Bibliografía - Paul Meara

Until very recently, vocabulary played a role in the production of language teaching materials that was very definitely a secondary one. Although inevitably present in any course book, vocabulary was generally subordinated to other elements that were considered more important to the process of learning a language. Thus, in the 1950s and 1960s, when grammar translation was the dominant approach to language teaching, the lexical content of courses was considered less important than the grammatical content of textbooks. To a large extent, the vocabulary taught was determined by the words that appeared in the works of classical authors whose texts were used for teaching purposes. Later, the structural or audiolingual methods, based on behaviourist theories subordinated the vocabulary to be taught to the linguistic structures that the student was required to automatize during the process of learning. In the 1970s, communicative approaches to language teaching began to be developed, partly as a reaction to the short-comings of earlier methods. Functions and Notions came to be the main curricular focus for language teaching, and functional-notional approaches dominated classroom practice. The vocabulary which appears in courses that were developed with this method in mind simply reflects the vocabulary which is used in the context chosen to introduce the functions and notions which the student is required to master – In the restaurant, At the airport, At the doctor’s to list but a few of the typical ones. The common assumption that underlies all these treatments of vocabulary is the idea that vocabulary acquisition takes place naturally when people learn other more basic elements: learn grammar, or structures, or functions, and you will inevitably learn vocabulary. Vocabulary acquisition is something that just happens on its own. One consequence of this is that the textbooks of the period show a surprisingly cavalier attitude towards the vocabulary items that they choose to teach. Words are included almost at random, and their selection depends heavily on the intuition of authors.

This paper illustrates this problem in a series of beginners’ Spanish courses. Specifically, we analysed a set of six textbooks published by the BBC over a period of 30 years (1965-1995). These courses were all aimed at adult learners of Spanish, working on their own, and were primarily intended as a companion text for radio and television broadcasts. Inevitably, however, they were widely adopted as standard textbooks for adult learners attending classes as well. It is difficult to underestimate the influence of these courses on adult education, and it is no exaggeration to say that these courses pretty much defined the syllabus for adult learners of Spanish in the UK for a period of about thirty years

Análisis estadístico del vocabulario incluido en varios manuales de español para adultos de la BBC. 

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Paul Meara developed the LLAMA tests as a free, language-neutral, user-friendly suite of aptitude tests incorporating four separate elements: vocabulary learning (LLAMA_B), phonetic (implicit) memory (LLAMA_D), sound-symbol correspondence (LLAMA_E) and grammatical inferencing (LLAMA_F) based on the standardised MLAT tests (Carroll & Sapon, 1959). Recently, they have become increasingly popular in L2 acquisition research. However, Meara has expressed concern about the wide use of these tests without validity testing. We investigated several areas relating to the LLAMA tests. 1. What is the role of gender in LLAMA test performance? 2. Are the LLAMA tests language neutral? 3. What is the role of age? 4. What is the role of formal education qualifications? 5. Does playing logic puzzles affect LLAMA scores? 6. What difference would changing the test timings make to scores?229 participants from a range of language backgrounds, aged 10-75 with various education levels, typologically distinct L1s, and varying levels of multilingualism were tested. A subset of participants was also tested with varying timings for the tests. The results showed that the LLAMA tests are gender and language neutral. The younger learners (10-11s) performed significantly worse than the adults in the sound/symbol correspondence task (LLAMA_E). Formal education qualifications show a significant advantage in 3 of the LLAMA subcomponents (B, E, F) but not the implicit measure (LLAMA_D). Playing logic puzzles did not improve LLAMA test scores. The timings appear to be optimal apart from LLAMA_F, which could be shortened.