Technology: Lesson 3
What are Chunks and Scripts?
In this lesson we look at ways in which technology has the potential to help students learn languages in “chunks” and “scripts”. Language researchers suggest that acquisition is enhanced when we learn vocabulary in small chunks. That is to say, instead of learning a long list of isolated words, we retain vocabulary better when we learn the small phrases that combine several words (e.g., “así es que,” “je ne sais pas,” “you want fries with that” ).
Similarly, research suggests that we retain vocabulary better when we learn the typical dialogs (or scripts) that people follow in everyday exchanges. For example, when someone asks “How are you doing?” we all expect the answer “Fine, thanks.” It is just part of the normal script that we follow and when we deviate from the script, it throws people off.
Language problems can be related to a learner’s lack of knowing the exchanges that go on among native speakers. As you watch this video, think of your own experiences when you have learned to follow a script or chunk in a foreign language. We will then tie this into how technology can assist learners in this area.
Prof. Kelm goes to the bakery in Latin America.
Chunks and Scripts in Context
As we introduce the use of technology in the teaching of chunks and scripts, it might be helpful to explain the difference between context, which was presented in the previous lesson, and chunks and scripts, that are presented in this lesson. They are related. However, by context we refer to the environment in which we use language (e.g., we understand the word fire truck when we hear sirens and see flames). Chunks and scripts are more related to the way that speech is put together, (e.g., in the context of a fire, we may hear people say “move on over” or “pull over to the right”). Context is background setting while chunks and scripts show how speakers put information together in meaningful units.
Let’s view a second video clip that illustrates this idea of scripts. The important aspect demonstrated in the clip is that we may actually “know” all of the vocabulary words that are used in a foreign language, but we may still not understand the phrase that is spoken to us because we were not prepared for the dialog or script that native speakers use.
Prof. Kelm at the checkout line in the supermarket.
Chunks and Scripts in the Language Classroom
Among the challenges and limitations of a traditional classroom is the problem that language learning often focuses on isolated parts that become detached from real speech. The knowledge of chunks and scripts brings learners back to real
communication. The use of multimedia helps expose students to these authentic speech exchanges. We are going to see two examples of this. First is a student-created blog for learners of Portuguese called É isso aí, and the second is an online video series of Portuguese lessons called Conversa brasileira. Both illustrate the use of chunks and scripts.
Chunks and Scripts in Student Blogs
The blog of student projects called É isso aí is an interesting example of how technology can be used to help students build language skills via chunks and scripts. The blog is designed for intermediate and advanced students who are functional, but still developing in their language skills. As part of their course activities, the students are given ten topics to focus on (travel, animals, hobbies, relationships, food, staying in shape, society, children, youth, and elderly).Then students follow these steps to engage with the topics, ultimately creating their own video skits to add to the blog:
1. As a primer, students first write a brief paper on the topics, which helps to focus on related vocabulary and correct form.
2. Next students study some of the video clips from Portuguese Communication Exercises where the Brazilians are discussing related topics.
3. Then students review the video skits that other students from previous semesters have added to the blog.
4. Finally, students record their own video skits to add to the blog. During this fourth phase, students write the script for their skit, perform and record the skit, digitize and edit the recording, and then add their script and written analysis of the project in the blogs comments section.
The following demonstration video clip describes the format of the É isso aí blog site. While viewing, focus your attention on how much the students are actually producing in order to complete the blog video assignment.
Demonstration of the student project blog É isso aí.
One of the interesting aspects of the use of technology in this site is how seamless the process is for the students. That is to say, the students do not really pay attention to the fact that technology is being used. They simply put it all together: write, record, digitize, transcribe, and post. As to chunks and scripts, there is a conscious effort on the students’ part to incorporate specific language items into their recordings. For example, here is an English translation (originally in Portuguese) of one comment:
“Grammar Notes: In this dialog we used the words pra and pro in place of para a and para o. Although it may not be totally grammatically correct in formal writing, these reduced forms are more common in less formal writing (such as email, etc.) and in oral speech.”
It is impressive to see that their awareness of a certain form has been incorporated into the recorded skit. Students have made an attempt to use the chunks that they have noticed.
Learning Chunks and Scripts with Video
Research in second language acquisition points to concepts called “narrow listening” (Krashen, 1996) and “narrow reading” (Krashen, 2004), which refer to the benefits found in studying a small amount of language in great detail, as compared to “broad listening,” which would refer to listening to large amounts of language superficially. That is to say, learners benefit more, for example, from 60 minutes of studying a two-minute recording in detail than they would to listen to a 60-minute program just one time.
This concept applies to our use of video and audio in language teaching. Students generally benefit more from an in-depth analysis of a small sample of language than they would from a large amount that is glossed over. Today’s technologies allow us to do more narrow listening and detailed analysis because video and audio are so much more accessible than they used to be. And as related to chunks and scripts, it is during this analysis that students become consciously aware of how native speakers use their language, including the short phrases, asides, clarifications, questions, turn-taking indicators, etc.
This next demonstration introduces online video materials entitled Conversa brasileira, a compilation of video clips where people interact with each other in natural scenarios. In these clips students are exposed to the way that Brazilians exchange information, including the little asides, pauses, repetitions, and clarifications that go on. The actual video scenarios are brief, usually around 2-3 minutes in length. The video clips also give students access to transcriptions, translations, commentary, pdf files, and discussion blogs, all to provide for narrow listening.
Prof. Kelm describes the use of video in language teaching from the site called Conversa brasileira.
[Module Instructor Orlando R. Kelm. ] 2010. [Technology]. In Foreign Language Teaching Methods. Carl Blyth, Editor. Texas Language Technology Center, University of Texas at Austin. http://coerll.utexas.edu
The material is provided free of charge for those that wish to study it.
How ever a no obligation exam is available at the end of this module.