Thursday, December 15, 2016

Some common areas of misunderstanding of the GPA (or under-understanding); thank you Kelsey Arabic Program

Someone called my attention to an article on the web page of a language school—The Kelsey Arabic Program:

The article is called

"Why Our Arabic Program Is Not a GPA Program". 

It made me feel like writing a FAQ article, but I'll start with the questions they raise.

1) Do language schools need to justify not following the GPA?
No. It is good to have a variety of language schools. That should lead to steady, healthy innovation. When schools have desired a monopoly in a country or region it has caused frustration or grief both to the administration and to the clients.

At the end of the article we read, "We appreciate that GPA advocates have introduced new ideas to the language learning discussion, and we wish success for those who take advantage of the services of GPA programs..." I appreciate this gracious spirit, and likewise appreciate all that the Kelsey School has contributed for generations and with success for those who take advantage of the Kelsey services.

2) How is the relationship between first and second language learning viewed within the GPA? 
A growing participator following the GPA is not "learning language like a child". The child is developing mental comprehension and production processes that will be deeply entrenched in the same person as a "second language learner". The Kelsey article mentions the differences in the social context of children and adults, which we would also emphasize. This is not to say that we should ignore child language learning. If nothing else, it contributes to our overall understanding of language. Child language learning helps to create the cognitive and social context of adult language learning. Someone once said that the L1 is the initial state of the L2.

(The 1989 "Fundamental Difference Hypothesis" mentioned in the Kelsey article is not relevant in the approach to linguistics--usage-based, frequency-driven associative learning, etc.--taken in the GPA. In fact, in a 2009 SSLA article, Bley-Vroman--the originator of the "Fundamental Difference Hypothesis" --rejects his earlier "Universal Grammar"-based notion, and turns to conceptions  similar to the ones we embrace in the GPA.)

3) Is the GPA a "naturalistic language learning method"? 
No. By "naturalistic second language learning" is meant simply participating as best one can in the life of a host group and not attending language classes or using any structured program or plan. In the GPA we call naturalistic language learning "lifestyle growing participation". We contrast that with "special-growth participation". We have a program for 1,500 hours (or more) of these latter activities. This is definitely not a case of "naturalistic language learning".

4) Does the GPA have anything to do with Krashen?
Little. There is a tradition in SLA research starting with Krashen and sometimes called "Input-Interaction-Output" approaches.  After Krashen's Monitor Model, which originated in the late 1970s, the line of research was extended by many, including his student Michael Long, and Merrill Swain, Susan Gass, Alison Mackey, and many others. I think Bill VanPatten's theory would be counted as being in this tradition. These approaches are more broadly in the "Interlanguage Tradition" coming from Larry Selinker (early 1970s), and before him, Pit Corder (late 1960s). These are cognitivist traditions, in which what goes on in the head is taken to be the subject matter of second language acquisition research. The social context is acknowledged as being there, and may be a source of some independent variables for research, but is not a locus of the process of interest! The GPA, on the other hand, though it has a serious cognitive dimension, that dimension is different from what is found in "rule-based" (or parameters-based) understandings of language. The GPA actually takes its sociocultural dimension (starting with Vygotsky as interpreted by Wertsch) as the conceptual starting point. And the GPA's cognitive dimension is not concerned with rules but with processes of comprehension and production. As to the issue of grammatical form, we follow "usage-based" accounts, such as those of Joan Bybee (one of my teachers) and Adele Goldberg.

5) Does the GPA "derives much of its theory and techniques" from the Krashen-Terrell Natural Approach?
No, not really. Phase 1 special-growth-participation activities involve a lot of TPR, but I learned the use of TPR directly from James Asher's writings. The Natural Approach held that as long as the input is comprehensible for everyone in a class, it would provide enough i+1 input for everyone's needs. Asher by contrast built specific grammatical patterns (input floods, in fact) into the TPR. One thing that does sound Krashenesque in our First 100 Hours program is our use of the phrase "silent phase" for the special-growth activities of the first thirty to forty hours of Phase 1. I now regret having used their phrase.

