Tuesday, March 6, 2007

fossilization 1

I always felt that fossilization was only a literacy thing, however, as a long term resident in a foreign country I can see it in my own second language performance in speaking (and even listening, if that’s at all possible?!). I tend to rely a lot on standard set phrases or words that can be used in a multitude of situations. The more I rely on them, the harder it is to be creative in my language use.
We have a student here at the college whose fossilization is so strong, that he has begun making excuses for his inability. “English is so difficult.” “I didn’t learn it when I was young.” “I’m too old, too busy” etc… I guess that denial is part of what ingrains particular routines.
A person may even be totally aware that they are making the mistakes, but when it comes down to the crunch, they make the mistakes anyway, ‘cause it feels more comfortable…or they make the mistake and regret it afterwards, but when the time comes to use that language again, will make the same mistake over and over. I see myself doing this…
Yes, it is useful, to have set phrases to take out when the situation arises. That’s what a lot of audio lingual approaches focus upon. However, we do become over-reliant on these phrases, almost to the point where we ignore the situational context. Or we expect others to interpret or make sense of our babble, which often happens in a sympathetic environment, such as a SL situation. However, how many of you long term residents of a foreign country have discovered that the sympathy turns to impatience, when you continue to rely on the set number of formulaic expressions. And when the personal realization takes place, it becomes difficult to change, ‘cause the expressions have become fossilized.
Steven Mondy

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