2017/03/31 The Myth of Input and Output

I hate it when people use these two words: input and output. When they use it, they regard human minds as computers into which information to be processed is carried and out of which the result of the process is delivered. This view is inadvertently based on the assumption that a human being and the world in which she lives can and should be separated. This assumption is called representationalism by Thomas Fuchs, a German phenomenologist, in a seminar he gave in Japan last year. According to it, we understand the world by creating representations of it. That's what he and also I want to criticize.

When it comes to how best to study English, this representationalism often comes into play. It is often said that Japanese students of English make too much effort to input English words and phrases and that they should spend more time trying to output what you have learned. However, I don't think learning English can be so simple a matter. I am too immature to describe the way I, as one of the students, have been studying and learning the language, but I can at least say this: Learning English is living and acting in the world of English. Suppose you had entered a new social environment, say a new company, a new school, or whatever. At first you would probably not know how to behave in the new world. All you could do is to try acting. Act and see what the world would react. Through this series of interactions, you would know in your body how to be in the world. I think something similar happens when learning a foreign language. You are thrown into a new environment. At first, you don't know what to do or how to do it. But gradually, one by one, you come to know it through the interactions with studying materials, teachers or native speakers. Current thoughts about the way to study English treat human beings as if they were nothing but the brain, the eyes and the hands. On the contrary, learning is taking place all over the body and through acting. So, I think the best way to learn English is to throw yourself out in the English world where you have to act for yourself. However, this is time and money consuming. Therefore, the second best way, I believe, would be to read aloud and memorize English texts.