I will admit that when I personally discovered SLA in the early 1980s (through a visit to the UCLA bookstore) Krashen was a ubiquitous name and very influential. However, I soon read challenges to him, such as a book by Rod Ellis, and in any case, I never accepted his Input Hypothesis. I felt that comprehensible input was central to the development of comprehension ability, but I observed the phenomenon of "receptive bilingualism" (say, with children of immigrants) and saw that it falsified Krashen's hypothesis that listening alone could produce speaking ability. In any case, even if Phase 1 special-growth activities do remind some people of the Natural Approach, that criticism would only apply to the first 100 hours out of 1500 hours. That would be 7% of the total plan. That hardly counts as "much of its theories and techniques" of the GPA.

6) What about "other language skills" apart from "vocabulary acquisition" "in the early stages of GPA"?
We have a strong emphasis on vocabulary all the way through, aiming for a comprehension vocabulary of over ten thousand words by the time of Phase 6. In Phases 1 through 5, the vocabulary is mainly experienced in the context of larger patterns--questions, instructions, descriptions, stories, abstract explanations, etc. (depending on the phase) in interactive contexts in particular.

7) What about "Formation of complete, formally accurate sentences"?
Regardless of the approach, when foreigners are interacting in the host language in everyday situations, they have a high incidence of non-native-like utterances. "Formation of complete, formally accurate sentences" is more possible in controlled settings, but not so much in normal life. The "G" in "GP" is key to us. In all phases we depend on "assisted performance" (or we like to say, "assisted participation") including recasting and interactive alignment, along with "focus on form" (in Michael Long's sense that contrasts with "focus on formS"), input and output flooding, and structured-input activities in which a particular formal feature that seems to be getting blocked (in Nick Ellis' sense) is made task-essential and the GPs start hearing and understanding it. We follow certain principles in these activities that work well for us. We also encourage regular use of "record yourself for feedback".

8) What about "explicit instruction on the structure of" the language.
If this refers to the popular "three PPP's" pattern (present, practice, produce) it doesn't fit into the GPA narrative. The activities mentioned in response to question 7 above can make formal features highly salient, and the task-essentialness of the formal features can be seen as a fostering "guided induction". In Lightbown and Spada's terms, we do not try to "get it right from the beginning," and we recognize that most won't even "get it right in the end." Thus we emphasize comprehensibility and intelligibility rather than nativelikeness, and aim to grow into Phase 6, where we continue growing, rather than plateauing after an earlier Phase.

9) Are the programs using GPA comprehensive in their approach?
We feel the GPA is comprehensive, including the special-growth-participation activities. We have a saying, "We don't do language, we do people—and people talk a lot". Human reality is discursive, and each languacultural world lives by it's own symbolic meditational means. That demands a comprehensive approach. Not only do we include 500 hours of deep-life-conversation activities (nee: deep-life interviewing) in Phase 4, but add another 500 hours of "widening understanding" conversations in Phase 5, centred around a growing corpus of native-to-native recordings.

10) What about literacy?
Certainly graphic representations of speech ("writing") have played an enormous role  development of human life. We say it is the most important of all inventions. Growing participation, in the GPA sense, is not "learning the language" but rather, being nurtured and apprenticed more and more deeply and broadly into the practices of a people group (with verbal interaction as much of the warp and woof of their practices, of course). Suppose that in a particular group, literacy practices are nearly universal. Then GPs who are being thoroughly nurtured and apprenticed into that world will be nurtured into its literacy practices (and oracy practices), which also implies using reading and writing for the functions that reading and writing have for host people. If literacy is more of a specialist ability in a group, then some GPs will grow into literacy if they are participating in particular, literate specialist groups. In any case, the major factors in determining reading ability for adults becoming literate in a host world are 1) their overall "proficiency" and 2) their level of reading ability in their home language. Reading ability is developed through extensive reading (and in a diglossic situation, conversations about what is read). Writing ability will be founded on reading ability, and also developed through extensive practice, interaction and feedback. Different host peoples' different literacy-related practices mean that people following the GPA will not have one approach to literacy for all languacultural worlds. Each strategy needs to be well-thought-out and left open to rethinking.

