International scholars at a conference held in Shanghai on the science of learning suggest an easier, more active way for children to learn a second language than traditional rote memorization in a classroom.
The answer lies in informal learning environments where students not only connect with real life but connect with it in more than one language.
English courses in China have long been criticized for what has been characterized as their dried-up teaching methods and absence of practical application.
Yet studies show that about 81.5 percent of a person's life is spent in informal learning environments. With that in mind, language learning should not be limited to a formal classroom or to a single language, the experts say.
"They should learn English through more active communication, rather than focusing on vocabulary and grammar. It is a way to learn multiple languages," said Dirk Van Damme, head of the innovation and measurement division of the education directorate of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris.
"The ability to speak and communicate is very important. And bilingualism can help stimulate the development of the brain. Chinese students - at least those in Shanghai - are very capable in their second-language learning," Van Damme said.
Exposing children to a bilingual environment through informal study is important, said Cheng Kai-ming, a professor of Education at the University of Hong Kong.
"Learning has always been an essential part of human life," Cheng said. "Now we are living in a society with rapid changes, one that is already substantially different from the typical manufacturing base of the past. Therefore, it's prime time to reinterpret learning."
Another expert also saw the value of bilingual learning but offered a caveat.
"The human brain has a remarkable ability to reorganize its structures in response to differences in environmental and behavioral experience, such as educational, social and multicultural learning, or monolingual versus bilingual language learning," said cognitive neuroscientist Laura Ann Petitto, science director of the National Science Foundation's Science of Learning Center.
Bilingual exposure at an early age will produce some positive effects for a child's growth and learning ability, especially in the area of reading. But she also warned that if a child is exposed to two languages or two reading systems simultaneously, it may cause language delay and confusion.
In an academic report, Bilingualism Alters the Brain's White-Matter Microstructure, Patricia Kuhl, a professor at the University of Washington, said that children in bilingual environments demonstrate higher cognitive ability. Experiments showed, for example, that children in a bilingual environment can get toys into a box more quickly than their single-language peers.
In December, the Ministry of Education released a draft reform plan for the national college entrance examination, or gaokao, making it clear that English will be moved from the exam in the future. Provinces and cities across the country are required to work out their own plans under the direction of the ministry.
Quite often, educators tell families of children who are learning English as a second language to speak only English, and not their native language, at home. Although these educators may have good (36) intentions, their advice to families is misguided, and it (37) stemsfrom misunderstandings about the process of language acquisition. Educators may fear that children hearing two languages will become (38) permanentlyconfused and thus their language development will be (39) delayed; this concern is not documented in the literature. Children are capable of learning more than one language, whether (40) simultaneouslyor sequentially(依次地). In fact, most children outside of the United States are expected to become bilingual or even, in many cases, multilingual. Globally, knowing more than one language is viewed as an (41) assetand even a necessity in many areas。
So far, many regional gaokao reform plans across the country remain undeveloped, but debate continues to swirl about how English is taught.
It is also of concern that the misguided advice that students should speak only English is given primarily to poor families with limited educational opportunities, not to wealthier families who have many educational advantages. Since children from poor families often are (42) identified as at-risk for academic failure, teachers believe that advising families to speak English only is appropriate. Teachers consider learning two languages to be too (43) overwhelming for children from poor families, believing that the children are already burdened by their home situations。
China Daily 03/06/2014 By Wang Hongyi
If families do not know English or have limited English skills themselves, how can they communicate in English? Advising non-English-speaking families to speak only English is (44) equivalent to telling them not to communicate with or interact with their children. Moreover, the (45) underlying message is that the family's native language is not important or valued。
文章摘自Childhood Education Publisher出版的一篇论文，话题比较常见，理解难度不大。
文章科学性与人文性并存，用词专业，难度中上，对复杂的副词形容词的考核是重点，如simultaneously, underlying, permanently等等，动词短语的搭配也有涉及，如短语stem from。教育这个话题一直是各个考试中频频出现的热门内容，建议六级考生多关注这方面的文章，同时注意背诵多音节的形容词副词及动词短语搭配。