story by Béla Balázs. This one is about 150 pages long.

The short novel takes place in Hungary. A boy makes paint from magical flowers that shows the real color of the sky. But in the real sky color, real sky elements emerge. The sun shines and burns like the real sun. The thunder storms blast and the rain pours from wherever the paint is used. That’s where the story takes an exciting turn!

Now I’m reading a more modern Japanese Children’s novel called “Ame Furu Honya” (雨ふる本屋) or, “The Raining Bookshop.” By Hinata Rieko. (日当理恵子)

I’ll write more on it when I have read a good chunk. Back to reading! 😀

雨ふる本屋

May Game Dev 013: Download and Play

Get the game here.

Rag Doll Fight 1

You can download it for Mac OSX, Linux, and Windows.

I love how easy it is to build for other platforms in Unity!

I got rid of the control screen and figured out how to just use the Unity Input Manager. So now when you start the game, you can set up the inputs however you like. I would like a custom in-game input manager, but that’s for another game and another time.

Enjoy! Tell me what you think! Remember, this is a game that I threw together in a month. Don’t expect anything epic or unbreakable. 🙂

May Game Dev 12: Finished!

Rag Doll Fight 1 Fight Stage by Zachary Sarette

Yay!

Everything came together there for me in the end. For a simple fighting game getting things up and running from scratch is quite a challenge.

There were many times at the end where I wanted to quit because the problems that I ran across seemed too complicated.  I had to redo most of the art as well as the bone animations.

If I ever plan to do another fighting game, I’d want to work with a small team of animators so I could focus on the design and coding aspects. Fighting games really need proper animations to make them interesting.

Sprite animations are better than using sprites and bones in my opinion for a 2D fighter. But it does take more time.

Tomorrow I’ll finish up the bits and pieces and put it out there for people to try. I’ll also update the One Game A Month website.

That’s all for now.

May Game Dev 011: Nearly there but gotta work out the kinks.

I’ve worked on it quite a bit, but I’m at a place where I think I should leave it.

I really don’t like the way the animations play out. Next time if I’m doing a fighting game, I’ll have to draw out all of the animations with sprites. I can see why it’s been done this way more often. Obviously 3d is a different story, but still the animation can’t be done with bones alone and look nice.

Tomorrow’s the last day. I’ll fix up a few bugs here and there and then post it. Not bad for a month’s work for a fighting game. It’s really a lot to think about in terms of hitboxes and interactions. Not as simple as you might think.

I think I’ll call it “Rag Doll Fight 1”

 

May Game Dev 010: The Start of a Game Controller

I’ve been working a little bit to get a main game controller and the text up and running to the game with a countdown timer.

So far so good!

Again, learning more about unity, and how easy it is to talk to each component and set things nicely. It feels like writing a web page… except better.

May Game Dev 009: Getting hit animations working!

I managed to solve a few more problems and figured out how to test which side the character was getting hit. The answer was so simple, yet my online search lead me to all kinds of complicated ways of doing it.

My way was simply using the “bounds” of the box colliders and comparing their centers. Easy enough. I’m only testing for right and left right now, but it’s easy enough to extend it out into 4 or 8 directions if I want to really get jazzy. Right now I’m happy with what I have.

I’ll have to extend out the animation to the rest of the parts of the body. Right now I simply have the torso hit working. Easy enough to extend out the player controller.

Here’s what it looks like so far. Its starting to shape up.

Up next is building out the getting hit animations. After that, I’ll build a few combo moves and build a KO animation.

Then, I’ll build a simple 3 round game system with a win and lose case to make a real game.

After that I have to create a simple character select.

And finally, I’ll rework the art to make it pretty.

I’m a little past the halfway mark for the month. I’ve learned lots so far, and can’t wait to dig into Unity deeper.