The Role of Sense-Expressing Processes in Speech Generation

In our times the volume of all kinds of information is so enormous that it does not correspond with the perception and in information-processing capabilities of human mind. Even with the help of computers many years are necessary for the comprehension and implementation of advanced scientific, economic, aesthetic inventions, hypothesises, theories and postulates. It is self-evident that the contacts between specialists of various fields and spheres of human activity, exchange of ideas between scientists of different fields, people of art and culture based on the multistage system of information transfer which have been acceptable before, do not meet the requirements of our time. International conferences and symposiums, their stenography and recording, publications of translations, abstracting and summarising of papers, inquiries and search for required information are enormously complicated. There is an urgent necessity of direct contacts in languages common for the persons concerned, without interpreters. The speed of modern means of transport, their extension and availability, the development of international contacts on different levels — from mass tourism to large international forums, Olympics, festivals, etc. — urge millions of our contemporaries to communicate directly.

That is why the existing system of studying foreign languages (not only in this country) does not meet the requirements of our time. The traditional methods of studying languages prevalent in this country and abroad, despite some recent modifications, are ineffective and do not help to decrease the length (6-10 years) of the language studying process. The demand for effective foreign language teaching within comparatively short terms becomes more and more insistent.

A number of ways to solve this problem have been tried in recent decades. They include hypnopedia, suggestopedia, relaxopedia and rhythmopedia.

A distinctive feature of these new methods is the unusual way of presenting the material, with the emphasis on memorising words, phrases, texts, rules, etc., the volume of which is many times larger than generally accepted norms.

The main common feature of all the methods listed above is the way of influencing the mnemonic abilities of students which characterises each method: the use of functional abilities of the «watchpoint» in sleep (hypnopedia), suggestive influence (suggestopedia), progressive muscular relaxation and autogenic training (relaxopedia), of transitional stages of biorhythms-hypnotic phases (rhythmopedia) and the associated procedures of information input.

The emphasis on mnemonic processes (for example «hypermnesia» effect) takes the authors of these methods away from efficient studies of correlation between language, thought and speech. Thus, the emergence of new teaching methods has not changed the fundamental attitude towards the problem of mastering a foreign language speech, the teaching practice remains «estranged» from the personality itself in the process of its speech activity.

The process of mastering a foreign language is only shortened by way of intensive memorising while combined procedures of conventional methods of studying a foreign language are used. Audio-visual and audio-lingval teaching systems practised abroad and partly in this country failed to become a turning point in teaching oral speech and gradually give way to reading-teaching methods.

There are two main trends of foreign language teaching in this country. One of them, with the emphasis on speech-oriented lessons, develops so-called «communicational» or situational teaching system. Blaming (not without reason) the lack of information content in educational speech and trying to determine the conditions for the development of informative communication in a foreign language, the proponents of this trend involve situations, determine the purposes of statements, emotional colouring, create conditions for dialogic speech.

The second trend is represented in our conference by professor P.Ya.Galperin. In his opinion, «the distinction between two forms of social consciousness — cognitive and linguistic» can serve as the theoretical basis for a new method of foreign language teaching. This trend clearly determines the way from language to speech and, thus, in fact, there are no differences between this approach and the traditional method. Here the following problem is not given proper attention — the speech, which the student is mastering, should become a component of his personality structure and the process of mastering an alien, foreign speech cannot be accomplished without transformation of a formal studying process to a personal process. It is not mere chance that these conceptions do not take into account the sense, the motive, and the emotion — all that is inseparable from live human speech.

On the face of it, the first of the aforementioned trends is closer to the solution of the difficult problem of teaching a foreign language speech. It involves situations and a system of communicative statements of the following type: — «Ivanov, tell us what you usually do at a post office when you send a cable» or «Pete and Sasha, you are on a stadium, talk to each other».

The inferiority of such teaching techniques is evidenced by the articles of practising teachers, which appear in the press. The aforementioned situation models are characterised by them in the following way: «They can hardly serve as a stimulus for creative expression. At best the students will list the actions known to everybody. And if the students still say something in such situations, it is not a creative speech but most probably a dull reproduction based mostly on recollection, and it does not involve creativeness».

As a way out it is recommended to take into account the specific personality of the student, to know his or her demands, character and aspirations. Having found out the interests of the students with the help of a questionnaire, the teacher should put questions and choose communicative tasks situations with regard to the interests of the student.

For each topic («Theatre», «Sports», «Family», «Travel») a questionnaire of the following type is offered:

  1. Do you like sport? What kind of sport and why?
  2. Name your favourite team.
  3. Who is your favourite sportsman?
  4. etc.

At the reproduction stage it is offered to tell which kind of sport a student goes in for and so on.

However, in spite of all apparent proximity to the natural speech forms, these situations do not create live communication out of educational speech, do not transfer speech activity into psychological processes involving personal meanings: the topics still exist, the textbooks remain the textbooks, the students remain the students, but the motives and the goals determined by the changes in the course of the activity and connected with the statement content do not appear. The interest is not adequately taken into account — the fact that a student is interested in swimming does not mean that it is interesting for this student to talk on this subject when asked by the teacher — and it is just such interest that should be relied on. Otherwise the statements only resemble real speech.

