Re: [xmca] Antirecapitulationism

From: Carol Macdonald <carolmacdon who-is-at>
Date: Mon Apr 07 2008 - 09:16:40 PDT

Hello David
I would think that antirecapulationism must surely be the correct position,
not only when you face L1/L2 face on (but see below), but the fundamental
distinction that is made between *spontaneous* and *scientific* concepts
(remembering that 'scientific' refers to material that is learnt
consciously, not science per se). LSV didn't make any observations that I
have managed to unearth about the efficacy of the latter in language
learning (but you may be able to help me here), but my students used to be
suspicious about the Russian system being built on rote rather than
discovery learning (and why not, given the vintage). I felt there was
definite corroboration in the work of Belyayev, who gave very clear
indications that fitted in with LSV about how to learn a foreign language.
The scientific concepts should be made explicit at every turn. Informal
observation revealed that this system produced very competent English
speakers in the USSR, who had and would not ever have access to L1 speakers
of English. This was in the 1960s. The very best course in South Africa for
young learners was based on Belyayev's principles.

There is another situation though, in the spontaneous learning of L2 and L3
in young children. It may be a bit messy at the beginning, where parts of
the two languages "infiltrate" each other, but the child relatively soon
separates the systems (I have seen this in my extended family in Iceland).
In this case, especially if this is happening early on, before scholing,
surely we have the development of two spontaneous systems, although it must
be conceded that such bilingual/trilingual have children metalinguistic
awareness (MLA) is higher than those of monolingual children. And MLA would
count as "scientific". Once we have started to learn scientific concepts at
school, is there perhaps an unconscious move on the part of learners to
master the L2/3 "scientifically". I know no language course which tries
to imitate the natural progression of L1. (I have written two courses for
young learners, and we try to pitch the content as far as possibilie to the
interests and competences of 6-8 year olds.)

All this (in the last paragraph) is old hat to developmental
psycholinguists. However, I do teach my students that Vygotsky was 40 years
ahead of his time, and much of what he says of language development had to
be reinvented by American (pace) at a much later time. Further, I wonder
whether this 5% achievement rate is where non-valued L2 is being taught as a
Foreign Language. Using a second language as a *medium of instruction* puts
huge pressure for children to continue to master the L2. Finally, this 5%
success rate is a serious indictment on the billion dollar *L2 *movement.
What are we missing?

And my apologies if I am "recapitulating" what has already been said in this
conversation. I have been unable to follow the array of meesages coming
through at the moment.

On 03/04/2008, David Kellogg <> wrote:
> I've been thinking about these two propositions, as a way of digesting
> Sasha Surmava's long (and deep!) posts on Vygotsky, historicism, and Martin.
> As I understand him, Sasha believes:
> a) LSV correctly rejected all forms of recapitulationism, from Hall to
> Haeckl.
> b) LSV incorrectly rejected the common root of thinking and speech
> (presumably action or activity or some form of meta-stable self-preserving
> subjectivity?).
> Because of the way my mind works, I need a fairly specific issue to go any
> further. And one of the most burning issues in foreign language teaching
> today is whether:
> a) it is better to have foreign language learning run the "natural" course
> of several years of oracy first, or
> b) we need to teach literacy from the very inception of foreign language
> instruction.
> Grads who hold position a) inevitably fall back on some kind of
> recapitulationism. First language learning is 100% successful. Foreign
> language learning is less than 5 or even less than one percent successful
> (depending on how low you want to place the threshold of success). Ergo,
> foreign language learning must recapitulate first language learning.
> But if you ask the a) grads whether the same thing is true of listening
> and speaking, that is, does the development of speaking "recapitulate" that
> of listening, they will admit that this is not possible. And if you ask
> whether we can learn written language in exactly the same way we learn oral
> language, only a few answer that we can (the strong Ken Goodman Whole
> Language position).
> Grads who hold the b) position usually argue in fairly romantic terms,
> that the classroom walls create insuperable barriers to the imagination that
> can only be breached by the written word. In this view, the literary
> imagination and the here and now do not and cannot have a common root, for
> one is rooted in thinking and the other in speech.
> But if you ask b) grads where thinking comes from without speech, you are
> liable to get rather "painterly" answers; the child's thinking is rather
> like the imagery in Luria's mnemonist which failed to add up to even simple
> stories (or those marvellous paintings in Cathrene's Powerpoint, which also
> seem largely unconnected to the text!)
> LSV is completely unambiguous throughout Chapters Five and Six of
> "Thinking and Speech": he sees graphic thinking as being different in kind
> from symbolic thinking, different in quality, in function, and even in
> "root", at least where this may be rooted in practical soil. He also thinks
> (and this is surely no coincidence) that foreign language learning neither
> can nor should recapitulate first language learning.
> On the contrary, the great cognitive benefits of foreign language learning
> in the child (which LSV saw first and better than anyone, perhaps because he
> too was a multilingual child) lie precisely in the fact that the foreign
> language builds on the most developed (for LSV this was synonymous with
> volitionally accessible, context-free) meanings of the first language. A
> recapitulationist strategy simply wastes these precious gains, and condemns
> the non-native learner to ride the wake of the native speaker for eternity.
> Foreign language literacy AND oracy grow together, out of something that
> is NEITHER: out of volitional FIRST language semantics (written and spoken).
> Now, this seems to me to RESEMBLE (not to recapitulate, but to RESEMBLE) the
> way in which speaking and listening must develop ontogenetically out of
> something that is neither (namely babbling). That too seems to me to
> resemble (not recapitulate) the way in which indicative and symbolic
> language must have developed phylogenetically out of something that was
> neither (namely gesture).
> That's why LSV rejects "parallels" between ontogeny and phylogeny, but he
> accepts "analogues" and even "resemblances" (e.g. Volume 3, p. 278; see also
> Volume 2, p. 192). It's also why he can accept that instruction and
> development are independent processes, even though both sometimes (r)evolve
> together, like the wheels of a cart.
> Instruction and development emerge from something that is neither, namely
> learning. Even when they DO move in parallel, they stand on opposite sides
> of interaction. It's this that makes it possible to speak of different
> roots. Perhaps different hubs might be a more accurate metaphor: even when
> the wheels are turning in different directions or at different speeds,
> there's always a common axle.
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
> ---------------------------------
> You rock. That's why Blockbuster's offering you one month of Blockbuster
> Total Access, No Cost.
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list

Visiting Researcher,
Wits School of Education
6 Andover Road
Johannesburg 2092
011 673 9265  082 562 1050
xmca mailing list
Received on Mon Apr 7 09:20 PDT 2008

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Thu May 01 2008 - 17:14:13 PDT