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Teaching English Speakers Beginning Reading Skills in Icelandic

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  • gfross@pacbell.net
    Hello, everybody. Are there any textbooks whose design reflects the application of modern linguistic studies to the teaching of beginning reading skills in
    Message 1 of 4 , May 1, 2001
      Hello, everybody. Are there any textbooks whose design reflects the
      application of modern linguistic studies to the teaching of beginning
      reading skills in Icelandic?

      I am familiar with only four textbooks:

      1. Gordon-Taylor, _Introduction to Old Norse_
      2. Valfells-Cathey, _Old Icelandic: An Introductory Course_
      3. Barnes, _A New Introduction to Old Norse_
      4. Einarsson, _Icelandic: Grammar, Texts, Glossary_

      Unfortunately, none of these is designed to teach reading skills
      efficiently. Their focus is on one or more of the following:
      historical grammatical analysis, contemporary grammatical analysis,
      translation from Icelandic to English and/or from English to
      Icelandic, and production exercises.

      The most efficient design for such a textbook, i.e., one that does
      not waste the students' time by helping them develop skills that have
      little to do with reading comprehension, is one that includes dozens,
      even hundreds, of graded RECOGNITION exercises in vocabulary and
      grammar.

      Although translation from Icelandic to English is a necessary part of
      a beginning reader/grammar, since students do have to have some idea
      of what the Icelandic words and phrases mean, the goal for beginnning
      students is to help them learn to read without their having to
      translate. Therefore, translation exercises should not be included.
      They are a waste of time. The time is much better spent on graded
      exercises that help students RECOGNIZE the meanings of words and
      phrases in context.

      Nor are EXERCISES in analyzing the grammatical features of a word or
      phrases necessary. It is a waste of time for students to be asked
      again and again to identify number, case, person, tense, voice, mood,
      etc. I do not do this when I read a foreign language. Although I do
      have to recognize the function of a word or phrase in context
      (subject, direct object, etc.), I don't have to LABEL it as such in
      order to understand what I am reading.

      Nor are exercises in production necessary, e.g., Form the plural of
      the following nouns: jarl (jarl__), vikingr (viking__), skald
      (skald__). Such exercises are appropriate and helpful for students
      who wish to learn to WRITE in the language (i.e., produce it) but not
      for those who wish to learn only to read (i.e., recognize it). When
      I am reading Icelandic, I see the forms already there; I am not asked
      to produce them. All I have to do is to RECOGNIZE their meaning in
      context.

      What I have said applies to the reading not only of Old Icelandic but
      also of all the so-called "archaic" languages (Latin, Greek,
      Sanskrit, Old English, Old High German, etc.). If one's goal is to
      READ the literature written in these languages, then one needs a
      textbook that focuses on that goal alone. This means a minimum of
      grammatical analysis and translation from the language into English;
      lots and lots of graded exercises in the recognition of words,
      phrases, and sentences in context; graded vocabulary lists; and
      cultural notes as appropriate; but NO translation from English into
      the foreign language, NO exercises in grammatical analysis, and NO
      exercises in production.

      I welcome any comments you might have.

      All the best --

      Gordon Ross
    • Lynda Maynard
      Yahoo has apparently gotten too big for it s britches! Delayed mail delivery is getting entirely too common! ...
      Message 2 of 4 , May 3, 2001
        Yahoo has apparently gotten too big for it's britches! Delayed mail
        delivery is getting entirely too common!
        --- gfross@... wrote:
        > I am posting this a second time since the first one didn't seem to
        > get posted. Please ignore this repeat message if Yahoo does finally
        > get around to posting the original message.
        > -------------------------------------------------------------------
        <snip>

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      • James R. Johnson
        ... But that s what I want in learning one of these Old languages. That s what gets me angry about learning Old English - all the word lists are Old to
        Message 3 of 4 , May 14, 2001
          >and
          >cultural notes as appropriate; but NO translation from English into
          >the foreign language, NO exercises in grammatical analysis, and NO
          >exercises in production.

          But that's what I want in learning one of these "Old" languages. That's
          what gets me angry about learning Old English - all the word lists are Old
          to Modern English, and no reverse. And all the grammars are written in such
          a way as to make it incredibly difficult to LEARN the language...to speak
          and to write. That's why I want to learn Old Norse - to speak it and to
          write it. (and maybe to go to Reykjavik some day and impress my girlfriend
          with my knowledge of Icelandic)

          James


          ----- Original Message -----
          From: <gfross@...>
          To: <norse_course@yahoogroups.com>
          Sent: Tuesday, May 01, 2001 7:25 PM
          Subject: [norse_course] Teaching English Speakers Beginning Reading Skills
          in Icelandic


          I am posting this a second time since the first one didn't seem to
          get posted. Please ignore this repeat message if Yahoo does finally
          get around to posting the original message.
          -------------------------------------------------------------------
          Hello, everybody. Are there any textbooks whose design reflects the
          application of modern linguistic studies to the teaching of beginning
          reading skills in Icelandic?

          I am familiar with only four textbooks:

          1. Gordon-Taylor, _Introduction to Old Norse_
          2. Valfells-Cathey, _Old Icelandic: An Introductory Course_
          3. Barnes, _A New Introduction to Old Norse_
          4. Einarsson, _Icelandic: Grammar, Texts, Glossary_

          Unfortunately, none of these is designed to teach reading skills
          efficiently. Their focus is on one or more of the following:
          historical grammatical analysis, contemporary grammatical analysis,
          translation from Icelandic to English and/or from English to
          Icelandic, and production exercises.

