The Time Factor in Language Learning


  • John DeFrancis Ph.D

    Search for more papers by this author
    • 1

      JOHN DEFRANCIS (Ph.D., Columbia Univ.) is Chairman of the Department of Asian and Pacific Languages at the University of Hawaii. He has served as President of the Hawaii Association of Language Teachers and as Chairman of the Chinese Language Teachers Association, and is currently Editor of The Journal of the Chinese Language Teachers Association. He is the author of twelve volumes of Chinese texts published by Yale University Press between 1963 and 1970, including Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced Chinese. He is a member of ACTFL, MLA, the Association for Asian Studies, the Linguistic Society of America, and the Chinese Language Teachers Association


ABSTRACT  In measuring language-teaching activities, especially when comparing programs, the question frequently arises as to how long it takes to attain a specified goal. The various units of measurement which have been used are all very imprecise and misleading because they generally overlook such time-related aspects as student aptitude, relation between class hours and outside study, and number of students in class.

All these are multiple aspects of the complex time factor, and all need to be taken into consideration when determining the kind of language program to adopt. The choice lies between the extremes of maximizing all aspects of the time factor, thereby adopting an élitist approach to language study, and selectively choosing among the various aspects of the time factor so as to attract more students with a view to exposing them to a foreign language as a cultural experience. At the pre-college level the emphasis should be on the latter. At the college level the ideal program seeks both objectives by teaching language as a tool for a few specialists and as a cultural experience for a larger number of students.