Selecting a Text: 

This chapter will use the term text to identify a written manuscript.  A newspaper in your target language is usually an excellent source for a study text.  Most newspapers use good syntax, relatively simple sentences, and common expressions.  In addition to general vocabulary, newspapers will give you many common political, scientific, economic, and technical words.  Generally, newspapers are also a good source of colloquial expressions.

Important: Not all newspapers would be suitable for spoken language study.  In many countries, there are both common language and literary newspapers.  You would want to select a newspaper that uses commonly spoken the language.  You may also be able to find magazines that work equally well.  There may be magazines of particular interest to you such as political news, handyman, sewing and crafts, travel, outdoors and camping, sports, or any number of other topics.  You would want to have your language helper evaluate the newspaper or magazine to be certain that the one you select uses an acceptable level of conversational language.  The term newspaper throughout the remainder of this chapter will refer to whatever text you would have selected.

Some may also argue that a local newspaper does not always provide the best conversational language for spoken language study.  That may be true, but the reality is that you probably would not be able to find the ideal text at any price.  When carefully selected, the inexpensive and readily available newspaper will undoubtedly be your best compromise.

Further, this chapter attempts to describe the use of a newspaper in language study without suggesting when its use in that study might occur.  The introduction of the newspaper into the language study schedule would depend entirely on the unique circumstances in each language study program.  The reference to time (six weeks) at the end of the chapter is done simply for the sake of illustration, though it is entirely realistic with the help of a competent language helper.  Similarly, some users of the newspaper suggested in this chapter could occur early in language study while others are for students who have already had considerably more experience with their target language.

As you begin language study, you will need both a text and an audio recording of it to use for pronunciation practice.  Since it would be difficult to procure a constant supply of companion texts with recordings, you will need to select one and then produce the other with the help of your language helper.

Going from a written text to an audio recording:

Making the Feedback Training Method Work, the role of a language helper in your language study program will be fully explained.  This present chapter, however, will be primarily concerned with the text itself.  As we begin this chapter, we will make two assumptions: 1) that you will have a language helper who is a first language (L1) speaker of your target language and pronounces the target language correctly, and 2) that you will have audio recording equipment.

Everything considered it should be easier to produce an audio recording from a newspaper text than to produce a written text from a radio broadcast recording.  It would be much simpler for your language helper to record the text than it would be for the language helper to transcribe the audio recording.

For your study purposes, a printed newspaper text will assure a more precise use of the language, better spelling, and a more easily preserved printed copy.  Because live radio broadcasts are difficult to record when inexpensive audio equipment is being used, it would be difficult to hear all of the words clearly.  Therefore, it may be easier for you to make a good language study recording by having the language helper read a newspaper text for the audio recording.  With a little coaching, your language helper could also learn to record the material in such a way that there would be long enough pauses to allow you to repeat the phrase when studying alone.

The purpose of using the newspaper is to facilitate spoken language practice.  You would always read the newspaper aloud, reading a sentence and then looking away from the text while repeating the sentence from recall memory.

Appendix B: Text Exercises will illustrate how the text is actually used to create audio exercises.

A number of uses of a newspaper are suggested under the following headings. These uses, however, are progressive.  That is, during the first few weeks of language study, you will begin using the newspaper as an aid for building vocabulary and improving an understanding of the meaning of the language.  As language study continues, the newspaper will become an increasingly important tool for syntax development.  Learning expressions from the newspaper will require more language skill and will take place somewhat later in the language learning process.  Each of these uses of a newspaper as an aid to language learning will depend to some extent on the readiness of the student to progress to that level.

Using the newspaper for vocabulary:

First, read the article out loud, identifying new vocabulary as you go.  Whenever you read a word you do not know, stop and find it in your dictionary.  Keep a vocabulary notebook.  If a word you do not know is used more than twice in an article, enter the word in your notebook and put a check () by it to flag it as a word needing special study.  However, do not record place names or personal names in your notebook.  After you finish reading the article for the first time, review the meaning of all of the new vocabulary words.  Study these words enough that you know what they mean when you read the article.  Always pronounce vocabulary words out loud so that you learn vocabulary as a spoken language.

After you are more familiar with the process, select other newspaper articles and continue reading aloud while you look for new vocabulary words.  When you find a word in a second newspaper article that you have already checked () in your notebook, place a second check () by it.  Any word in your notebook with two checks should be memorized as an important word to know.

