Monday, April 09, 2007

Ethiopian Idol as an acquisition aid

Being a language student has helped me tremendously as I reflect on what I'm learning about language instruction.

Today in Amharic class we spent two hours watching Ethiopian Idol. It's pretty easy to recognize when an instructor is too busy to devote much time to a real lesson plan-- nevertheless, the exercise was quite helpful. A show like Ethiopian Idol, as opposed to say an interview or news broadcast, has value because most interactions are brief and are highly contextualized. The frequent closeups of singers' faces also aid students in observing how the mouth forms Amharic sounds.

I understood less than ten percent of the content of the language that we watched. Nevertheless the amount of meaningful input was high-- recognizing grammar (conjugations, etc) as it naturally occurs, and observing the use of discourse markers. More experience with the language in a naturalistic context will help me when I'm trying to produce Amharic-- I have a better sense of pragmatic norms and discourse norms, and a bit more of a grammatical instinct. It's hard to remember to produce grammar that doesn't have a strong influence on one's native language. Watching Ethiopian Idol makes the task easier.

I think it's an awful TV show, though.


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