Input Quality and Language Acquisition (I)

People believe that the more a child is exposed to a language, the faster and better the child will acquire it. It is true to some extent. A study done by Fred Genesee, the professor of psycholinguistics at McGill University in Montreal shows that in order to acquire a language, a child needs to be exposed to it for at least 30 percent of his or her waking time (as quoted in the article on New York Times). However, Fred also states that simply increasing the quantity of exposure time is not enough. The input must have a high quality.

Each of our Chinese immersion class lasts for 2 hours. Depending on the number of sessions, every child has different lengths of Chinese exposure over the week. No matter how many sessions, when the quantity of Chinese language input is compared to the quantity of our students’ first language input, it is still relatively small. However, we believe that the quality of Chinese language input can make up for the small quantity. In the next two blogs, we will talk about how we increase the quality of Chinese language input in our Chinese immersion classes.

First, the language input in our classes is intensive and understandable to students. Our classes are made up with activities. Some are as short as 5 minutes, while some are as long as 20 minutes. Activities help us create situations where children can interact with teachers and comprehend Chinese naturally. For example, the “Hide-and-Seek” game is popular with children. The first several rounds are always the teacher’s job to “find” the students. The teacher talks throughout the activity. When she closes her eyes and begins to count. She says: “闭上眼睛。我数。(Close the eyes. I count.)” When she is searching for the students, she says sentences such as: “我找**。**在不在这里?不在。(I am searching for **. Is ** here? No.)” Through constant talking, our teachers ensure that our children get comprehensible language input during every class minute.

Besides the intensive language input, we also have other ways of increasing the language input quality in our Chinese immersion classroom. Please read our next blog on this topic.

Input Quality and Language Acquisition I:

-Chinese with Meggie Language School, Austin, Texas

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