It is offered to enliven the situations using predetermined means of expressing emotions: joy, grief, amazement, etc. The following tasks are offered: to express regret for the lack of the necessary theatre ticket, joy of the meeting with a friend, etc. However to speak about an emotion is not the same as to feel, to live through this emotion. Expressions of dissatisfaction, joy, grief, etc. do not mean that a person is amazed, rejoiced, distressed, etc. A conversation about emotions does not assume the transition from one emotional state to another. The same can be said about speaking according to the prescribed motives: «You should say so and so since you do not want something to happen». It all resembles playing according to some specified rules based on given circumstances and it does not express the inner state of the speaker, thus it is not beyond traditional methods.

The emphasis on the so-called communicational and situational approach in the process of teaching spoken language does not result in true speech activity, despite formal proximity. Joining by «outer» methods the sense-expressing processes and the speech generation that were separated in the beginning of teaching cannot result, even at advanced stages, in restoration of the unity which was lost from the very beginning. Actually, it is already late to join.

The sense-emotive approach to teaching foreign speech, which has existed and has been developed for a number of years, is an example of explorations in another direction. This approach can be classified as the way from speech to language. The problem of personality is emphasised. The necessary conditions for the perception and actualisation of a verbal utterance are the person’s activity, the resulting struggle of motives, the change of activity structure with the change of its motives. The actualisation of a verbal utterance as a speech-forming phenomenon is determined by sense-expressing processes.

The thought of A.N.Leontyev: «The sense is not to be taught — the sense is cultivated» — is one of the central postulates of this approach. The character of language communication is considered in this system first of all as a goal-oriented and motivated process determined by the social environment of a person and involving not only logical thought sphere but emotional states, will and moral aspects of human behaviour as well. It is assumed that by using speech, abstractions, generalised images, associations, by regulating personal activity, based on the general principles of adaptation to the environment and change of the environment, a person can gain a foothold and express oneself in the society.

In contrast with the established tradition of foreign language teaching, according to which the basis of the course is the digestion of ready knowledge of the language which is offered to the students for memorising in the form of rules, schemes, «models», examples of texts on different topics, the method which is being offered involves the students in direct communication with each other for solving real tasks appearing in the course of actually happening events. Thus, the main postulate of the traditional method, stating that mastering a set of language symbols should be the first condition for the receipt and transfer of information, is resolutely revised.

The concept assuming that the symbols are primary and the communication is secondary fails to agree with the social experience of human history and the practice of a single person, which tell us that the communication determines the mastering of symbols and not vice versa. While according to the grounded opinion of V.A.Zvyagintsev, for creating dialogical schemes the scheme «reality — sense — text» should be necessarily supplemented by a very little developed scheme » reality — sense — text — oral speech», the sense-emotive approach aimed at practical learning an alien, foreign language uses the following scheme: » reality — sense — oral speech — knowledge — language».

Such approach inevitably leads to the differentiation of language and speech. Due to understandable reasons there is no possibility to describe at length complicated relations between speech and language in this report. It can be only indicated that they become apparent at semantic levels of meaning (language) and sense (speech). Any operations with language categories are not beyond actions performed at the level of meanings. The meanings serve as some collective symbols, the functions of which are fixed for all members of a given language group.

The attempts to master a foreign language by understanding all principles of using such symbols in the foreign language system for their further usage in the speech are based on so-called reasonableness principle. In this case the teaching process is subdivided into successive operations with formal language structures. In all these cases the unity and dynamics of speech generation are broken in order to restore this integrity at further stages by assembling and designing the expression by elements. It is indeed impossible to assemble, to build a construction without knowing its specific elements, without being aware of their functions, the principles of their interaction. But the question is whether it is assembled, whether the process of verbal communication is the process of assembling, and building speech constructions. Isn’t this an attempt to stop the movement, to replace it by designing that deprives the speech statement of the sense for which it exists in speech, in communication?

In order «to prove harmony by algebra» one should have harmony. Otherwise the knowledge of design rules and assembly models is achieved but the construction which is created is dead and its application is highly problematic under actual activity circumstances, it lacks personal sense, emotions and disagrees with the psychological norms of speech behaviour habitual for the particular person.

It is appropriate to remind the following postulates in this case: «Consciousness as a form of psychic reflection, however, cannot be reduced to the functioning of meanings adopted from the outside which unfold and control the inner and the outer activity of a subject». And more: «the meanings functioning in an individual consciousness system realise not themselves but the movement of the personal sense embodied in them, of this for-oneself being of a particular subject».

All this presumes a question: should the mastering of a foreign language speech start from the knowledge of formal sides of language phenomena, as it happens with the traditional approach, or is another approach possible?

The statement of L.S.Vygodsky that a thought isn’t expressed but is realised through a word implies dynamics, and a certain process. The speech generation realises the sense formation. The speech is in any case the realisation of thought, i.e. a process, movement in which the functioning of formal language structures, meanings of words and word combinations is indivisibly connected with «the objective relation of the stimulus and the object, the immediate result of the person’s activity reflected in the head of the person», i.e. with the sense.