          The most efficient design for such a textbook, i.e., one that does
          not waste the students' time by helping them develop skills that have
          little to do with reading comprehension, is one that includes dozens,
          even hundreds, of graded RECOGNITION exercises in vocabulary and
          grammar.

          Although translation from Icelandic to English is a necessary part of
          a beginning reader/grammar, since students do have to have some idea
          of what the Icelandic words and phrases mean, the goal for beginnning
          students is to help them learn to read without their having to
          translate. Therefore, translation exercises should not be included.
          They are a waste of time. The time is much better spent on graded
          exercises that help students RECOGNIZE the meanings of words and
          phrases in context.

          Nor are EXERCISES in analyzing the grammatical features of a word or
          phrases necessary. It is a waste of time for students to be asked
          again and again to identify number, case, person, tense, voice, mood,
          etc. I do not do this when I read a foreign language. Although I do
          have to recognize the function of a word or phrase in context
          (subject, direct object, etc.), I don't have to LABEL it as such in
          order to understand what I am reading.

          Nor are exercises in production necessary, e.g., Form the plural of
          the following nouns: jarl (jarl__), vikingr (viking__), skald
          (skald__). Such exercises are appropriate and helpful for students
          who wish to learn to WRITE in the language (i.e., produce it) but not
          for those who wish to learn only to read (i.e., recognize it). When
          I am reading Icelandic, I see the forms already there; I am not asked
          to produce them. All I have to do is to RECOGNIZE their meaning in
          context.

          What I have said applies to the reading not only of Old Icelandic but
          also of all the so-called "archaic" languages (Latin, Greek,
          Sanskrit, Old English, Old High German, etc.). If one's goal is to
          READ the literature written in these languages, then one needs a
          textbook that focuses on that goal alone. This means a minimum of
          grammatical analysis and translation from the language into English;
          lots and lots of graded exercises in the recognition of words,
          phrases, and sentences in context; graded vocabulary lists; and
          cultural notes as appropriate; but NO translation from English into
          the foreign language, NO exercises in grammatical analysis, and NO
          exercises in production.

          I welcome any comments you might have.

          All the best --

          Gordon Ross




          Sumir hafa kvæði...
          ...aðrir spakmæli.

          - Keth

          Homepage: http://www.hi.is/~haukurth/norse/

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        • gfross@pacbell.net
          ... That s ... are Old ... in such ... speak ... and to ... girlfriend ... Hei, James! I don t understand why anyone would want to devote the hundreds, even
          Message 4 of 4 , May 15, 2001
            --- In norse_course@y..., "James R. Johnson" <modean52@m...> wrote:
            in reply to a message by Gordon Ross:

            > >and
            > >cultural notes as appropriate; but NO translation from English into
            > >the foreign language, NO exercises in grammatical analysis, and NO
            > >exercises in production.
            >
            > But that's what I want in learning one of these "Old" languages.
            That's
            > what gets me angry about learning Old English - all the word lists
            are Old
            > to Modern English, and no reverse. And all the grammars are written
            in such
            > a way as to make it incredibly difficult to LEARN the language...to
            speak
            > and to write. That's why I want to learn Old Norse - to speak it
            and to
            > write it. (and maybe to go to Reykjavik some day and impress my
            girlfriend
            > with my knowledge of Icelandic)
            >
            > James

            Hei, James! I don't understand why anyone would want to devote the
            hundreds, even thousands, of extra hours that would be needed in
            order to master the skills of producing, i.e., speaking and writing,
            a language that is no longer spoken or written, be it Old English or
            Old Norse. If you want to converse with Icelanders, then it is
            modern Icelandic, not Old Icelandic, that you need to learn.

            Yes, I agree with you that most, if not all, grammars of the so-
            called archaic languages have been designed much less efficiently
            than they could have been, especially if the goal of the student is
            to READ the literature of one of those languages. In fact, that was
            the whole point of my earlier message. The act of translating
            requires a set of skills that differ from those of reading. So does
            the act of parsing, of analysing grammar. So do the acts of writing,
            of speaking, and of understanding speech. So why bother to learn all
            these added skills if the primary goal is to read fluently? Doing so
            is an inefficient use of one's time.

            A student's time would be much better spent on exercises that have
            been designed to help the student learn to read. Initially, of
            course, the grammar must be explained and some kind of translation
            from the target language into one's native tongue (or into a language
            that one already understands well) must occur. Nevertheless, the
            focus must remain on recognition, on techniques that help the student
            learn to read faster and with increased comprehension and that help
            wean him or her away from translating (silently while reading) into
            his or her native tongue. After all, reading is the goal, is it not?

            If, after learning to read the language well, one wishes to change
            the goal to that of, say, translating, then one can begin to learn
            this skill and art. Well, I don't really know that the "art" of
            translating can be taught, That's a very difficult question to
            answer. But at least, the skill can be taught.

            Unfortunately, however, as I have said before, the authors of the
            grammars of archaic languages devote far too much space to
            grammatical analysis, translation, and production than to
            recognition. Of course, as I said in a previous message, that is the
            result of their training; it is also their primary interest. I mean,
            what scholar of an archaic language has taken courses in how to write
            (or "author," if multimedia techniques are used) a textbook or course
            that focuses on developing the students' reading skills? None that I
            know of. So it is only natural that they continue in the ancient
            tradition of translating and parsing.

            All the best --

            Gordon
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