One of the points that I mentioned in the post 'How to get 100% success in teaching a foreign language' was that around 90% students spend 9-12 years studying a language but still can't speak it. They may be able to parrot some sentences out, but they aren't autonomous speakers of the target language.
This is because they are 'learning' not 'acquiring'. By 'learning' I mean 'learning about'.
One of Steven Krashen's main points in the 80s was also that there is a distinct separation between 'learning' and 'acquiring'. He called it 'The acquisition-learning distinction'.
Now although he wrote a book on this in 1981 (31 years ago) titled 'Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning' we still find that in most schools and language institutes in Indonesia today language is still learned but not acquired.
I feel there are three reasons for this:
If students acquire English starting from their first year of primary education, they will do well in the TOEFL exams for entry into Universities because they will be competent in the language. The main things that are tested in the TOEFL exam are Reading Comprehension and Correct Vocabulary Selection (usually in the form of multiple choice questions). Grammar is tested but somebody with purely a conscious understanding of grammar will most likely do badly. The student with a subconscious understanding of what fits and what doesn't will do much better in questions relating to grammar. This has been proven in numerous studies and I have seen it also in my own personal experience with language students here.
Further more even if only a slight increase in TOEFL scores and fluency are found (worse case scenario) wouldn't it still be better that most students graduate with a communicative competency in English? a B1-B2 (European standard) competency alone opens ups many opportunities for the individual including but not limited to trade, education, employment, contacts, the global village, cultural perspectives and professional development. Essentially we would be giving millions of people a gift for life, the gift of another language.
So I hope this post has inspired you to spread the message of language acquisition which essentially means a campaign against 'language learning' as there is simple not time for both and our priorities should be clear.
Keep on sharing, shining and changing lives!
There is not a one-size-fits all answer to this but generally speaking.
Any method/environment that gives you lots of comprehensible input (language that you can grasp the meaning of) and is just a little above your current level.
Secondly you will need some kind of ‘feedback loop’ in that when you try to use the language or guess at the meaning of difference phrases you will get some sort of response, i.e. you can not learn language in a vacuum.
Finally it should be enjoyable for you, when you are stressed it will stop you from absorbing language (see: the affective filter) and it will also cause you to refrain from practicing/learning again. A certain level of stress or confusion is normal, but too much can be fatal.
If you would like to hear more about language learning, particularly self-study you can follow Lingo Steve on Youtube, he is an educated, experienced professional language instructor with a lot of common sense advice for language learners.
Alternatively I have written a few short articles on the matter and you are free to send me any queries but I would definitely recommend you check out Steve's work first!
Good luck with your language journey and my final advice is “intensity is always the best way to start” start with an intensive experience that won’t leave you in shock but will instead leave you knowing that you too have an ability to succeed in a foreign language.
Previously Indonesians in the public school system used to study English starting from SMP-SMA (Junior-Senior High School) then schools changed it to start at SD 3 (3rd Year of Primary School) and then for quite a while it has been obligatory since SD 1 (1st Year of Primary School). For private schools, they were usually a few steps ahead with when their students started learning English, most private kindergartens already start giving English from playgroup with songs and chants, but not all.
There is an interesting phenomena here though where students can 'learn' English for 12+ years but still not be able to communicate with it. This is due to a number of reasons such as:
Recently the education board in Indonesia has been seriously talking about some mammoth changes for the 2013-2014 curriculum.
The changes are said to include removing English from the primary school curriculum. They say this is because they will replace it with a subject to improve attitude.
Now although I do not really know too much about the changes yet to comment on them here, the whole issue did get me thinking about a speech I heard from Sir Ken Robinson about Changing Education Paradigms. I feel the point of his speech can be summed up in a few words - we need to seriously question what we know about education itself, rather than making small changes to curriculum, standards and management we should be making big changes to our perceptions and pushing to make education what it truly should be. Those are my words, not his but a summary none the less.
His words are "we need to change the culture of our institutions, the habits of our institutions and the habitats they occupy".
So what should education be? I don't think we can fully answer that question before we take our first steps on our new journey, and to make a new journey in a better and more effective direction we need to first remove ourselves from our current path. But hasn't the path been working fine up until now? I think we can all agree on the answer to that. This conversation about reforming education will never stop untill we first reform and refine our thinking on the matter.
Below is a RSAnimate video of the talk he gave in 2003 on Changing Education Paradigms. It is very easy to follow thanks to the illustrations even for a non-native English speaker.
It is well worth a watch! I've transcribed my notes below the video for those who prefer to read and for those who want to see my feelings on each issue. Enjoy! ^_^
Changing Education Paradigms
-A commentary of the speech made by Sir Ken Robinson
Any of my own feelings or opinions will be written in italic like this. The summary of the speech below is not quoted word by word but rephrased/written for easy reading.
Around the world today there is a lot of talk about reforming education. According to Sir Robinson there are 2 reasons for this.
1. Economic: How do we educate our children to take part in the economies of the 21st century? Given that we can't anticipate what the economy will look like next week? As demonstrated by the recent economic turmoil.
2. Cultural: How do we give our children a sense of cultural identity while still teaching them how to thrive in the global village?
The problem is, schools and school boards are trying to meet the future by doing what they have done in the past and in the process they alienate millions of students.
In the past we were sold the notion that if we studied hard, did well and went to college we would get a good job. Our children don't believe that anymore and they are right not to. A college degree is good, but not a guarantee on a job anymore, especially if the route to it marginalizes most of the things you think are important.
