Bilingual Minimal Pairs
One of the most well-known models of how humans acquire language is the Principles and Parameters Theory advocated by Naom Chomsky and others.
The theory states there is a "Universal Grammar" mechanism in all humans at birth, which covers the underlying principles of all languages. Depending on the language input you get growing up, the parameters change and set themselves corresponding to the language of the community. For instance, growing up you learn that English is a subject-verb-object language, while someone in Japan learns Japanese is a subject-object-verb language. Basically, these parameter settings are what differentiate languages.
This theory addresses the problem called Poverty of the Stimulus. Here is an explanation of these ideas:
Using this model, we have developed our Champolu Bilingual Minimal Pairs Method, which consists of 4 Linguistic Concepts from various linguistic areas of study:
Linguistic area: Second Language Acquisition
Comprehensible input is a hypothesis to explain how second language acquisition takes place. It states that English language learners acquire language by hearing and understanding messages slightly above their current English language level. 'Comprehensible Input' can be defined as the target language that the learner can't produce but still understand.
Linguistic area: Phonology
The Minimal pairs theory is a linguistic approach to speech intervention. It emphasizes the role of the phoneme (a speech sound) in language and focuses on distinguishing the differences between phonemes. For example, a minimal pair English example of showing the difference in pronouncing "p" and "b" are "pat" and "bat".
Linguistic area: Machine Translation
The idea is to build a computer model based on the way language processing in the human brain happens; it is basically analogy finding in human beings. The computer system must be able to recognize the similarity and difference of given example sentences.
Initially a pair of sentences is given, like a simple English sentence and the corresponding Japanese sentence (English-"It is hot" Japanese- "Hatsui desu"). The next step is to give another pair of sentences (English and Japanese), which is different from the first only by one word (English- "It is cold" Japanese- "Samui desu). Humans are guided by these examples to make inferences and generate varieties of sentences ( "hot" is "hatsui", "cold" is "samui", adjectives in Japanese come before the verb, etc).
Linguistic area: First Language Acquisition/Learnability
This model indicates that, according to a "selective" (as opposed to "instructive" ) model of human language capacity, people come to know more than they experience.
Basically, children only need access to robust structures of minimal ("degree-0" ) complexity. Everything can be learned from simple, unembedded "domains" (a grammatical concept involved in defining an expression's logical form). Children do not need access to more complex structures.
Based on the four models described above, we have developed a new language learning approach. This approach features sets of sentence pairs in two languages that are designed to be minimal pairs. Like this:
|I am eating chicken||ana ba akol feraakh|
|I am eating fish||ana ba akol samak|
This serves as comprehensible input for learners to identify that fish=samak and chicken=feraakh. It also helps identify a template of "I am eating X = ana ba akol X".
With more vocabulary items, learners generate more sentences with these templates (e.g. I am eating cheese). With additional minimal pairs, learners understand more templates for the verb "eat" (for example I don't eat X, I want to eat X, he will eat X).
This language learning approach is suitable to be implemented in engaging activities so learners get exposure to vocabulary and templates and can understand and memorize them through spaced repetition.
In this way, the main focus at Champolu is to implement this method of language learning through games, songs and other fun activities.