Whenever you are able to do so, write out the cognate forms of the same word.  For example, to adhere, an adhesive, and adhesion are cognates.  It will be helpful for you to learn multiple cognate forms of a word at one time rather than learning each form as a new vocabulary word when you first encounter it.  Association of a single word in its multiple forms with one root meaning results in more rapid vocabulary retention.  It will also teach you how to accurately develop cognate forms of words during the speech when you do not already know the word.

The following will be used as an English illustration.  If, for example, you as an L2 speaker know the word “high” but do not yet know the superlative “highest,” you could nonetheless develop the sentence, “It was on the highest shelf,” if you have the ability to develop cognitively.  By learning all cognate forms of every new word as a group — and always learning them in the same pattern, such as sharp, sharper, sharpest, and sharply, or quick, quicker, quickest, and quickly, your ability to accurately create unknown regular cognitive during speech will be greatly enhanced.

The real essence of language fluency is understanding the target language well enough to intuitively use previously unknown vocabulary during the conversation.  It may be helpful to you to reserve a section in your vocabulary notebook for exactly the purpose of listing cognitive forms.

Verbs should be listed in your notebook in their infinitive form (for example, “to remember”) rather than in a conjugated form (for example, “she remembers”).  Note that not all languages identify verbs in their infinitive form.  Use your target language’s dictionary notation form as your pattern.  After you have mastered the verb’s conjugation, it will be far simpler for you to learn a single verb form than it will be for you to learn each form of a verb as an individual vocabulary word.

Using the newspaper for meaning:

Read the article again for meaning.  If you do not understand a sentence, stop and find out exactly what it means.

If some of the definitions you have written in your notebook do not make sense when you read them in the article, find the word again in your dictionary and see if it has other meanings.  If a second meaning for the word makes better sense, in this case, write that definition in your notebook.

If you still cannot figure out the meaning of a sentence, it may be because two or more words are combined to form a single expression.  Try to determine the meaning of expressions.  Look for similar expressions in other articles.  If you still cannot determine the meaning of an expression, ask your language helper for assistance.

Using the newspaper for syntax development:

An ideal way to reinforce your use of grammatically correct syntax in your target language is by reading newspaper articles aloud.  Your goal is to retrain your mind, hearing, and mouth to understand and use your target language correctly.  Reading aloud from a newspaper is one of the best ways to accomplish that.

The great advantage is that you are reading a large number of different sentences that are all organized according to the same grammar rules.  Thus, you are learning the acceptable range of the syntax of that language.  That is, there may appear to be many variations from sentence to sentence, yet all of the users are still correct.  An example from English would be learning that you can place the word “however” at the beginning, middle, or end of an English sentence.  You would also learn that the position of “however” can make a slight difference in meaning, or it can enhance the style of the sentence.  You will discover equivalent nuances in your target language.

In many respects, using the newspaper for syntax development is similar to using it to increase fluency and to help you develop fluid conversation as mentioned below.  The same exercises suggested below would be as profitable for syntax as they would be for fluency and conversation.

Using the newspaper in order to learn expressions:

Expressions add richness and variety to all languages. Identify expressions as you read the newspaper.  Use a special mark to identify them in articles.  As we will see in a moment, many expressions may be divided, with component words of the expression being separated by non-component words.

Try substituting other words within the same expression.  Say or write as many sentences using the expression as possible.  As an English example, you may read a sentence in a newspaper that says, “The Governor announced on Friday that he will not run for another term, putting to rest months of speculation about his future intentions.”  Most expressions can be used in different tenses with different people or things.  For example, the expression “to put to rest” can be used in the present tense, “I want to put our disagreement to rest,” in the future tense, “He will put his argument to rest,” or in the past tense, “They finally put their rivalry to rest.”  Notice that in these phrases, the component parts of the expression are separated as in, “They finally put their rivalry to rest.”  Watch for such variations of construction in expressions in your target language.

English also uses forms of words as a type of expression.  For example, you may read a sentence in a newspaper that says, “We’re getting many calls from people who are panicking and asking what they can do.”  This form of expression uses two or more words ending in “…ING” to describe two or more actions that the same person is doing at one time.  You will certainly find many similar expression forms in your target language.

Using the newspaper for fluency enhancement:

As you use the newspaper in your spoken exercises, you will begin reading longer sections rather than simply alternating between reading sentences aloud and then repeating them from recall memory.  You will want to read the entire article aloud for fluency practice.  Try reading the article as smoothly as possible without stopping.  Read it aloud at least twice.

