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November 07, 2005

Learning from Rain Man

Teachers may be able to learn a thing or two from Rain Man. In his latest Practical Linguist column in the Daily Yomiuri, Marshall Childs looks at the special language needs of children suffering from Asperger's Syndrome. A neurodevelopmental disorder, it is perhaps most familiar to people in the character of Raymond portrayed by Dustin Hoffman in the movie Rain Man. Some of the difficulties experienced by sufferers of the disorder have parallels in the problems faced by second language learners, and there are insights to be had from the techniques used to deal with them. They include teaching how to interpret the minds and feelings of dialog partners to pick up and pass on language "cues", teaching speech patterns, and how changes in intonation can lead to different meaning. Childs says in summing up, "If...pragmatics is aimed a satisfying the human drive to achieve meetings of minds, then it can be a powerful force and should be the organizing principle of our language curricula."
Lessons from Asperger's syndrome (link will expire)
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