How far should ‘learning by heart’ technique extend in the process of learning a foreign language?
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I have a confession to make – I rarely make use of it. But today I had a stressful (for me) debate which made me react defensively..and give it a thought. Do I miss something worthwhile there? Should I rely more on this *conservative* method, which was used on me and (maybe) even worked?…
Important: the debate was around a certain point: learning whole texts by heart.
Arguments put forward by my opponents: it serves the basis for vocabulary building, phrases and chunks are remembered as those *memorized* parts of the text and may in future come out when necessary. Learners should learn by heart paragraphs of text, fullstop.The first thing that comes into my mind is that I am a bad teacher who has gone too far with communicative approach and fancy tech and dogme style teaching, that let the important and proven to be working methods slip away. Neglected. Ignored.
One of the opponents is a successful language learner who drew from personal positive experience. The opinion of this person is not professional but valuable and the one to be trusted, absolutely.
My arguments: every task should bear a meaning and serve a short-term objective and a possible long-term goal. Texts are undoubtedly an endless source of various kinds of activities. I could also somehow put up with a widely-used task type – writing own essay, then learning it by heart (I’ve seen it done in many schools, though I don’t practice it myself). In this case learning a two-page length text is not the ultimate goal, the ultimate goal to be achieved is expressing an idea in written form. You will not *probably* remember phrases from this essay for the reason that you actually learnt them, but because you first had had to consciously put them down, as rendering the idea you had intended to. And anyway you’ve practised lots before.
Basically, I don’t believe in ‘learning by heart’ as a separate teaching method to deal with lexis. I feel seriously confused and ashame and really caught off guard here.
I remember the torture of it when I had to learn a whole file of 30 topics by heart. With little to no chance to make a mistake. Won’t remember a thing now. ‘London is the capital of Great Britain” – yes, that’s pretty much what stays forever.
Note: we’re speaking of teens!
I”m in favour of learning poems, and maybe even a piece of outstanding prose.
Please, share your viewpoint!
How do you approach this issue? Do you set a task to learn by heart? What can be a subject to that? What’s your opinion of learning texts?…