Why children’s literature isn’t beginner material

TL; DR – For implicit language acquisition, student literature (graded readers written for language learners) is much more effective than “authentic” children’s literature. I compared samples of literature for children, adults, and students as an objective, if not scientific, demonstration. It should come as no surprise that student literature is more effective than “authentic” children’s literature. They are written for different purposes. Children’s literature is intended to expand the vocabulary of native speakers who already have a huge vocabulary (thousands of word families), for the purpose of developing literacy, not general competence. Graded readers are written to take advantage of students’ already developed literacy, general knowledge, and comparatively even broader first language lexicon. The texts: The first 250 or more words of [El patito feo; Tigres azules, Borges; Frida Kahlo, Kristy Placido](https://imgur.com/a/TuXdBoZ) At beginner and intermediate levels, ** if the goal is implicit acquisition of vocabulary and grammar * * this comparison shows why the recommended traditional children’s literature is often not it is the most effective choice. I always recommend graded readers (books written for students with different levels of proficiency) on children’s or young adult’s literature for the reasons I’ll explain below, but I was curious how much of a difference there was, so I compared them according to certain variables that the researchers and second language acquisition teachers widely understand how important to assess the usefulness of texts for implicit acquisition through reading. It wasn’t a fair fight at all, so I also wanted to compare a canonical (adult) literary text. Here are my reasons for choosing these particular texts. Criterion one: Frequency, measured using Corpusdelespañol, the project of Professor Mark Davies. Screenshots of the results at the link above. All three texts score similarly in terms of the most frequent vocabulary, with Borges taking a decent lead. But this also shows why the importance of high-frequency vocabulary is often overstated. If you look at these words, you will notice that there is not much you can do with them. There are not many verbs, adjectives, or adverbs. But according to my account, Frida and Borges have more than twice as many verbs as El patito. Criterion two: Utility / Versatility. It often takes a medium frequency vocabulary and even something low frequency to use the language in real life. If we look at the lower frequency words, there is a big difference between the ‘quality’ of Frida’s vocabulary in terms of its versatility for an intermediate or even beginner learner: it is mainly about commonly used verbs and adjectives, while the Texts (texts written for native speakers) include many relatively obscure nouns. If the Corpus allowed us to compare the frequency within this category, and even within the medium frequency words, I suspect that we would see a large difference in the numbers between Frida and the other two texts. Known words. Paul Nation and several other scholars have found that texts must consist of 90% known words in order for a reader to be able to * accurately infer * the meaning of unknown words from context, although 95-98% are generally considered ideal in these cases. studies, and some academics suggest that 80% is sufficient for high-ability students. This is important because stopping to search for a word dramatically reduces the amount of understandable information a reader receives, and quantity is one of the most important factors in implicit acquisition (most of the language acquired by highly proficient students is acquired implicitly). . Additionally, this research found that students misinterpret new words from context more than the researchers expected. The problem so far is that high frequency words and repetition alone make texts very boring. This problem can be alleviated with cognates. By relying on the first language, unknown words become known words. The most complicated language often ironically consists of a disproportionately larger number of cognates. In the low and medium frequency categories, there are many more cognates in Borges than in El patito. This further widens the comprehensibility gap. But Frida’s text has even more, and almost all the words of medium and low frequency are relatively frequent, such as study, play, and tired, or a cognate (usually both). On top of all that, unfamiliar words to qualified readers are usually defined in footnotes or a glossary. This is faster and more reliable than a dictionary and even software that lets you highlight a word to look up, like on LingQ (which I really like) and a Kindle. Repetition: There is not much difference in how repetitive the texts are, at least within such a small sample. The larger the sample, the more difference you will see. At 7,200 words in total, there are fewer than 150 “unique” words in Frida. That’s a lot of repetition, but the text itself doesn’t feel too repetitive. But again, look at what words are repeated and you will find that it is a more versatile vocabulary that is repeated in Frida, while the repeated words in Borges and Patito are more useful for the story than for the communication needs of your average intermediate student. * Frida Kahlo * is considered a level 2 reader. Level 1 readers will have fewer unique words, while level 3 will have many more and will include the subjunctive and all tenses. Qualified readers can be found at fluencymatters.com, or on Amazon and the personal pages of authors such as Bryan Kandel, Andrew Snider, Adriana Ramirez, and Bill VanPatten. FM readers have audiobook options, as well as full courses built around each book, but some of them will feel a bit too youthful for adults. His most recent books come in two versions: one in the present and one in the past. VanPatten books should be read when you feel like you are ready for “authentic” texts to bridge the gap. VanPatten is one of the most recognized experts in second language acquisition research and the most involved in influencing actual language teaching. He retired from the chair to write fiction. Most of the other authors are professors. I chose Borges because his writing has a reputation for being difficult, although possibly more because of his ideas than because of the language itself. The specific story, * Blue Tigers * was a random choice. I compared it to the first page of * El aleph * and the results were similar. I chose * The Ugly Duckling * because it is often the example that people use when advocating for the use of children’s literature. Newer children’s literature would do better, but it’s harder to find free or low-cost. New children’s books in Spanish are also expensive unless you can find them at the library, where the choice is often limited.

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