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[xmca] Are Fleer and Hedegaard Bernsteinians?
Wolff-Michael likes this quote from Derrida:
We only ever speak one language.
We never speak only one language.
Butzkamm has a rather more realistic formulation, "We only learn language once". He means, of course, that languages consist of other languages, much as minds are made up of other minds (either in the form of discourse or in the form of text).
For example, our elementary English syllabus consists of mostly GERMANIC nouns (e.g. "table" and "apple") but as the children grow older they will acquire more LATINATE ones (e.g. "refrigerator" and "helicopter"). Korean works the same way; yesterday at lunch we had a choice between a stately, scholarly sounding restaurant with a Chinese name and more rustic, village fare sold in a restaurant with a pure Korean title.
You know, it turns out that the so-called "vocabulary explosion" is a kind of myth, like the "explosive" economic growth of very poor countries. Any normal human mind left in a social situation of development that is sufficiently open to provide new word meanings at the proper rate (say, a multilingual one, or just a reasonably challenging cognitive one) will naturally continue to acquire vocabulary at roughly the same rate as a baby all life your life long. The problem is that everyday life in a monolingual capitalist society really doesn't supply this, so those of us who want to go on learning new words in our fifties are really forced to emigrate.
My Portuguese is only good for some things, but I do know the difference between 'ser" and "estar". I originally thought it was the difference between "etre" and "avoir" in French, because of course French uses "to have" in many situations where English would use hte copula. Then I learned some Spanish, so I figured it it was like the difference between "ser" and "estar" in Spanish. This too is wrong.
As far as I can figure out, "ser" is really about BEING or ESSENCE, and "estar" describes ESTATE or temporality passing STATE. So the weather tends to be "estar" and people, particularly in their class/national/gender origins tend to be "ser".
Now the reason I mention all this is that I've been worrying a little bit about the references in Fleer/Hedegaard to "machine gun fire" conversation in Andrew's household. We are not actually given any examples of "machine gun fire" conversation, so the mind (well, my mind) inevitably associates it with the constant moving around that seems to go on in the Peninsula family which is semi-internalized by Andrew when he goes to school as "scanning". That is, words are sprayed out in short bursts without any precise aim, splattering whole rooms in a single salvo. It's not a very pretty metaphor, but that seems to be what the authors are getting at.
So what we get is a kind of "mismatch" hypothesis. The language of home does not match the language of schooling, and this augurs poorly for Andrew's cognitive development. Engestrom's article in the Daniels' "Introduction to Vygotsky" also puts forward a similarly Bernsteinian theory, and suggests three basic ways of overcoming the mismatch.
a) Davydov and Schmittau: Providing sufficiently powerful CONCEPTS that will allow the child to take their school understanding into the mismatched extracurricular world.
b) Lave and Wenger: Provide experiential communities of practice that allow the child to take the extracurricular world into the mismatched school.
c) Learning by expanding: that is, EXPANDING the school until it merges with the community and expanding the child's extracurricular world until it is one with the school.
Engeström, Yrjö (2005) Non scolae sed vitae discimus: Toward overcoming the encapsulation of school learning. 157-176. in Daniels, H. (ed.) (2005) An Introduction to Vygotsky. Hove and New York: Routledge.
It seems to me that each view is Utopian in its own way (in a good way!) but that all may actually be unnecessary. There are a couple of things wrong, EMPIRICALLY wrong, with the Bernsteinian mismatch view, at least as I understand it.
a) By the time kids get into high school--even middle school--they are not talking like their parents. They talk like each other. So how can a learning deficit be blamed on a home language?
b) If anything, middle class home language is LESS strongly framed than working class language, and yet middle class kids DO do better in school.
c) None of this appears to apply at all to bilinguals, at least not above a certain threshold. Bilinguals have a cognitive edge in every subject, even nonllinguistic ones, and it's lifelong (so that, for example, bilinguals actually do better when they get Alzheimer's!)
In the 1950s, Stalin wrote an essay on "Marxism and Linguistics" in which he criticized Vygotsky's friend and teacher J. Ia. Marr for arguing that language was "superstructural", and did not by itself create class differences but rather reflected them. Stalin, who was obsessed with the idea of stability in nation states, argued that language was base; if you control language, you control the nation state and everybody in it as well. Interestingly, Marr had argued against explicit instruction in grammar, and some of Chapter Six of Thinking and Speech, in which Vygotsky defends grammar instruction, is a polemic against his friend.
I remember that part of the excitement of reading Vygotsky for the first time was the realization that here was somebody who did NOT make Piaget's mistake of thinking that language was pure epiphenomenon and on the other hand recognized that at any one moment language is a small part of some larger picture we can call culture (much of which is also made up of language, but language in the form of text rather than in the form of ongoing dicourse). So in that sense language is not destiny; it's a matter of "estar" rather than "ser".
It's not that we only speak one language: it is that we only learn language once.
Seoul National University of Education
--- On Thu, 5/27/10, mike cole <email@example.com> wrote:
From: mike cole <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Cognitivist theory & language learning
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>
Date: Thursday, May 27, 2010, 4:06 PM
The Davids have provided professional answers to your question, Tony.
Just a couple of thoughts of a different sort.
The message got me to wondering, again, about AA Leontiev's work on second
language learning which was discussed here a long time ago (at something i
code as "here" but not sure where it was except on line and somehow
connected with LCHC).