It is hard to agree with the opinion that having learned the principles of a foreign language system and having mastered the ways of creating structural language units on their basis, so as to do it automatically, a person can use them in a personal, behaviour-like way. It would be too simple a solution for the difficult problem of transition that involves psychic processes. The knowledge of structural phenomena does not itself create speech. Only when a person finds oneself in such environment in which the language adaptation is necessary, the person masters the speech.

A person develops in the process of adaptation to the changing environment. According to this concept the speech is one of the main means of the social adaptation of a person. A person expresses oneself through the speech which is itself one of the components of a personality structure. Therefore, the first task in teaching foreign speech is the creation of such conditions for a person, in which the speech has an adaptive objective. And to achieve this, it is necessary for a person to have possibilities for self-expression, for participation in the activity which demands speech adaptation, i.e. meaningful, conducted «in the form of such specific life situations in which they (meaningful emotional feelings — I.Sh.) naturally appear, transform, interact and fade away».

The method, which takes into account the fact that an adult person already has the basic skills of speech adaptation, is aimed at simulating reality in education by such ways that ensure that the educational situations are not formalised, are not separated from events which are important for the psychological activity of a person, from experiences filled with apparent or hidden sense that is important for a person. These situations should involve making decisions associated with moral responsibility, with the possibility of changing some practically important personal positions, with the stress caused by the conflict of different «meaningful» aspirations, with the changes to which unrealised aspirations are subject — in short, they should involve all aspects «of the constant transformation of a person’s subjective world and the formation of individual and unique system of values created by each person and operative motives of a person’s everyday behaviour «.

Based on these postulates, the sense-emotive system of foreign language teaching uses the potential of role games, problem situations and intellectual tasks as the means of modelling the reality to stimulate the self-expression of a personality, its flexibility and adaptive ability. The emotional climate of the lessons is especially important for this task. In contrast with the formal, pretended businesslike style of teacher-student communication, characteristic of the traditional forms of language teaching, the sense-emotive system is based on the elevated emotional tonus of the group in the atmosphere of positive emotional experience being significant for each student.

Therefore the question «Where to start from?» is of special importance since it assumes the choice of one of the two contradicting possible directions. One of them is the tested way of the traditional method, the way of gradual accumulation of skills, of assembling, designing, building speech blocks through the understanding of the descriptive principles of the language system. The other way is the way of the development of speech abilities, their awakening and formation under real communication conditions when the unrestricted initiative of students finds enough space for the expression of their own decisions, for the realisation of their ego.

The creation of conditions for real communication is also connected with the necessity to keep the student focused on the content of an expression («sense») and not on its formal characteristics («meanings») of language forms which is achieved by the transition of speech communication from the traditional educational level to the emotional level of communication where «speech» is out of danger of becoming «language». The primary presentation of material is conducted in the form of events the participants of which are the students themselves, when there are no speech examples but there are sense-bearing words of participants spoken in the native language and translated into the foreign language.

It is natural that this system is much more tolerant to the mistakes in the speech of students than the traditional system in which the success of education is determined first of all by the number of violations of the language norms, no matter whether even a student who has constructed the statement without mistakes can take part in a free, not predetermined act of communication.

The composition of the student group, based on personal (common interests, psychological compatibility of temperaments, etc.) and on social-professional characteristics, is especially important for the sense-emotive method of teaching. Since the education is conducted within very limited terms the teacher should be able to predict the behaviour of the students in various kinds of activities including role games in order to avoid mismatch which may hinder the communication and decrease the total level of positive emotions of the students.

Involving not only logical-rational thought sphere but also orientations, various emotions and experiences in the educational process is achieved in the sense-emotive method not only through role games which act as an equivalent, a model of reality but through the solution of problem situations and intellectual tasks as well. They all act actually as some models of live reality, motivating the known forms of behaviour including the speech behaviour of a student.

Thus, it is necessary to create conditions for such problem situations which could give way for improvised speech solutions based not on the reproduction of examples but on the possibility of speech generation and its regulation in the course of communication by the communication chain participants themselves.

This point of view agrees with the definition given by D.I. Dubrovsky who thinks that «psychic activity taken in all its manifestations necessarily assumes and includes actions of a person (and to a certain extent the objects of actions as well)».

As may be shown by the already many year’s experience of the sense-emotive system education, the participants of such a course develop their speech abilities in mastering a foreign language to the level which ensures appropriate communication in personal contacts, participation in business life, reading of necessary literature within a three-month term. If required, they can learn not one but several foreign languages within this scope. It should be added that not only practical success makes most of the students feel satisfied, they are also satisfied with the fact that the process of learning itself does not suppress the personality but helps to develop its potentials.

One could say that not only language teaching, the specifics of which demands to take into account the personality, but also any other education would undoubtedly become more humane and modern if such conditions of studying were created under which a student was not forced to feel estranged from his or her personality, was not deprived of the higher inner synthesis without which one’s existence is deprived of any independence.