11) What about professional, trained teachers?
Host people who have chosen language teaching as their profession and have persisted in it, are likely to enjoy working with foreigners. Professional, trained teachers may or may not be nurturers. Many non-teachers who were trained to be nurturers end up reverting to being teachers (as they understand the teacher role) and not nurturers.  One problem with trained teachers, though, is that with the GPA we are asking them to learn new skills and attitudes of nurturing, and experienced teachers may have strong beliefs about their role that clash with the GPA philosophy. That doesn't have to be the case, though.

Note, though, that we don't encourage a lot of highly technical discussions of grammar, etc. Rather, we make grammatical features "explicit" in ways that don't divert attention from personal interaction. This means that people without such technical knowledge can be nurturers, even if they don't qualify as teachers.

12) What about a hybrid approach?
A popular phrase is "principled eclecticism". We feel the GPA is eclectic (and informed by a wide range of disciplines). In Phase 1, there is a rich variety of experience--visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, social interactional--and we believe this avoids catering to the preferences of some people over others. In line with the "G" of "GPA", the nature of the special-growth-participation activities changes radically over time. Apart from the special-growth times, the nature of the "lifestyle growing participation" also evolves systematically over time. By Phase 6, all growing participation is lifestyle growing participation.

13) If you "believe [you] have something more effective" than the GPA, should you be "using [the GPA approach]".
No. Do what you believe is more effective. Go for it! Do it well. And "wish success for those of us who take advantage of the services of [other] programs." And that is just what you have done! It's great to be on the same team with people like you!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Three views of what "grammar" is and what it is to "learn grammar"

What I have to say here is related mainly to the Cognitive Dimension of growing participation. Much of what we have taught about the Cognitive Dimension was inspired by the Psychology of Language as a branch of cognitive psychology dealing especially with comprehension and production processes. What I'm emphasizing in this post--viewpoint 3 below, was always there in the background, as I was strongly influenced by Joan Bybee (_Language, Usage and Cognition_, Academic Press, 2010) in my general thinking about grammar. (I was her research assistant for two years.) Viewpoint 1 is closest to the "cultural assumptions" of Euro-Americans, both specialists and ordinary educated people. Viewpoint 2 is inspired by "formal linguistics" which I loved as a young person. I can't say it has had much influence on the GPA, however.

Viewpoint 1) What you learn is objective facts about the language (pedagogical grammar), and then you apply that knowledge in practice until your use of that knowledge in speaking becomes fluentLanguage learning is similar to other kinds of learning.

Viewpoint 2) What you learn is a mental grammar, similar to the mental grammar in the heads  of natives. You keep modifying that grammar as you encounter evidence that your current version (current interlanguage) is wrong. These modifications to your mental grammar are triggered by relatively small amounts of experience, and so they can happen in a short time frame. Language learning is different from other kinds of learning.

Viewpoint 3What you learn is simply an accumulation of unconscious memories that all stay there in your head where they first landed-- a huge number of instances of hearing and understanding something (words, groups of words, more abstract patterns of words) or instances of successfully expressing something in speech using words and patterns. Language learning is similar to other kinds of learning (but neither is like the everyday concept of “learning”).


Viewpoint 1) is strongly “speech-led”. It is about using knowledge of facts to assemble sentences that follow the rules in order to speak those sentences. I think it represents “traditional” concepts (such as the popular PPP, which stands for present, practice, produce). It is not clear where the “correct grammar” with its collection of facts, is to be found in the universe. But this viewpoint also has its more sophisticated advocates, such as Robert Dekeyser. However he himself makes the point that this type of learning has its limits and needs to be accompanied by others. (If you are interested, see Robert Dekeyser, 2015, “Skill Acquisition Theory” in Bill VanPatten and Jessica Williams, eds., Theories in Second Language Acquisition, 2nd ed., Rutledge). Learning, if it happens, shouldn’t take that long, for any given fact of grammar, nor should practice applying that knowledge take very long.