For more fluency practice, continue reading the article aloud until you can read it at the same rate of speed that a first language speaker uses when talking.  Practice until your pronunciation duplicates that of a first language speaker.

Your purpose is not to merely learn the vocabulary in these newspaper articles, but to learn to speak your target language.  Keep practicing until you can read the article aloud well enough that a first language speaker could clearly understand what you are saying.

Fluency is the ability to speak smoothly with proper intonation.  Initially, use single sentences for fluency drills, repeatedly reading a single sentence until you can read it smoothly.  Eventually, do the same with multiple sentences or paragraphs.  Even as a beginning student, there is value in reading a longer passage or entire article without break in order to establish the rhythm of the spoken language.  This is excellent proprioceptive training.

Your natural tendency will be to move on to new articles too quickly.  In reality, it is only after you already know all of the vocabularies and can pronounce each word correctly that you will be ready to use the newspaper article to full advantage.  You are not fully retraining your mind and tongue until you can read the article at normal speaking speed with proper inflection and pronunciation.  You will better attain fluent speech by rereading fewer articles aloud perfectly than you will by reading many articles aloud with faulty pronunciation.

Using the newspaper for conversation practice:

It was stated, “You must never make a mistake when you are speaking.” That objective will be the most difficult when you first begin a free conversation.  However, using a newspaper article will be a great aid in producing the conversation that is essentially free of mistakes.

A newspaper article can give you a great deal of structure for conversation practice.  This structure will give both you and your language helper a defined group of vocabulary words, defined sentences with an understood meaning, and a defined context in which the vocabulary and sentences can be communicated.  After very little coaching, your language helper can use the newspaper article to structure the free conversation.

To continue with the illustration from English, your language helper could lead you in a discussion evolving from a newspaper article.  You could easily have the following discussion after only six weeks of full-time language study.  Notice that your language helper is asking each question twice, expecting that you will substitute a pronoun in your second response. 

Language Helper: “What did the Governor announce on Friday?”

Reply: “The Governor announced on Friday that he will not run for another term.”

Language Helper: “What did the Governor announce on Friday?”

Reply: “He announced on Friday that he will not run for another term.”

Language Helper: “Will the Governor run for another term?”

Reply: “No, the Governor will not run for another term.”

Language Helper: “Will the Governor run for another term?”

Reply: “No, he will not run for another term.”

Language Helper: “When did the Governor announce that he will not run for another term?”

Reply: “The Governor announced on Friday that he will not run for another term.”

Language Helper: “When did the Governor announce that he will not run for another term?”

Reply: “He announced on Friday that he will not run for another term.”

Assuming that you have only been studying your target language for six weeks, your initial response to each question may be slow and halting.  You may also be looking at the printed text when your language helper initially asks the question.  But at least your answer is word perfect.  You are training your proprioceptive sense by using perfect syntax.  Now you can add perfect pronunciation and fluency to that.

Typically, in language instruction, extra attention is given when a student makes mistakes.  That is, when a sentence is used incorrectly, it will be corrected with additional drills.  On the other hand, when a student responds correctly, the instructor will move on to the next sentence.  That is not what you want your language helper to do for you now.  Of course, you will want help with incorrect syntax and pronunciation.  But in order to learn the language effectively, you will want to emphasize correct language use.  To continue our example, let’s say that none of the sentences in the above illustration have any phonemes that you cannot reproduce acceptably.  Therefore, at your instruction, your language helper will continue to drill you on these same sentences until they are perfect.

Your language helper will again ask the first question twice, allowing you to respond accordingly.

Language Helper: “What did the Governor announce on Friday?”

Reply: “The Governor announced on Friday that he will not run for another term.”

Language Helper: “What did the Governor announce on Friday?”

Reply: “He announced on Friday that he will not run for another term.”

Now, however, you will not be looking at the text.  Your language helper will ask these two questions until you can answer word perfectly from recall memory.

But she is still not finished.  She will now increase the tempo and will expect you to answer in the same cadence.  She will persist until the two of you are conversing so quickly and naturally that a first language speaker coming into the room would hear a strangely redundant conversation in what would otherwise be completely understandable language.  It would be just as understandable to that first language speaker as any conversation would be between two first language speakers on the street.

This would continue — maybe for several days of practice — until the entire series of questions from that newspaper article could be asked and answered in fully fluent conversation.

You would be worn out by the time you finished studying this intently from a newspaper article.  Yet while others would be in the beginning language course after their initial six weeks of study, you — after your first six weeks — would already be speaking on an advanced level, though you would only be using a relatively small number of sentences.

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