Immersion and the OSEA Fieldwork Immersion Strategy
It seems simple: Immerse yourself in a foreign language and you will learn it! But actually learning is much more complicated and difficult a task. Just as there is no magic exercise belt you can put on to lose weight while eating ice cream and watching reality TV shows, just being there in the foreign language does not cause you to learn by inhaling the local aromas!
To learn by immersion requires a method and a structure, a style and a strategy of learning. There is nonetheless not one single method of learning by immersion. Anthropologists long ago developed skills and techniques for learning languages while doing ethnographic fieldwork in cultural worlds for which there were not already scores of pedagogical tools. But they and other folks like missionaries figured out not a single method, but developed methods that have worked for each of them as invididuals. In other words, immersion is just the context of learning, but each ethnographer has developed their own strategies and methods of increasing their learning of the foreign language. There is not one immersion method, but many techniques and even many strategies of learning by on-site, ethnographic immersion.
The OSEA pedagogy for intensive Maya program is based on guidelines of language learning developed through ethngraphic fieldwork and immersion in combination with specific principles that I myself have found useful in gaining fluency in speaking, reading, and writing the Maya language of Yucatán. It is this “in the field” tested learning that gives the OSEA program its practical edge and competitive advantage over other Maya language programs. The OSEA teachers provide seminar learning of necessary grammar and training to make sense and practical use of communicative pragmatic speaking rules.
OSEA teaches students how to go out into a linguistic immersion context and have native speakers become your teachers in a natural, unforced, enjoyable interaction. OSEA teaches you how to strike up a conversation in ways that are structured, shaped and guided by specific learning objectives that you have previously identified in the course of your overall learning.
Techniques include: shaping conversations with questions that are focused on key target points of learning; eliciting stories, anecdotes and narratives; recording speech or stories and analyzing for patterns, rules, idiomatic phrases; interactive tools for creating speech situations to practice, expand, and perfect situated dialogue; methods of eliciting vocabulary of everyday sort and that forms part of special speech domains; how to identify persons with whom to develop and sustain a relationship as conversational partners; how to talk about syntax and grammar with speakers who dont have much if any knowledge about the linguistic rules of the language. These tools are taught in the classroom and students then use these in structured assignments as well as in the "off" hours of non-stop, linguistic and cultural immersion.
In the classroom seminar, OSEA provides you with the basic tools of the language and with the basic tools of learning by fieldwork immersion. You become your own teacher in developing practical compentencies and proficiencies and OSEA supervises, guides, and structures your learning experience.
OSEA provides you with the tools and methods to learn more effectively through immersion and to continue to learn on your own after you have returned to your home.