Viewpoint 2) has been the linguists’ favourite. In this view, “evidence” (bits of language you are exposed to) acts as a trigger, and rapid changes take place in the internal grammar. Like viewpoint 1) what is learned is a recipe for assembling sentences. One problem is that theories of grammar have changed a lot, and this viewpoint still works with some theories, but perhaps not with the most influential theories. Still, a very recent article argues for this idea of rapid triggering in “grammar learning” (if anyone is interested--VanPatten, Bill and Smith Megan, 2015. “Aptitude and grammatical sensitivity and the initial stages of learning Japanese as an L2." SSLA, 37, 135–165; but also Bley-Vroman, Robert, 2009,”The evolving context of the fundamental difference hypothesis,” SSLA, 31, 175–198.) You can tell by the word “trigger” that what is learned is assumed to be learned with relatively small amounts of experience (brief amounts of time).

Viewpoint 3) is called “usage based” or “instance based” or (with a difference in emphasis) “construction based” (and other things). The idea is basically that every time you experience a word or a “construction” (which I prefer to call a pattern) and succeed in experiencing it meaningfully, it is stored in your brain. So a construction isn’t something that is learned once through a presentation of it and then reinforced by deliberate repetition until it becomes “known” in long term memory. Rather, the first time a word or pattern is  experienced, it  is “registered” and then every additional time it occurs, the new instance is stored in your head along with all the others.  (If interested, see Ellis,Nick, 2006 "Language Acquisition as Rational Contingency Learning” Applied Linguistics,  27, 1–24.). Viewpoint 3 has important implications for learning “irregularities” (such as how we learn to say “sang” and not “singed”, etc. Maybe we can bring that up again in the future.)

Which viewpoint is most in harmony with the GPA? It is viewpoint 3. It says that “fluency” in speech and in host life in general, requires that we experience speech and other aspects of life a vast amount over several years. Besides all the evidence that this is true—that becoming even moderately host-like is a multi-year prospect-- I think this is the safest bet. The first two viewpoints count on a relatively small amount of learning doing the job.  If you really follow the GPA, you won’t risk trying to learn the language based on a small amount of experience! You may recall the GPA emphasis on frequency (in listening, talking, and also in literacy, and life in general) and on familiarity (not to mention the Iceberg Principle). These all relate to viewpoint 3.

If the “facts” of grammar are important to emphasize (viewpoint 1), then the ways we deal with  grammar consciousness raising are no worse than other ways, and arguably better in some ways (thinking of actual research on this topic). For us this mainly involves our activities of structured input, input flooding, output flooding and recored yourself for feedback. In fact Nick Ellis says that the reason some aspects of grammar are never learned by adult language learners (for example, many foreigners never get over saying things like, “My brother live in London” instead of “lives in London”) is that it is impossible for our brains to experience those features (for particular reasons), and thus if one is to start storing large numbers of examples of such constructions in one’s brain one must become consciously aware of them. And that’s what we try to do with such challenging grammatical features: strongly bring them to consciousness. Who knows, but what maybe Nick is right. But the point is, with viewpoints 1 and 2 you stake a lot on the idea that the amount of experience involved in “grammar learning” is relatively small. With viewpoint 3 you assume it is very big. If you were wrong, well, then praise the Lord for your “unnecessary" thousands of hours of connecting with people in relationships since that is what it was supposed to be about anyway! But if you put your trust in viewpoints 1 or 2, doing the implied small amounts of learning, and then it turns out that what is really needed is a massive amount of experience, well, too bad.

