The Invariant Approach: Conceptual Inventory, Methodological Projections, and Technology

The Invariant Approach: Conceptual Inventory, Methodological Projections, and Technology

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8220-5.ch004


The invariant approach is likely to challenge the discreteness and one-sidedness of certain conventional language learning schemes by claiming at the integrity of verbal thought and speech. The idea of reconciliation of mental speech generating processes and actual communication is implemented by the binary predication unit used as the instruction shaper. The generation of a minimal binary predication unit might transpire in different modes of thought-speech activity and at different levels of language awareness attained by the learner. The binary unit potential is reached and realized in the invariant method of language learning which has been claimed as a derivative of the invariant approach. The binary unit constant produces the notional medium for the principles of the invariant method to be carried through. They are the principles of generalization, individualization, differentiation, cognition, and structural unity. As the invariant approach prioritizes the study outcome at the level of fundamental expertise, its advantages allow for the formation of solid grounds for both didactic and research purposes. Further investigation implies expanding across other sciences research methodologies on the interdisciplinary basis. The main issues considered include the background of the invariant-based approach to language interpretation and language learning, distinctive features and parameters, argument-taking predicates as curriculum shapers, and prospective correlations in other sciences and adjoining disciplines.
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The Invariant Approach To Language Learning: Method And Technology, Strengths And Weaknesses, Universals And Constraints

“The ELT field has not yet reached a common shared understanding of what is meant by language”. Paradoxical as it sounds the statement made by C. Davidson and J. Cummins really sounds plausible when their further supporting arguments are given.

Traditionally, the authors note, in ELT programs and in many textbooks and teaching materials, the English language has been divided into four discrete skills - speaking, listening, reading and writing, and/or, particularly in pre-service teacher training courses, in the traditional structural elements of language - phonology, vocabulary (or lexis), grammar (or syntax) and more recently, discourse and/or text. However, these traditional boundaries for classifying language are inherently problematic in that they represent language as a clearly demarcated and somewhat static construct that can be decontextualized and described without reference to its context and users. (Davidson C. & Cummins J., 2007, p.777)

There are two key points in the quote: “discrete skills” and “inherently problematic traditional boundaries for classifying language”. The thing is that neither skills nor language elements are as distinct and disconnected from the rest part of language as they are declared to be for teaching and learning purposes. Language being an integral single whole, no element promulgated as the central learning issue functions by itself. Being part of the system, the element concentrated on remains interrelated with other constituents which are just “out of focus” and thus not adequately conceivable. Reductionism in language teaching methodology has long been quite typical in language learning research and practice. It is often the case that an idea of teaching, say, a particular language skill is theoretically substantiated and reportedly supported by specially developed technologies. But on closer examination high set-ups are often brought down to some unconscious activity at the behavioral level. The solution to the problem of teaching stuff discreteness and biased-focus approaches might be found by establishing a genuine integrity of learning resources and procedural activity. The binary predicative unit used as the ultimate basis of the invariant approach is an element capable of reconciliation of thought and speech which are entities of different nature. The binary unit represents the interface where information passes from one sphere to the other, each time being interpreted into the codes corresponding either to inner speech - thought (thought - inner speech) - sound speech patterns. The binary predicative unit can be compared to the notion of a molecule. The molecule is known to be the smallest part of an element or compound that could exist independently, consisting of at least two constituents and representing the wholeness of the substance. The binary predicative unit is the molecule of the compound substance of verbal thought and speech. Being as unnoticeable in routine communication as the molecule is under the habitual conditions, the binary unit, nevertheless, performs the functions similar to those of a molecule. It is a necessary condition of the very existence of verbal communication: language can exit and be used only if it is interpreted by human minds.

Consequently, in order to overcome the discreteness occasionally observed in language learning the following initial premises are to be taken into account.

The major background premise of our L2 acquisition analysis is that language is a materialized substance that makes interpretation of thought as the product of intellectual activity possible, thereby language largely determines and develops thinking as it is. Learning a foreign language is supposed to enlarge the individual’s ability to initiate, perform, control and perfect the complicated process of transforming thought into speech. Therefore, the learner acquires knowledge and skills exerting influence on their intellectual and cultural progress, i.e. fundamental expertise. The fundamentality of a foreign language as an academic discipline is the genuine, though not always conceivable reason for the subject consistently receiving higher ratings in the academic community and society at large.

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