The Russian Problem

When I learned Russian, we started with English grammar.

Two weeks of English grammar became two weeks more of Russian grammar.

I wasn’t pleased.

I didn’t think that was learning Russian at all. I wanted to learn a couple of words. I wanted to put those words into sentences. I wanted to say them to someone, and I wanted someone to say things back to me.

I did not want a refresher in direct objects, indirect objects, prepositional phrases and participles nor lessons in the accusative or genitive cases.

So, I complained.

The problem, the professor explained, was “the plateau.” Students who start  with conversational Russian and struggle with learning technical Russian and with composition. He said, “we’d get you to ordering from the menu at a restaurant, but you’d never be able write letter or read an essay.”

When conversational learners hit “the plateau,” they quit.

Unable to handle the grammar, conversational learners have to start over, now with a grammatical focus. Most find it’s too high a barrier to continue on with composition and technical language skills.

To correct for this, they started with the grammar out the outset.

As a result, people dropped out because they were bored by the grammar.

It’s a dilemma. Either path leads to most people quitting Russian.

I have the same problem with teaching “Agile Attitudes.”

Next: Only Four People and One Guess Each.

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