Types of classes

Deasbaid air cùrsaichean chànain amsaa. / Anything about language courses etc.
Níall Beag
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Types of classes

Unread post by Níall Beag » Wed Jan 04, 2012 7:53 pm

There's a whole host of classes out there for the potential learner. So what are these different methods all about?

Ùlpan is without doubt the biggest method in Scotland at the moment. It says it's based on the "successful" Welsh and Israeli courses, but no-one's ever given an objective measure of the "success" in either country. The literature in Wales suggests the course is more useful for false beginners than true beginners. Having followed the Wlpan Welsh syllabus myself, I'd agree. My classmates were very confused by certain structures which I had no problem with... because they were similar to structures in Gaelic. So I succeeded as a false beginner. Similarly, the guy who wrote the Ùlpan Gaelic course did so because he was impressed with the Welsh course when he took it. But unless I'm very much mistaken, he (like myself) had already studied Gaelic by this point, so was already comfortable with the hardest concepts of the language.

The classes are based on phrases, and there's a lot of repetition, substitution and question and answer. There is minimal explanation of grammatical concepts -- hence why it appears to be better for false beginners: if you've learned the concepts consciously, but not done enough practice, this one focuses on using them

Total Immersion Plus (TIP)
Popular in Cape Breton, this is spearheaded by Finlay MacLeod (formerly TAIC (formerly CNSA), now Moray Language Institute).
As I understand it, the course is based on two methodologies: Total Physical Response (TPR) and the Natural Method.
Both TPR and the Natural Method are based heavily on the idea of "hear first, speak later". The Natural Method takes this to the extreme -- people just keep talking to you and you spontaneously start understanding, then eventually speaking.
TPR takes the idea that people will learn to understand better when they're engaged in physical activities, interacting with the language. So you start off being told to stand up, sit down, and then you start getting told to open windows, shut doors etc; put various things on your head. When the student is ready, he can start giving other students commands. The most common criticism of TPR is that it focuses on "imperatives" (=commands) and leaves the learner a little bit too direct in his language-- rude, even.
TIP takes this idea on and tries to have the learner do all sorts of tasks.

Historically, the Natural Method hasn't really been accused of not working, but it has been criticised for taking a long, long time.

Gaelic for Speakers of Other Languages (GSOL)
Just launched by the Murray International Language Centre, the GSOL methodology is based on the Communicative Approach methodology popular in the EFL/ESOL world (English as a Foreign Language/English for Speakers of Other Languages).
The communicative approach takes some of its cues from the same sources as TIP. It is based on the idea that we learn by being immersed in the language, and by communicating through, so there is no use of the students' native language in the class. The starting point is to present greetings and pleasantries and basic grammar by demonstration, so you're initial lesson as a complete beginner would typically be "Hello" (hello) "My name is <teacher>. What is your name?" (My name is <student>.) Holding toy car: "This is a car. What is this?" (This is a car). In a communicative approach class for Finnish, that was pretty much all we did in the first hour. (Although there was about half-a-dozen "this is a ..." items -- keys, plane etc.)
The communicative approach does actively present grammar, but this is all done through the target language, so can be quite confusing, and it limits how much grammar can be presented at once.

Other classes
Other classes don't really subscribe to clear identifiable methods like these, so it's hard to describe them. Some tend to be very grammar-heavy, some are quite academic and dry. Some have lots of practice, some have little practice. Some use Gaelic only, others explain stuff in English.

About your reviewer (me)
I've previously studied several languages: I have completed degree-level study of French and Spanish (and of English grammar for English speakers). I've also learned passable Italian and Catalan, as well as the very beginnings of Welsh, German, Polish, Russian and Japanese.
I'm currently studying the second year of the Sabhal Mòr Ostaig's Gaelic-medium studies scheme, having taken several short courses in the language and teaching myself.
I got a CELTA certificate as a communicative approach TEFL/TESOL teacher in 2007 and taught in Spain for a 6-month career break. I took up teaching again last spring, and am currently teaching part-time (English and Spanish) to help finance my studies.

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Re: Types of classes

Unread post by GunChleoc » Mon Jan 09, 2012 3:39 pm

I found personally that a mix of methods works best for me. So, if what you have available in your area is an immersion or interactive course without grammar, for example, you could then supplement it by reading up on the grammar and asking questions here.

I have attended courses with the Schottisch-Gaelisch.de people, which are accessible to those living in Germany. They are a mix of grammar explanations through the medium of German, phrases and conversation excercises, and you also get pronunciation training - a good mix IMO. They give you both an understanding of the grammar and an opportunity to practice and to pick up important vocabulary.

I have also done the Cursa Adhartais with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, which is the follow-up of An Cùrsa Inntrigidh. Grammar explanations in English, everything else in Gaelic. Comes with audio files with listening, speaking and grammar excersices, and also written excercises. It was my first opportunity to speak Gaelic regularly, even if only for 1 hour a week on the phone. We had written material to prepare the excercises for the phone classes, but the teacher also deviated from them if there was an opportunity to get a good conversation going.
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