There is much more could be said here, but that will be it for now. The GPA favours viewpoint three: Fluency is “usage-based,” based on a “summing” of enormous numbers of similar experiences in memory. It may be necessary to do something special to raise consciousness of features of grammar that just don’t seem to register regardless of the amount of experience. The verdict is still out on that, and so we do those special activities that I mentioned. We also realize that we’ll always sound foreign, and embrace that as part of “the gift of the stranger”. We aim for a high level of understanding and of intelligibility and comprehensibility, rather than native-like-ness

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Check out these video clips

Recently some friends (Thanks!!) produced some video clips to help with the understanding of various types of Phase 1 games found in the guide to the First 100 Hours. There are also clips providing some of the concepts involved in the GPA and in the Phase 1 games. You can find these video clips at the website At the current time you'll need the password to get in, and it is mygpajourney. Many people have wanted to use the GPA but never really got going in Phase 1, because the instructions seemed complicated. We trust that such people will now be able to get a strong start, and go on to later Phases as well.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Growing Participation is a kind of Participation

"Participation"is the head noun in the phrase "Growing Participation" and "Growing" is a modifier. We didn't choose this particular phrase as the name for our approach because it had a catchy ring to it. Both "participation" and "growing" are packed with meaning, and the meanings are not the ones that might come to mind for an ordinary everyday reader encountering the phrase for the first time. 

1) Participation

It may surprise you when I say that you never act as a lone individual. No matter what you do, you do it as a participant in your people group. (My own "people group" is AngloCanadian.) “But,” someone replies, “How about when I’m asleep. Surely sleeping is an individual activity.”  No! Your action of sleeping is also an action of participation in your people group! You see, you follow certain practices in sleeping—the practices of your people group. Those practices include where members of your people group sleep, on what they sleep, times for sleeping, sleeping attire, the conditions under which it is impolite to wake someone and much more. What is true of sleeping is true of all that people do. In other words, to be alive and to be human is to be participating in a people group! (We use the term practices, in the common everyday sense of, “repeated ways of acting”. That includes repeated ways of speaking and of understanding speech.)

As you participate in your people group, you always use various means of participation. There are those you think of as physical means for doing things (like hammers and cars). In the case of sleeping, these include (in the world of my people group) beds and beddings and pajamas. Alongside obvious physical objects such as pillows and pillow cases, the most powerful means of participation are the words that the group members understand and speak with one another. Words are part of our means of sleeping! What I mean is that having words and groups of words radically influences (some say “transforms”) the experience of sleeping in different people groups. Words as means of carrying out the practice of sleeping might include the words bed and pajamas, but also utterances such as Honey, I’m exhausted (which I heard a wife say recently as a way of getting her husband to discontinue a conversation and move toward sleeping for the night), or Honey, have you seen my pyjamas? which might be a hint that it is time for bed or just a practical tool for solving a problem standing in the way of my sleep: I seem to lack one of my essential means for sleeping and resort to words as means and other people as means for solving the problem. Can you see how “words as means for living” alter the very nature of what it is to live? The uniqueness of humans in creation has a lot to do with the richness of our participatory nature!

To live is to be participating in a people group. 24/7! (Some readers ask why we say “participator” and not “participant”. Well, we think participator sounds more active and willful than participant!) Once you are into your life, abroad you will continue to live much of it as ongoing participation in your home-world people group’s practices (the group you grew up in) whenever you are not with members of your host-world group participating in their life with them, following their practices. Often the balance between our home-world participation and our host-world participation needs to be shifted if we are to grow. We hope you are getting at least an inkling of why the “participation” we have in mind when we say  “growing participation” is at the core of the challenge we face in another people group. It’s about being truly alive with people in their world.

