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(c) Alexander Sokol, Riga, 2000, contacts@thinking-approach.org


When we speak we always choose from a great number of variants of the language those we find optimal for expressing our ideas. It is not just the matter of choosing the right grammar form - the situation is much more complex. We simultaneously solve problems at different levels - phonological (articulation, intonation, stresses), morphological (endings, verb forms, prepositions), lexical (synonyms), syntactical (word order), etc. We must find the optimal solution to all these problems in that very specific situation we encounter them. And this is absolutely necessary if we want to communicate the language fluently. Ability to find those solutions quickly means fluency. However, it never happens that we solve, for instance, a grammar problem itself. It always occurs, sometimes subconsciously though, that at the same time we deal with many other problems.


Key Contradiction of Language Learning

We must learn to solve problems of various aspects of the language separately in order to understand how they may work together, but we must understand how all parts work together if we want to find the optimal solution to every separate problem.

Or in other words:

In order to communicate fluently a student should be able to know all the aspects of the language (i.e. to possess all the necessary skills in all the aspects at once, to understand how they all work together), but in order to understand how they all work together a student needs to stop at every aspect separately.

Language learning does not exist in vacuum. It is a part of education in general and its development depends to a certain extent on the tendencies in this field. The rapid pace of development of modern civilisation is causing knowledge to become out of date very fast1. It may happen that the knowledge students acquired in the process of studies is no longer useful when they graduate as the world has changed.


Key Contradiction of Education

Education must impart valuable knowledge in order to prepare students (and society in general) for the life in the future and education cannot impart valuable knowledge as it is becoming out of date faster than a teacher realises what and how should be given to students.

If we intensify this contradiction, the key problem of education will look as follows:

At present teachers must prepare their students to live in the world they both know nothing of.

Any new approach to language teaching must provide the resolution to the key contradictions formulated above. Moreover, it is high time this approach appeared if we want to survive.

Our lives are lived at an increasingly accelerated pace, leaving less and less time for mature reflection and the exercise of independent choice. In the words of the red Queen, 'Now here you see, it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.


We risk becoming units in the service of a system we no longer understand, rather than vibrant individuals we are all capable of being.
(Maley 1999, p.3)

'Now is the time to be shaping the future.'


1 'In a lifetime an individual may expect to have ten or more different occupations.' (Littlejohn 1998)



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21 Nov 2000