CHAPTER V

GRADATION OF THE LANGUAGE OF TEACHING MATERIALS

T. Pedagogica1 Bases of Gradation

P. Student Development and Interest

Q. Functionary Mastery of Language

U. Gradable Elements of Language

P. Letters of the Alphabet and spelling

`. Letters of the Alphabet

@Michael West gives a tab1e showing the relative commonness of the letters of the alphabet in the commonest English words:1

First hundred works

A, M, S, D, B,

E, 0, T, H, N, R, W, I, L, Y, U, G, C, K, V, P

F,

(Not found, j, q, x, z)

First two hundred words

B, P,

E, O, A, T, H, N, L, R, I, S, W, U, D, M, Y, F, G, C, K, V, J

(Not found, q, x, z)

First five hundred words

B, K, Q,

E, O, A, R, T, N, L, I, S, H, D, U, W, M, G, C, F, Y, P, VCX, J

(Not found, z)

This factor would not apply to children who are familiar with all or nearly all the letters of the alphabet, which would be the case with those who have studied Romaji.

 

a. Spelling

@Another gradable element is spelling,\beginning with the more common and going on to less common combinations of letters. But the wisdom of laying emphasis on this factor at any sacrifice of gradation of vocabulary is very questionable. In fact, if one began with more common words and went on to less common words, one would naturally teach the more common forms of spelling, at least from the point of frequency lists.

Q. Vocabulary

@Vocabulary is not only gradable, but forms one of the main factors in gradation.

R. Construction Types

@Construction types are gradable, and E.L. Thorndike's list published in 1927 in the Columbia University publication, The Teachers' College Record, has the relative frequency of the constructions marked from 9 to 1 according to the degree of frequency, 9 showing the highest and 1 the lowest rate.2

 

@A few illustrations may show what construction types are. A participial phrase, for example, is a construction type:gLooking out of the window, Henry caught sight of his little brother climbing a tree." In the preceding sentence, Henry caught sight of his little brother climbing a tree is not only the main sentence but a construction type, that is to say, it follows a particular type of construction, which might be further divided into Henry caught sight of his little brother and climbing a tree. What is expressed by means of a participia phrase may be expressed by another construction type: Looking out of the window by As Henry was looking out of the window . Construction types in the form of phrases or clauses may be classified into noun, adjective, and adverb phrases and clauses, according to their functions in particular contexts.

S. Sounds of speech

It is possible to grade the sounds of speech according to the degree of difficulty, according to their relative frequency of occurrence, or by taking the sounds that can be taught by analogy with those occurring in Japanese first and then going on to those that cannot be so taught. Another consideration would be to take single sounds first and then to study sound clusters, beginning with easier and going on to more difficult sounds. Sound clusters are combinations of sounds that are adjacent to each other. For example: clusterCbreathes.

V. Factors Involved in Gradation

P. Vocabulary selection or Control

`. Frequency Lists

@Anyone trying to approach the subject of English teaching efficiently and scientifically would readily arrive at the need of teaching words which would be of the greatest practical use to the students. What then are the most useful words? Obviously those words which the students would come in contact with most frequently. A frequency list, therefore, is a list of words showing which words in a certain language occur most frequently, which less frequently, and which still less frequently, and so on, as a result of examining written matter of various types. The purpose of such a list is to work toward elimination of meaning less or wasteful effort in the teaching and learning processes.

a. Types of Gradation

    (1) Progressive Gradation

    Progressive gradation may be illustrated by the following dia-gram:

    @@

    @In such a system of grading one begins with the word with the biggest word-count, takes the next commonest, and then the next commonest, and so forth. In practice such a progression is quite impossible.

    (2) Plateau or Zonal Gradation

    Plateau or zonal gradation may be illustrated by the following diagrams:

    @@

    @In such a system of grading the commonest 500, 600 (or whatever the number might be) words words are taken from a vocabulary count, and the vocabulary taught is limited, though not with absolute strictness, to the particular range. In the next stage, another 500 or 600 words are added, the process continuing until the student has reached a stage, after five or six years, in which he can dispose himself of such a process without loss in the learning proceaa.

    @In the view of Harold Palmer, Basic Englishgis nothing other than an exceptionally long plateau containing exceptionally little material."5 He adds:gThe scheme of Basic English suggests that the long plateau, instead of being unwelcome or accidental, or even tolerated as a disagreeable necessity, is a thing to be designed, to be aimed at, to be looked upon as a necessary phase".

     

b. Ranges of Degrees of Utility

@Faucett and Maki's book, A study of English Word-Values Statistically Determined, already referred to, classifies words into four categories, and regards

    (1) words from 1 to 500 as indispensable

    (2) words from 501 to 2000 as essential

    (3) words from 2001 to 5000 as useful

    (4) words from 5001 up as special

This description is not to be taken too precisely, since vocabulary is not watertight.

@It is interesting to note that over 75% of the words studied as regards frequency of occurrence comprise the 2,000 commonest words, according to the same source.

@Michael West tells us that Bengali boys in an average class can acquire a vocabulary of 5,000 words within about six years or less and that within this vocabulary practically all non-technical matter can be written by rewording a few phrases.6 West tells us further thatgwith a vocabulary of 100 words it is possible to begin to tell stories; with 300 words story-telling is easy, and with 400 words it is possible to tell long stories without introducing any new words outside the 400".7

 

@Harold Palmer says on the basis of research and experimentation thatgof all possible radii that might be selected to form the basis of some sort ofestandardized text-simplification', the 3000 word radius is likely to prove the most suitableh.