My own limited experience is that learning a language outside of the context
of its use in locally organized activities in that language is
extra-ordinarily problematic. Perhaps, as David Ke suggests, because one has
to solve Plato's learning paradox. But my solution to that paradox is to
place it inside of culturally organized activity which presupposes it has
been solved, which is exactly what Tony cannot do.
I learned a lot more Russian in Moscow the first time we went than my wife
did, although once we were there with a newborn, she did a lot more learning
than I did. Why?
First time she was not allowed to work and only got out of the student role
when she got into a practicum journalism experience, but unfortunately from
the perspective of language learning it was at the English language
Newspaper, Moscow News. Made perfect sense in its way. Meantime, i was in
the middle of a group of Luria co-workers whose English was minimal, who had
serious work to do, who had to get me to understand and coordinate or risk
harm to someone. Never mind saying it just right,
just get what has to be said out there in a way that others can work with,
and over time, you improve from myriad and confusing sources of feedback.
Second time I spent most of my time reading over horrible translations of
thesis for a conference from Russian to English and fixing them within heavy
constraints while my wife had to be darn sure our two month old survived,
which required her to deal with a tough old nanny, curious Russian
pediatricians with ideas she did not love and had to argue with,
and the ability to elbow her way to hot water in a dorm full of folks with
sharp elbows and tongues.
Pushkin is said to have said that the best way to learn a foreign language
is in bed. That presupposes various linguistic and non-linguistic forms of
interaction with a fair amount of emotional infusion, but the idea seems
Wonder what Plato would have advised?
On Mon, May 24, 2010 at 5:35 PM, David Kellogg <firstname.lastname@example.org>wrote:
> Tony, David:
> Last night in my grad seminar, we discussed "the belly button is bigger
> than the belly". This is a Korean expression we use as shorthand to refer to
> a whole range of problems, from quite theoretical to very practical, which
> have in common the underlying difficulty that context is always richer, more
> complex, and more difficult to understand than any text which attempts to
> realize it even though when we present it in the form of a picture or a
> video or a Korean text it looks extremely straightforward.
> For example, when the teacher wants to teach something like "Hi, I'm
> Zeeto", the teacher needs to use a picture of Zeeto introducing himself to
> some non-Zeeto, Typically this involves getting the children's attention,
> giving them information (e.g. "This is Zeeto") and then checking
> understanding ("Who?"). Even if we break it up into very small utterances,
> the learning "belly button" is rather bigger than the teaching belly.
> The same problem happens when we want the children to repeat. (Now, YOU are
> Zeeto. Listen, Zeeto! "Hi, I'm Zeeto". Repeat, Zeeto!) and when we want to
> check understanding. (we end up saying things like "What did Zeeto say when
> he wanted to introduce himself to Julie?"). We are always left a little like
> the little Saint Augustine asking Saint Monica, 'Mommy, what does "mean"
> I suppose it all goes back to Plato's problem. The belly button problem is
> really all about the attempt to understand a more powerful system (context)
> with a less powerful one (text). And so too is the cognitivist approach to
> any quintessentially social phenomenon. The answer to "Who am I?" is really
> not "Well, who is asking the question?" but rather "Who wants to know and
> I think for that reason David Ki's response, which is basically to stand
> outside Tony's question in such a way that it unasks itself, is really the
> right one. But Tony probably wants something more heuristic, something that
> stands inside the question and explodes it.
> The two most common verbs a learner of Portuguese probably needs (and needs
> to distinguish) are "ser" and "estar". But they are neither things we do
> frequently nor things we rarely do and they are neither mental verbs nor
> action verbs. More, the all important distinction between them cannot be
> understood as any of the above.
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
> --- On Mon, 5/24/10, Tony Whitson <twhitson@UDel.Edu> wrote:
> From: Tony Whitson <twhitson@UDel.Edu>
> Subject: [xmca] Cognitivist theory & language learning
> To: email@example.com
> Date: Monday, May 24, 2010, 9:12 AM
> I'm using a variety of tools for learning Portuguese, including dubbed and
> subtitled movies as well as books written for instruction. In one of these,
> following a list of sixteen first-conjugation verbs, I find this helpful
> In order to learn these verbs, try to first memorize them by putting the
> verbs into lists or categories. Can you divide the above list into "things
> that I do often" and "things that I rarely do"? How about dividing the list
> into "action verbs" and "mental verbs"? Whatever categories you chose to
> organize the verbs, the important thing is that you find a way to process
> and arrange these new pieces of information in your brain. Once you have
> done this, it will be easier to retrieve the information later.
> (Source: Ferreira, Fernanda L. The Everything Learning Brazilian Portuguese
> Book: Speak, Write and Understand Portuguese in No Time. Avon, Mass.: Adams
> Media, 2007., p. 111)
> I see this as an extraordinarily clear and straightforward expression of a
> view of learning that I find quite common in education circles. I expect
> that I'll be using it as a clear example of wrong-headed thinking about
> Maybe others will find similar value in this example; but I'm also writing
> to ask if anyone has equally clear and succinct examples to share that could
> be used to show what's wrong with this, and how to understand learning more
> appropriately, instead ... things that would be clear and easily accessible
> for people in education for whom the cognitivist approach seems to be right?
> Muito obrigado,
> Tony Whitson
> UD School of Education
> NEWARK DE 19716
> "those who fail to reread
> are obliged to read the same story everywhere"
> -- Roland Barthes, S/Z (1970)
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