Re: [xmca] B.V. Belyayev

From: Phil Chappell <philchappell who-is-at>
Date: Wed Apr 11 2007 - 17:37:37 PDT

Hi David et. al.,

My exposure to Belyayev's work is through A.A. Leontiev's writings,
again on psychology and language learning (and teaching). It's
interesting that the two areas you've picked up on, David, are ones
that AA Leontiev also focuses on. In terms of thinking and language,
AAL quotes Belyayev from a posthumously released essay where B argues
that "...the whole process of language teaching is to be envisaged as
the switching of the student's thinking from one language to
another" (1). B is then quoted as claiming that mastery of a foreign
language is characterised by direct thinking in the foreign language,
which "...reveals specific characteristics..." and is distinct from
thinking in L1. B argues that teachers should assist a learner to
develop a different way of thinking in the foreign language. AAL then
undertakes a lengthy discussion on thought and word/thinking and
speaking leaning heavily on Vygotsky's work (2). AAL concludes (this
is late 1970's) the idea of thinking in a foreign language is
"extremely progressive" but cautions against viewing the foreign
language as merely codifying a thought - "...speech is a creative
intellectual activity, included in the overall system of man's (sic)
mental and other activities. It is the completion of a cognitive
task...language can be one of the auxiliaries contributing to its
realisation"...(3). More argument against the Chomskian line of thought?

AAL also quotes B in an interesting discussion on language pedagogy,
bringing Galperin into the arena (theory of mental acts) with the
notion of "programmed learning". Arguing against the reductionism
brought on in the US by applying Skinnerian principles of S-R to
programmed learning, as well as in the USSR where teaching knowledge
over mastery of a foreign language was at that time still in favour,
AAL claims "one cannot but agree with B.V. Belyayev that programmed
teaching is not a method but a procedure; it is not a theoretical
concept of teaching, which explains why it is reaching out towards a
legitimate psychology of teaching" (4).

Thanks for bringing Belyayev (that's how AA Leontiev spelled it) and
his work out in the open here - hopefully we can get access to some
more texts.



1) B.V. Belyayev, "Recent work in the psychology of language
learning", in The Psychological and Psycholinguistic Problems of
Acquiring and Mastering a New Language", Moscow State University
Press, 1969, pp. 145, 151, 152, 153

2) L.S Vygotsky, Selected Psychological Studies, RSFSR Academy of
Pedagogical Science Press, 1956, pp. 380-381

3) A.A Leontiev, Psychology and the Language Learning Process,
Pergamon Press, 1981, p. 109

4) AAL pp. 47-48

On 12/04/2007, at 9:28 AM, David Kellogg wrote:

> Belyayev (Belaev?) did publish between 1940 and 1961. His book "The
> Psychology of Teaching Foreign Languages" was published as a series
> of essays in Russian by the State Educational Publishing House of
> the Ministry of Education of the RSFSR in 1959. Here are some
> snippets from the English version (1963):
> (p. 2) "It is possible and ncessary to distinguish two basic
> aspects of teaching--education and instruction. In practice neither
> exists without the other. When giving instruction the teacher is
> simultaneously educating and vice versa. In practice education and
> instruction form an organic unity, but education and instruction
> must be distinguished theoretically. Education must be understood
> as sassisting the development of the pupils while instruction
> consists of enriching them with theoretical knowledge and with
> practical skills and abilities.
> "A teacher can only educate his pupils successfully and
> correctly--i.e. assist the development of their intelligence and
> feelings, will and character--if he knows what intellgence and
> feelings, will and character are and if he knows precisely what
> stages the pupils pass through in their psychological
> development." (p. 3)
> p. 28: "A person's speech (i.e. the actual use of language in
> order to communicate cannot possibly understood as a habit (...)
> Speech habits do of course exist, but a person's speech is never
> subsumed by these habits being always a conscious and creative
> activity."
> The reason I find this a more INCISIVE critique than Chomsky's
> famous review of Verbal Behavior is that Chomsky does not (and
> cannot) include consciousness as an element in creativity, which he
> holds is really a function of our biological endowment.
> But for Vygotskyans consciousness and cultural transmission (the
> other essential factor in accounting for the complexity of
> grammatical structure) are essentially the same phenomenon viewed
> from two different angles, the one psychological and the other
> historical.
> p. 49:
> "Are any psychological changes involved in the use of a foreign
> language in place of the native language? This question has great
> theoretical and practical importance. It has a close connection
> with the psychological analysis of thought and speech, which cannot
> yet be considered to have been conducted sufficiently widely and
> deeply. And in its practical implications the question is closely
> linked with the problem of how to teach languages.
> "In investigating the psychology of thinking in a foreign
> language we take it as a principle that language and thought are
> directly linked to each other and form an indissoluble whole. This
> gives an interesting slant to the question whether a person's
> thinking has the same character when he uses a foreign language as
> when he uses his own, or whether it is somehow modified."
> Belyayev then undertakes a discussion of whether concepts exist
> in the external world very similar to what Martin and I were doing
> not too long ago. He decides that only concepts at the extreme end
> of "object relatedness" are independent of mediated pychological
> processes and there are no "external" concepts.
> But he argues on the basis of a word association experiment he
> argues that logical operations such as association and
> generalization are independent of language once the mediating link
> of translation to the native language have been removed; they exist
> in all languages, and are equally accessible through education.
> This is a very strongly egalitarian and anti-relativist position,
> similar to what Vygotsky and Luria were arguing in their Uzbek
> work. (He is not arguing that languages are functionally equivalent
> in context; he is arguing for their functional equivalence across
> contexts!)
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
> ---------------------------------
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