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LINGUIST List 21.2570

Fri Jun 11 2010

Diss: Applied Ling: Sorensen: 'Teach Yourself?: Language learning ...'

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        1.    Louise Sorensen, Teach Yourself?: Language learning through self-instruction manuals in nineteenth-century Scandinavia

Message 1: Teach Yourself?: Language learning through self-instruction manuals in nineteenth-century Scandinavia
Date: 11-Jun-2010
From: Louise Sorensen <l.sorensenshef.ac.uk>
Subject: Teach Yourself?: Language learning through self-instruction manuals in nineteenth-century Scandinavia
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Institution: University of Sheffield
Program: Department of English Language and Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2010

Author: Louise Munch Sorensen

Dissertation Title: Teach Yourself?: Language learning through self-instruction manuals in nineteenth-century Scandinavia

Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics

Subject Language(s): Danish (dan)
                            English (eng)
                            Norwegian, BokmÃ¥l (nob)
                            Swedish (swe)

Dissertation Director:
Andrew R Linn

Dissertation Abstract:

To learn a foreign language from a self-instruction manual (teach-yourself
book) is not as easy as the publishers will have us believe. Despite this,
the genre has endured for many centuries. This thesis argues that the
robustness of self-instruction language manuals is due to their ability to
adapt to the personal circumstances of their readers. By surveying ordinary
nineteenth-century Scandinavians, it is established that they turned to
self-directed learning as a consequence of social and economic developments
in the region.

At the time, early globalisation was felt in terms of increased travel and
trade. As a consequence, people needed to acquire foreign languages for the
purpose of everyday communication. Because this area of second language
acquisition was practical and took place outside formal education, it has
not been accepted as part of the history of applied linguistics. I argue
that 'utilitarian language learning' deserves to be included as an example
of the current theory of autonomous learning. I also draw the conclusion
that autonomy is actually one of the reasons why self-instruction manuals
are not as effective as traditional language teaching, because the learners
take charge of their own learning process and as a result often suffer from
lack of motivation and opportunities to practise the language. I do,
however, maintain that the works themselves are not inherently inept. The
nineteenth-century methods were actually an improvement upon existing
methods by focusing on the spoken rather than the written language.

Finally, I investigate why abstract notions of language, culture and
identity were not present in works that could essentially disseminate
elitist ideas to the general population. I argue that because the genre was
highly commercialised, the authors deliberately chose to exclude topics
that had political undertones and the potential to alienate parts of the
readership.



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