Less is more, or is it?
I was taught from a young age that the wise man is the one who observes and says very little. However, for foreign language learners I think it is quite the opposite, and the more they try to speak and express themselves orally the more they can practise and learn about oral interaction.
My current research is investigating the oral output prompted by interacting with an autonomous agent, and surprisingly I am not finding that the output varies from that of human-human interaction. There are days where participants are motivated and enthusiastic to interact and others where they provide monosyllabic answers.
Where I’m going with this, is that investigating learners interacting with a digital tool has demonstrated to me that in the classroom I often have an expectation of learners to constantly perform, and feel frustrated when they don’t willingly provide output when requested. I am learning that deliberate practice is perhaps not an effective method of language learning and adopting a more laissez-faire approach maybe more appropriate.
So, on the one hand we need learners to speak as often as possible, but on the other hand we can’t expect them to always be willing to speak. For me this highlights the value of human computer interaction (HCI) for language learning and demonstrates that we should lean more heavily on autonomous agents for speaking practise. They provide limitless opportunities, never tire and can be used when learners feel they want to speak, not when they have to.