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LINGUISTICS ACROSS CULTURES

The struggle to apply to the problems of foreign language learning the new
views of language arising out of structural analyses has served to shift the
focus of 1st attention methods and techniques of teaching to the basis on
which to build these materials.
A child in learning his native language has learned to attend to (receptively
and productively) the particular contrasts that function as signals in that
language; he has learned to ignore all those features that do not so
function. He has developed a special set of blind spots that prevent him
from responding to features that do not constitute the contrastive signals of
his native language. Learning a 2 nd language constitutes a very different
task from learning the 1st lge. The basic problems arise not out of any
essential difficulty in the features of the new lge themselves but primarily
out of the special set created by the first lge habits.
Roberto Lado was the first to grasp the significance of these basic facts for
the building of efficient valid measures of achievement and progress in
mastering a foreign language.
This is a fairly new field of applied linguistics and the analysis of culture,
namely the comparison of any two languages and cultures to discover and
describe the problems that the speakers of 1 of the languages will have in
learning the other. The results of such comparisons have proved of
fundamental value for the preparation of teaching materials, tests, and
language learning experiments. Foreign language teachers who understand
this field will acquire insights and tools for evaluating the language and
culture content of textbooks and tests, etc. The assumption is that we can
predict and describe the patterns that will cause difficulty in learning, and
those that will not cause difficulty, by comparing systematically the
language and culture of the student.
SIGNIFICANCE FOR TEACHING
The teacher of foreign languages may wonder why he has to go through the
painful business of comparing languages. Is it not his responsibility simply to
teach of foreign language? Is it not enough that he should know that foreign
language?
Not if our assumption is correct. We assume that the student who comes in
contact with a foreign language will find some features of it quite easy and
others extremely difficult. Those elements that are similar to his native
language will be simple for him, and those elements that are different will
be difficult. The native lge of the students will know better what the real
learning problems are and can better provide for teaching them. He gains an
insight into the linguistic problems involved that cant easily be achieved
otherwise.