Become Fluent in a Foreign Language by Using an Improved Technological Version of an Outdated Method

Volume 16
Issue 2
Michael Zock, Guy Lapalme, & Lih-Juang Fang
Speaking a language can be an overwhelming task. The message (what to say), its corresponding linguistic expression (how to say it) and sound form (say it, i.e. articulation) have to be determined practically on the fly. To allow for this, parts of the process, in general the mechanical aspects (sentence structures) are automated, that is, they are carried out without requiring attention allowing the speaker to focus on other more important aspects, for example, the message (meaning). Speaking is a skill which has to be learned, and this can be supported in various ways. We propose an enhanced, computerized version of a well-known method: pattern drills.While being highly regarded in the sixties, pattern drills (PD) have become unpopular since then. Despite certain shortcomings we do believe in their virtues, at least with regard to the memorization of basic structures and the acquisition of fluency, the skill to produce language at a ‘normal’ rate. Of course, the method has to be improved, and we will show here how this can be achieved. Unlike tapes or books, computers are open media, allowing for dynamic changes, taking users’ performances and preferences into account. Our drill-tutor, a small web application still in its prototype phase, allows for this. It is a free, electronic version of pattern drills, i.e. an exercise generator, open and adaptable to the users’ ever changing needs.