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18 SHOFAR Summer 1996 Vol. 14, No.4 ACQIDSITION THEORY AND USABLE HEBREWl by Zev bar-Lev With a Ph.D. in linguistics from Indiana University (1969), Zev bar-Lev has taught at Syracuse University, Ben-Gurion University in the Negev, and San Diego State University. He has published in several fields oflinguistics and for the last decade has been developing and teaching his innovative method for foreign-language teaching. Introduction The intent of this article is to note certain implications, especially for Hebrew, ofan innovative method for foreign-language teaching, ..Sheltered Initiation Language Learning" (SILL).2 The implications to be proposed are of two kinds: first, relating to the general goals of language teaching, and second, relating to specific techniques of the method, especially as related to imparting "usable" abilities in Hebrew: the ability to speak and interact creatively and spontaneously. But we will begin with a discussion of language acquisition and foreign-language teaching methods, as a necessary background and for its own interest. lThis article is a revised version of a paper presented at the founding conference of the Western Jewish Studies Association, 1995. 2Zev bar-Lev, "Pre-Hebrew," Bulletin ofHigher Hebrew Education, Vol. 4, No.2 (Spring 1991): "Innovations for the 'Other' Teacher," Shofar, Vol. 9, No.3 (Spring 1991): "Two Innovations for Teaching Tones," journal of Chinese Language Teachers Association, No. 10 (1991): "Two Innovations for Teaching Arabic," journal of Arabic Language Teachers Association, No. 24 (1991): "Sheltered-Initiation Language Learning," Applied Language Learning, Vol. 4, No. 1-2 (1993): "An Unnatural Approach,"Mid-Atlanticjourru:zl ofForeignLanguage Pedagogy, Vol. 2 (1994): "Spontaneity in Elementary Arabic," in Mahmoud elBatal , ed., Teaching Arabic as a Second Language (1995). Acquisition Theory and Usable Hebrew 19 SIll is a new method, as yet little known. It has been recognized as "heretical" in a review3 that notes: "SIll is the creation of Zev bar-Lev of San Diego State University. In its startling methodological assumptions, instructional procedures, and degree of success, it presents a bold challenge to prevalent theory. . . . Future theories of formal language learning will have to account for the manifest success of SIll." SIll is, first and foremost, the method behind the three (sometimes four) -semester program in Hebrew at SDSU. It has also been used for teaching Spanish, Russian, and Arabic, by teachers of these languages. In . all cases, teachers are "trained" within an hour or so. Both teachers and observers, as well as students, are more or less unanimously enthusiastic about the speaking confidence that the method imparts. To further prove the versatility of the method, I have used it to teach multi-language courses, including a course at SDSU which is recommended for LearningDisabled students (in which all students learn to speak on a basic level in three-four languages) and a one-session, three-hour workshop, "Learn Any Language," which I have given monthly at the local Learning Annex for over a year. In foreign-language teaching, spontaneity and creativity were once relegated to the advanced level, beyond curriculum; in the current State of the Art, they are assumed to be developed at "Intermediate" level and are definitely part of the goal of the curriculum itself. SIll takes this development the remaining step further, in demanding and developing spontaneity and creativity from the very first hours of curriculum. The computer term (in robotics and simulations) "real time," referring to true interactivity (without "time-outs") is particularly applicable: while we would not want to define speaking ability in words per minute, we would want to require true interaction, where the learner truly participates, without resorting to outside aids while speaking. SIll is apparently unique in requiring and imparting the ability to speak spontaneously and creatively from the very beginning of curriculum, rather than as later outcomes. Discussion ofmethodologyusually involves potential"paradigm shift," including a shift in goals, and methods spread as teachers are attracted to try them out because of failures of current methods. As noted, SIll has been recognized for its unusual contribution to speaking confidence and 3Robert Blair, "Innovative Methods," in Marianne Celce-Murcia, Teaching ofEnglish as a Second or ForeigrlLanguage, 2nd ed. (Newbury, 199i). See also: Col. Wesley Groesbeck, "Our Burgeoning Linguistic...


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