He adds,gIt provides a liberal vocabulary meeting with all ordinary requirements, without however being unduly voluminous. It proved to be almost ideally suitable for the simplifying of The Gold Bugh.8 In the footnote be says,gThis same radius was used subsequently as the basis of simplifying other texts of a very different nature, and it proved equally suitable for these."

 

It is interesting to note that Longmans Simplified English Series 9 is a collection of well-known English novels and stories done within a word-range of merely 1,500 to 2,000 words. According to Palmer it is possible to simplify stories within a mere 1,200-word radius, but the results hardly justified the effort. At any rate, it is significant that vocabulary selection or control has come to be accepted as an essential part of a foreign language program, and that it has a very important role. If students, on reading a story in a simplified form, should wish to read the original, that is no reason for running down vocabulary control\a thing that has been done by a few teachers. Rather, that is all the more reason why they should be introduced to simplified matter, because such matter may and does act as a stimulus for further reading.

 

Q. Non-Collocational and Collocational word Groups

 

WDPitfalls in Gradation

P. over-Simplification

@It is possible to go too far in the matter of simplification. If carried too far, it may result in unnatural or unidiomatic English or in making the matter more difficult through lack of words.

`DUnnatural English

@Text Simplification entails something more than the substitution of a word or phrase for another word or. phrase. If badly done, a simplified text may sound awkward and un-English. A text simplifier must take into account the fact that an expression, though composed of common words within a certain vocabulary range, may in itself be akward and unnatural.

aDDifficulty Caused through Lack of Words

@If one tried to do with a vocabulary that was too limited for expressing certain things, it might result in making the text more difficult to understand, is a warning note sounded by Palmer in the book already quoted, namely, The Grading and Simplifying of Literary Material. It would be foolish to try and express within a 300-word vocabulary radius what one could barely express with a vocabulary range of 2,000 words. For instance, it would be unwise to say, put on a broad smile, which contains only those words found among the commonest 1,000 words in Thorndike's list, in order to avoid grin, which belongs to the 3501-4,000 radius, if by so doing the meaning is obscured.

QDUnpsychological Simplification

`DIntroduction on Basis of Regularity of Grammatical Forms.

@It is a fallacy to think that in grading the language of teach-ing materials one should begin with more regular and go on to less regular grammatical forms. For instance, it is a fallacy to imagine that because commence and start are regular verbs whose past and past participial forms are commenced and started respectively, the teacher should teach these verbs rather than begin, whose past and past participial forms are irregular. Similarly, it is unsound pedagogy to give preference to adverbs ending in ly on the assumption that such adverbs are regular. The order should be from more common to less common. Otherwise, the 24 anomalous finites, which are so called because they are irregular, would have to be taught after verb forms of a more regular category have been taught first. That such a thing is impossible in practice is quite evident by the fact that without am, is, are, was, were, have, has, had, do, does, did, shall, should, will, would, can, could, may, might, must, ought, need, dare, used, which are the highly important 24 anomalous finites, (anomalous meaning irregular), one could not even make a statement in the negative, at least in present-day English. In fact, without the use of anomalous finites one could not even begin to talk.11

 

@The fallacy applies to any extreme phonetic approach, too, in which the program might be designed to start with the easiest English sounds and go on to more difficult sounds. A certain amount of phonetic grading may be expedient, but it would be foolish to sacrifice other pedagogic factors, except in matter or textbook specially designed to teach pronunciation, by parading the pages with matter such as: he sees bees eating honey; hats and caps can be carried by hand; letfs leave this lad alone; I think he is thoroughly thoughtless.

aDIntroduction of Abstract before Concrete Grammatical Categories

@The degree of concreteness or abstractness of any word or expression is a matter that cannot be readily decided. What matters, as far as the teacher is concerned, is to teach things of a concrete nature first. It is easier to teach something is something than something can do something, especially in the direct method, because ability is a rather abstract quality. Thus, in general, it

is considered unwise to teach matter with abstract meanings before the student has acquired a fairly good knowledge of matter that can be understood more readily.

 

1 Michael West,gThe Construction of New Reading Books," Learning to Read a foreign Language, Longmans, Green & Co., London, N. Y., Toronto, 1941, p. 46

2 See Tsuneta Takehara, Thorndikefs English Constructions, Taishu-Kan Shoten, Tokyo, Copyright, 1941, pp. i-ii

3 Faucett and Maki, Introduction, A Study of English Word-Values Statisti-cally Determined from the Latest Extensive Word-Counts, Matsumura San-shodo, Tokyo, Copyright, 1932, p 13

4 See Ibid . p. 14

5 Harold E. Palmer, The Grading and Simplifying of Literary Material, Institute for Research in English Teaching, Tokyo, 1934, p. 9

6 See Michael West, Learning to Read A Foreign Language, Longmans, Green & Co., London, N.Y., Toronto, 1941, p. 24

7 Ibid. p.25

8 Harold E. Palmer, The Grading and simplifying of Literary Material, Institute for Research in English Teaching, Tokyo, 1934, p. 60 (The Gold Bug is by Edgar Allan Poe.)

9 Longmans, Green & Co., Ltd., 6 & 7 Clifford St., London, W. 1

10 Published by the Institute for Research in English Teaching, Tokyo, 1933

11 See under Anomalous finite in The Dictionary of English Philology, Kenkysha, Tokyo. 1949