As a language teacher and linguist I’m shocked and disappointed with the general way Te Reo is taught to adults.
A favourite game of one teacher in a Te Reo learning program on Maori TV is to get the students to guess at answers. This is known in teaching circles as ‘guess what’s in the teacher’s mind?’ It’s also known in teaching circles that this is not a good way to teach. Another technique the same teacher uses is to present two or more items and ask the students to guess which one is correct. Again, it is a big no no to do this. You don’t present examples of wrong language to a student.
The reason these are bad techniques is that they try to get students to analyse and intellectualise. And quite often teachers who encourage this are asking students to analyse and intellectualise and memorise grammar. I’ve written before about why grammar-based learning is a bad idea.
Better by far is to help the student to the point where the correct answer simply ‘feels’ right. There is no need to analyse; the human brain does this by itself. We are hardwired to acquire languages – it’s just a matter of proper teaching/learning technique.
The best techniques give students substitution drills, minimal pairs where needed and plenty of parrot practice. It’s the parrot practice where the brain really absorbs grammar all by itself without the student even knowing. The student shouldn’t be wasting time pondering and guessing. It’s really painful for me to watch these shows on TV where the student is looking confused and defeated because they can’t produce the “correct” answer. Language learning can be joyful communication if it’s done right.
Unfortunately if you go into any New Zealand library and look at the shelf for teaching Te Reo, nine out of ten books are grammar-based rather than using communicative techniques. I have no idea why NZ lags behind the rest of the world in this respect.
The survival of Te Reo needs this whole culture of bad teaching to change. I urge the industry to adopt best practice. I urge the industry to do the studies. Find out for yourselves which methods work and which don’t. You may be surprised by the answers.
PS. One more thing. Macrons. Dumb macrons.
We Need to Kick the Macron.
Maori macrons were invented before the rise of computers. Maybe they made sense then, maybe.
But they make no sense now.
Even the word Maori should be written with a macron on the a. How many of us have the font installed or can switch between fonts?
If we really want to promote Te Reo an awareness of proper pronunciation is essential. Typing Maaori and Taamaki, typing the extra letter instead of a macron would help enormously.
Time for a change.
Vote to kick the macron.