Academic journal article Canadian Slavonic Papers

The Poetic Text in Teaching a Foreign Language

Academic journal article Canadian Slavonic Papers

The Poetic Text in Teaching a Foreign Language

Article excerpt

The purpose of teaching/learning a foreign language can be described as the shaping of skills that enable learners to participate actively in a foreign community and its sociocultural reality. Ideally, the process involves mastering the ability to use a language as native speakers do it. Fluent communication is not limited to merely the transfer of information; it must also display an understanding of language behaviour. Fluency, moreover, involves the ability to think fluently in a foreign language. Such goals may be achieved with the assistance of didactic methods informed by both communication theory and cognitive linguistics theory.

Communication theory treats language not merely as a set of rules that describe how to create correct sentences, but rather as a tool that serves interpersonal communication. Language, therefore, should be described in terms of speech acts that fulfil certain pragmatic intentions of the speaker. These speech acts have a certain structure and refer to certain topics and notions. The application of communication theory to the teaching of foreign languages has resulted in an approach that emphasizes the shaping of communicative competence. Teaching methods based on communication theory focus on covering the broadest possible range of language functions (i.e., language behaviours, illocutionary acts) and, perhaps more importantly, on the various forms of articulation that fulfill these functions.

Communication theory opposes the structural and systematic approach, which perceives language as a set of rules for building correct sentences. This results in a different understanding of the organization of teaching/learning material: "Instead of classic lessons about the accusative case or about the subjunctive mood, we have in books such lessons that [show how to] express a request or a probability. A modern teacher replaces classic teaching schemes, e.g., several noun declensions, with new schemes of several methods for expressing a request" (Martyniuk 1996: 42).

It seems, however, that well-designed communicative acting also acknowledges the fact that teaching fluency in a language should not become idealized, as with so-called communication solutions, but must take into account the whole range of possible solutions. In other words, teaching competence in a language must be viewed as the 'shaping the skills of foreign language usage, as they are used by native, authentic speakers.' It must be associated with the postulate of teaching in natural and genuine language conditions with authentic texts (Martyniuk 1996, 1997; Mazur 1996).

Cognitive linguistics theory also opposes structural theories, especially those that are transformational and generative. Cognitive linguistics views language as structured on thought. Cognitive grammar is a model of language based on people's activity, or in other words, on how people express thoughts and understand/interpret utterances. The basis of cognitive linguistics is the postulate that language is symbolic and that this symbolic nature applies to several linguistic areas, such as phonetics, morphology, syntax, vocabulary and pragmatics. The central core of language is not, therefore, its structure but its meaning. What is more, boundaries between language elements are not strict. Apart from prototypic elements there are also other phenomena, most of which occur in the language of real life. These, even in the shape of metaphoric extensions of prototypic interpretations, constitute true language and occur naturally during the process of communication. secondly, it is important to consider the fact that metaphor-relegated until recently to the 'suburbs' of language- lies at the core of commonality among languages. It is a tool that helps learners familiarize themselves with foreign language structures, influencing one's way of perceiving and thinking in a given language. Every idea has a metaphoric nature, therefore its meaning can be grasped as a system of semantics. …

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