2) Growing

To participate is to become better at participating. People’s home-world life is always present under their skin, even in those times when they are focused on living their host-world life. However, there is a transformation going on inside them—a slow conformity (in a good sense) to the ways of people on the outside. Over time, as a result of the help of host people, not only do those people find the foreigners more and more like themselves on the outside, but the growing participators find themselves more and more like the host people on the inside (especially when focused on participating in their life with them). To participate is to grow. To grow is to take on host practices, especially following those practices in relationships with host people. Growing speaks of time. Over time 1) the number of host relationships grows from one main “nurturer” to many true friends; 2) the range of host practices that the newcomers follow grows (breadth); while 3) the way they carry out those processes becomes more “host-like” (depth). Their growth into host practices is never total. There will always be some practices we have not yet taken on, and others that we have taken on, but with a “strong foreign accent” (“foreign accents” exist on many levels besides pronunciation). The host practices they take on centrally include those that involve understanding speech and talking. (Remember the mention of words as means of participation.) There is also an ongoing transformation in how the newcomers understand the speech of host people, and in how they talk to and with host people. Thus when the newcomers first hear one of the host words and “understand” that word, they are usually understanding it in their home-world terms. That is, they may take a host-world word to mean the same as their home-world word for “woman”. Only with much participation (hearing many conversations, stories, speeches, watching other actions and reactions, etc.) will their understanding of that host-world word concept adapt and become host-like, so that when host people say the word, the newcomers understand them in line with their host concept of women and womanhood. As growing speaks of time, we teach six phases of growing in/through/with/ and by participation:

Growing Participation in Six Phases:
1.     Connecting (to a whole new world primarily through one of its members)
2.     Emerging (-- becoming “somebody” to a few people in the new world)
3.     Knowable (as someone with whom host people have the possibility of friendship)
4.     Deep personal relationships (with a few, making possible deeper relationships with many)
5.     Widening understanding (thus being seen more and more as “like us” by host people.)
6.     Ever participating/growing (such that to live is to participate is to grow.)

For each Phase we suggest special activities of “special-growth participation” which can profitably occupy growing participators for hundreds of hours of concentrated participating and special growing.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Updated peek into the GPA.

On JANUARY 15, 2013 We posted an article called
A Little Invitation to the Growing Participator Approach

under the heading

Another peek into the GPA for blog eavesdroppers

Today I've updated that a little. It should be especially helpful to those familiar with the technical areas it alludes to so that they might get some idea of how the GPA relates to its intellectual heritage. However, it should be helpful to ordinary GPA enthusiasts too, as much of the technical vocabulary is relatively transparent, or if not, it gives the reader phrases to search for in the Internet! (And feel free to post questions in the form of comments.) It will also be good to have this little introduction near the top here for awhile rather than buried in the archives. So here it is:

Little Invitation to the Growing Participator Approach

Greg Thomson
January 2013, October 2015
Starting point is not “the learner”, but the host people
The starting point for understanding Growing Participation is not “the learner”. Rather, it is the host people. They consist of a community of right-now, living, breathing, walking, talking, densely interconnected, interacting people. That community’s members mediate their shared experience and thinking by means of their particular shared symbols and tools. Their joint life is also an ongoing lived story, continuously under construction (and reconstruction) and dependent on the unique, shared, story-construction pieces the community has at its disposal. Their lived story is a stream of goal-directed human action, enabled by their shared practices. Many of the actions involve talking and listening, which in fact dominate the stream of human action in many ways, though they are inseparable from the stream as a whole. Growing participators following the GPA want that community to take them into itself, making them right-now, living, breathing, walking, talking participants in it. Only members of that community can do that, by granting GPs the status of “legitimate peripheral participants” and interacting with them in their growth zones (nee “zones of proximal development”).

First dimension is the sociocultural one
Growing participation begins when one or more members of that community are confronted with a newcomer who has no ability to follow their practices, their lived story, and thus who is unable to participate in the host world, but who want to do so. Host people will succeed in nurturing newcomers into their world if they interact adequately with them in their growth zone. Trained GPs know how to facilitate the host people’s efforts. (It begins with “play” and ends with “serious business”!)

Host people initially experience the newcomer as a relative non-entity in their lived story—someone who can be a limited topic within the story, but not a participant in its continuing construction. The newcomer presents a relatively “blank face” to host people within their story, having little identity among them beyond whatever stereotypes there are for this particular variety of outsider. As host people nurture the newcomer into their world, that relatively blank face increasingly takes on unique personal features and character. Slowly a special person emerges and evolves into a full-blown participant in the construction of the host story.

