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Advantages and Disadvantages of Community Language Learning

There are advantages and disadvantages to a method like CLL. The affective advantages are evident. CLL is an attempt to put Carl Rogers philosophy into action and to overcome some of the threatening affective factors in second language learning. The threat of the all-knowing teacher, of making blunders in the foreign language in front of classmates, of competing against peers--all threats which can lead to a feeling of alienation and inadequacy are presumably removed. The counselor allows the learner to determine the type of conversation and to analyze the foreign language inductively. It is interesting to note that the teacher can also become a client at times: in situations in which explanation or translation seems to be impossible, it is often the client-learner who steps in and becomes a counselor to aid the teacher. The student-centered nature of the method can provide extrinsic motivation and capitalize on intrinsic motivation. But there are some practical and theoretical problems with CLL. The counselor-teacher can become too non-directive. The student often needs direction, especially in the first stage, in which there is such seemingly endless struggle within the foreign language. Supportive but assertive direction from the counselor could strengthen the method. Another problem with CLL is its reliance upon an inductive strategy of learning. I have already noted in Chapter Five that deductive learning is both a viable and efficient strategy of learning, and that adults particularly can benefit from deduction as well as induction. While some intense inductive struggle is a necessary component of second language learning, the initial grueling days and weeks of floundering in ignorance in CLL could be alleviated by more directed, deductive, learning by being told. Perhaps only in the second or third stage, when the learner has moved to more independence, is an inductive strategy really successful. Finally, the success of CLL depends largely on the translation expertise of the counselor. Translation is an intricate and complex process that is often easier said than done; if subtle aspects of language are mistranslated, there could be a less than effective understanding of the target language. Despite its weaknesses CLL is a potentially useful method for the foreign language classroom as long as teachers are willing to adapt it to their own curricular constraints. That adaptation requires a relaxing of certain aspects of the method. For example, you might avoid the initial, complete dependence stage by using CLL in an intermediate language class. Or you might provide more directiveness than CLL advocates. As is the case with virtually any method, if you have solid theoretical foundations a broad, cautiously enlightened, eclectic view you can derive valuable insights from diverse points of view and apply them creatively to your own situation.