Birds, Bees, And Switches Essay

4586 WordsJan 17, 201219 Pages
Birds, bees, and switches: psycholinguistic issues 1967-2017 Jean Aitchison This article derives from a paper given at the IATEFL Silver Jubilee Seminar in February 1992. Speakers were invited to select a theme, in this case the learner, consider developments over the last twenty-five years and predict what might be the issues of the next twenty-five. The article selects three important psycholinguistic ideas, one from the 1960s (the ‘bees‘ of the title), one from the 1970s (‘birds’), and one from the 1980s (‘switches’), and discusses their value for ELT. It then makes a number of predictions for the future. Introduction In the last quarter century, two minor revolutions have swept across the language learning-teaching world, one originating in academic linguistics, the other within TEFL. In linguistics, the once obscure field of psycholinguistics has developed into an important branch of the subject perhaps not surprisingly, since its task is to probe into the development, production, and comprehension of language. In the realm of TEFL, the big change has come in the increasing professionalism of those involved in it. These new professionals realize they need to know about recent psycholinguistic findings which affect the learning-teaching process. But the new breed of TEFL teachers face a problem. They have limited time, and academic theories frequently get abandoned: ‘The progress of science is strewn, like an ancient desert trail, with the bleached skeletons of discarded theories which once seemed to possess eternal life’, as Arthur Koestler once remarked. So teachers need guidance, to know which theories are likely to prove useful, and which not. In this paper, I have selected three important psycholinguistic ideas from the last quarter century, one from the 1960s (the ‘bees’ of the title), one from the 1970s (‘birds’), and one from the 1980s

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