As a second dimension (and not a second component), the cognitive dimension is thoroughly sociocultural throughout
Host people themselves primarily came to know their languacultural world in early childhood because older people talked to them, and around them, about the contexts in which they found themselves. GPs following the GPA want host people to talk to them about much that they observe in the host context. Until host people have talked to the GPs adequately (in the host language, not the GP’s language), GPs are simply converting what they “observe” in the host context into the meanings that those “observed” objects and events would have in their own home worlds. The GP needs to be nurtured into host mental life, which is inherently and thoroughly social. Early on, being talked to by host people in host ways (and understanding what they hear!) is the path into host mental life for GPs. In time, hearing host people talk to one another will also provide much of the path to further mental growth.

In the cognitive dimension, comprehension processes come first
For that reason, and also because listening to and understanding host people is an act of love and self-giving, comprehension ability—the ability to hear speech and grasp the story that it arouses in host hearers—comes first in the GPA value system. Spoken production ability is secondary and derivative. In the very early days, in fact, the GPA advocates learning to understand speech while personally remaining silent and responding nonverbally to the nurturer. This is another facet of centering growing participation around the host people and their needs and gifts: listening first!

Words as practices
Among the wide range of host practices, their use of a massive stock of words and common word combinations is central. Each word is a host practice! Therefore whenever GPs are learning to understand host words and word combinations, from the very first moments of growing participation, they are seriously appropriating key practices of the host people—aspects of their speaking practices that will be open the way to so much further growth.

Initially, word learning involves GPs associating home-world word concepts with host-world spoken words. However, words receive their meanings in use, and so through much experience participating in host practices in general, in observing host interactions, in hearing host talk, and in living the host story, the concepts the GPs’ associate with word concepts will more and more approximate those of the host community.

Conversational interaction comes next
Since conversational interaction ability is second in importance only to comprehension ability, during the early days of growing participation, the GPs soon add two-way spoken interaction to their initial efforts at appropriating host practices by listening alone. Two-way conversation in which host people meet the GPs in their growth zone is the engine of the GPs’ development of their own internal host-world mental life. If you listen in (with understanding!) on a GP and a nurturer interacting in the GP’s growth zone, you’ll “see” the GP’s mental development happening right out in the open. A GP’s mental development in this new world is, as a minimum, a two-person process. Internal to the GP, there is a process of “resonance” going on in all conversations: As the GP and host person engage together in discourse in a particular area, the GP’s speech in that discourse area is being moulded in the direction of the nurturer’s speech. For example, in conversing about weather, over time the GP is drawn to talk about weather more and more similarly to the ways in which the nurturer and other host people talk about weather—and so on with a wide variety of discourse areas.

In conversational interaction, comprehension ability continues to hold a special place. Comprehension saves! As long as the GPs understands what is said to them by a host conversation partner, they can find some way, by hook or by crook (using “communication strategies” and “negotiating meaning”) to respond to the conversation partner so as to get their point across. However, if the GPs are unable to understand much of what the host person is saying, they are “up a creek without a paddle” (stuck) in the conversation. Embarrassing!

As comprehension ability enables conversational interaction, so conversational interaction is also of major importance in the development of comprehension ability. It is an upward spiral. Host people relate to GPs conversationally in ways they can handle (in their growth zone). They also assist (“scaffold”) the GP in responding intelligibly.

