Final de la entrevista de Stefano Mocchi a Michael Lewis en la “newsletter” TESOL-Italy (XV, 1, January-Febr. 2005).
En esta segunda parte trata de la importancia de la motivación en las destrezas productivas, de la conveniencia de no separar gramática y vocabulario e insiste en algunos aspectos extremos de su “lexical approach” (que no me parecen aplicables a la enseñanza de una lengua con el sistema verbal del español, pero que (me) hacen pensar sobre ello).
I: An interesting question you asked at the very beginning of our talk was: ‘Why doesn’t input turn into intake?” My question is: ‘why doesn’t intake always turn into output?” I mean, sometimes students ‘take in’ but do not produce what they have taken in.
Lewis: Because it takes time. Real language is only used when you are emotionally involved. You have to be anxious or amused or whatever. So you don’t just produce language because somebody asks you to. You produce language because you have got something to say, to express what you feel. And if you have got the resources but you haven’t got the motivations then you won’t say it. Maybe I should say something very simple: I don’t believe we can teach languages. We know languages can be learnt because a lot of people have learnt them, and we know that languages are also taught because a lot of people claim to teach them. But we have never seen a one-to-one relationship. So I think the only thing you can do is try to maximise the chance of input going in and then try to create the environment.
I: In your talk you also said that it is wrong to separate grammar from vocabulary. Does this mean that grammar and vocabulary feed on each other?
Lewis: They do, inevitably. If you go to a country where they have a very grammatical syllabus – Germany being the obvious example – people still learn English. Why is that? The answer is, presumably, when they are doing grammar exercises they are also learning vocabulary from grammar exercises. The fact of the matter is that you can’t separate the two, but the obvious thing is that language teaching frequently tries to separate them. Why is it trying to do that? The whole point is that they belong together.
I: This also means that it is possible to speak a language without grammar but it is impossible to speak a language without words.
Lewis: Absolutely. I gave an analogy to your colleagues earlier when I said… many of us have bought a picture and then gone out and bought a frame for it. But not many of us have bought a frame and then gone out to find a picture to put in it. Grammar – structure- is actually the frame, isn’t it? So, it seems very odd to put all the emphasis on the frame and not on the picture. Or I mean, if we put that in the jargon of my book, language consists of grammaticalized lexis not lexicalized grammar. The picture is what matters, the lexis is what matters. Steven Krashen has got a wonderful phrase when he says ‘when students travel they do not carry grammar books, the carry dictionaries’. Because they know they need the words for this. They don’t go around thinking ‘I need the present perfect’ or ‘I need the subjunctive’.
I: A final question, Mr Lewis. Do you think that it is possible for foreign language learners to achieve the same level of proficiency in vocabulary as native speakers do?
Lewis: They can get very close. They’ll never probably get it completely because, for example, I’ve got a certain amount of language at my disposal which goes back to my early childhood: nursery rhymes and things like that. I know no adult who came to it as a second language learner has, however good he or she is. Unless, perhaps, as a child he picked them up.
I: Thank you very much, Mr Lewis.
Aprovecho para dar las gracias a todos los colegas que han pasado por la bitácora y han tenido el detalle de leerla y/o dejar comentarios.
Hasta septiembre “postear” no estará entre mis prioridades.