“Accuracy” (We prefer to say, “host-likeness”)
The GPA encourages GPs to pay attention to host patterns of conversational turn-taking, issues of appropriateness (pragmatics), style (for example, talking as host people talk, not as they write, and writing as host people write, not as they talk), etc. At the level of individual sentences, the GPA holds that sounding host-like in narrow terms of grammar and pronunciation is less important than sounding host-like in those broader ways. The speech of most GPs will forever contain non-host-like “errors,” even in the case of GPs who happen to be obsessed with grammar. In addition, they will always speak with an accent. Mercifully, the frequency of “grammar errors” can decrease over time. The GPA advocates strategies that facilitate movement toward host-sounding grammar in spoken production, assuming a “construction-based” (“usage-based,” “instance-based”) view of what grammar is and how it is learned through live experience in communication. Attention may need to be drawn to some features that resist learning. Techniques for this include input flooding, structured input, “record yourself for feedback” and “focus on form” (as opposed to “focus on formS”). Such activities—without abandoning the spirit of two-way interaction with the nurturer—strongly draw attention to grammatical form, thus raising awareness, leading to gradual improvement. However, we keep in mind that the first role of grammar for host people is in comprehension, not in spoken production. (Grammatical elements are primarily comprehension cues.) To the extent that grammatical features come to function in host-like ways in GPs’ comprehension processes, the GPs will become increasingly sensitive to ways in which their own speech is not host-like, since their own speech will clash with their own comprehension processes.

A similar principle applies to pronunciation. The GPA encourages GPs to work toward host-like hearing, as the biggest contributor toward more host-like pronunciation. Considerable progress in the intelligibility of GPs’ pronunciation needs to be made early in the process of growing participation. Ideally, some specific coaching in pronunciation will also be provided by a language learning advisor and nurturers will often provide immediate feedback. Still, learning to hear well will have an impact over the long haul, and that can be achieved without a phonetics coach, by using “sound discrimination” activities that involve live interaction with a nurturer.

Literacy and bi-languaculturalism or multi-languaculturalism
In some people groups, host practices will in various ways involve reading and writing.  In line with the role and importance of literacy practices in host life, GPs should be nurtured into those practices at the optimal times.

The host practices may also involve host people’s participation in the languacultural world of neighbouring people groups or the larger national or international community (bi-languaculturalism or multi-languaculturalism). As life goes on and time permits, GPs are nurtured into these aspects of host life as well (for example, nurtured into using a “national language” for functions that host people use the national language for). Growing participation is a long road. That brings us to…

The time dimension is more than a footnote in the GPA
The GPA makes much of time. The GPA paints a picture of change over time in both the Sociocultural and Cognitive Dimensions. The way host people experience GPs, and the GPs’ roles and identities in the host story, should change continuously from the time of arrival to the end of the sojourn. The GPA tries to be realistic about how much can happen how soon, while also providing a roadmap and (when combined with the Six-Phase Programme or a similar one) a detailed set of activities to perpetuate steady change.

The GPA is concerned that GPs reach a path of self-sustaining growth, where they cannot stop growing—as long as they don’t stop participating—because they understand almost everything they hear host people say and observe host people doing, so that what they hear and see is always feeding their further growth. Until they clearly reach Phase 6, GPs need to keep employing “special-growth participation times,” with special host people—usually nurturers who are paid for their time. As special nurturers, and other host people with whom GPs share life, continue to nurture them into the host world, increasingly the fruits of those host people’s nurturing efforts are a spring of pleasure to them! Growing Participation, after all, starts and ends with them, not with me.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Six Phases of Growing Participation

We've long talked--almost since the beginning--about the mistake we made in naming the six phases after the "supercharged activities" such as "Here-and-Now Play," "Story Building," etc., but recently I did something about it. The six phases are now  named in line with GPA.

1) Connecting, 

2) Emerging, 

3) Knowable, 

4) Deep Personal Relationships, 

5) Widening Understanding, 

6) Ever Growing/Participating. 

They are framed in terms of how our host people's perception of us is changing. We explain them apart from the supercharged activities (which we now call "special growth participation") and once these six phases are clear, we use them as a framework for introducing "five categories of special-growth participation activities", which are 




Deep Life Sharing

Native-to-Native "Discourses"

each with its subcategories. These categories are loosely--not rigidly--linked to that six phases. The suggested times for each category are the same as before.