Our education system now is still based on an enlightenment view on education and caters to the needs of the industrialization era. This creates a certain perspective of education that although very useful in the past and a great step forward then, our perspectives need to be seriously revamped to keep up with the current era.
The prophet Muhammad SAW was said to of said "Teach people according to their era!"
There is an increase in Attention Deficit Problems with teens, mainly because of a lack of adaptability in the way we educate.
The arts are a victim of this mentality as they give an aesthetic experience. An aesthetic experience is when your senses are operating at their peak. When you are fully alive.
What we are prescribing for our children is an anesthetic experience. To hold their attention we are asking them to shut their senses off. What we should be doing is waking them up to what they have inside themselves.
We have a model of education based on the interests of industrialization and in the image of it (like a factory). Think about it!
It's all about 'conformity' and you can see this in the constant increase in standardized testing.
The above line is especially relevant in Indonesia!
Sir Ken Robinson suggests that we should go in the exact opposite direction. That's what he's talking about when he says ' a change in paradigms'.
Divergent thinking is an essential capacity for creative thinking. Divergent thinking gets less with age and this surprisingly coincides with 'becoming more educated'.
This may be because amongst other things in school we are taught:
If we atomize students and judge them separately we form a disjunction between them and their natural learning environment.
"We need to change the culture of our institutions, the habits of our institutions and the habitats they occupy."
To discuss this article and Sir Ken Robinson's ideas together please leave a comment bellow!
Until next time, keep shining sharing and succeeding!
Today I want to talk about a fairly famous method of learning a language but one that is frequently misunderstood or deemed too complicated or outdated to be practical in today's classrooms.
I want to try and dispel that notion for those who have heard of Suggestopedia and introduce it to those of you who haven't.
Unfortunately in most teacher training around Indonesia not much energy is put into studying and appreciating the different methods that have been used over the years to teach language. A lot of the time courses go into the theory of the different methods but often with a critical eye and by critical I mean 'criticizing' not 'important' which I think is an important differentiation
Suggestopedia rocked the industry when it was first released by it's creator and developer Georgi Lozanov. Unfortunately a mysterious and suspenseful curtain (an iron curtain to be precise) was drawn over the method before Dr. Lozanov could teach any practical application of the method. This curtain was only lifted momentarily when Dr. Lozanov was allowed by the Bulgarian government to go to the USA to share his method with Bobbi DePorter. He would not get many other chances to sit down in peace and share his method until the Berlin wall fell (signaling an end to the USSR) and he and his family were able to settle in Austria after hopscotching their way across Europe.
By that time though, the method had lost momentum amongst the Language Acquisition community and was perhaps considered old news. The uniqueness of the Suggestopedia method was perhaps also a great contribute to it's fall from popularity. Like TPR Suggestopedia did not rely on textbooks to work and thus probably wasn't accepted that widely in the formal education community.
This has been a reoccurring plague of thinking that has killed or hindered many good methods for language acquisition and even our basic concept of 'how we acquire languages' has fallen flat on it's face many times because Textbooks and most Summative Tests of 'knowledge' force teachers into a box (but we will discuss that more another day).
For now let's go over the basics of Suggestopedia. Firstly Suggestopedia is based on the concept of suggestion, some people may know it as hypnosis or NLP (Nuero Linguistic Programing). Basically Dr. Lozanov knew about how negative suggestion can seriously affect the brains ability to absorb language and information. An unideal state of mind such as being in a state of worry, stress or discomfort can also have a negative affect. After Dr. Lozanov, Prof. Dr. James Asher and then Prof. Steven Krashen also came to the same conclusions that the brains Affective Filter can hinder the ability for us to absorb a target language. I have discussed this before in my article 'Break Down the Barriers to Learning a New Language'.
What Suggestopedia does is give us a routine, environment and attitude as teachers to lower the Affective Filter and optimize our students state of mind for maximal learning ability. Sounds pretty good? Well we can perhaps discuss the theory of it some other time or in person if your really interested but I'm probably right when I assume it will probably bore you and you want to see practical examples and ways to apply it in your classroom right now. Okay so here we go!
Step one: New Identities (this is done at the beginning of a new course. Step Two-Six will be repeated several times in a course, Step One is only done once)
To improve students motivation and to help them get 'in the zone' they accept new identities which they will use for the duration of the course. This also assists in the students understanding the culture of the language as these new identities represent individuals who are native speakers of the target language.
Step Two: Presentation of Text
I have seen this done in two ways. the first using a dramatic scene where the teacher will act out the text. The second where the teacher hands out a the text, translated but with the translation in the left column and the target language in the right (according to Lonny Goldman this is because the brain has a natural urge to look to the right of the text as we do in reading) and then reads it in a dramatized voice. In both cases the students should be completely relaxed, without pressure to memorize anything and with classical baroque music playing in the background.
Step Three: The Activation Phase
The Activation Phase will be the next lesson after the Presentation of Text Phase. Students are required to of taken the text home to read before bed and first thing after getting up in the morning. They are now ready for the Activation Phase. In the activation phase, up to 12 activities playing around with the language can be done in a hour. These activities are not always completed but sometimes finished half-way through (we can see reasons for this through psychological studies that show that people remember tasks more when they haven't been completed). These activities are also all masked as fun games or tasks that have no relation to to Language Learning or Acquisition at all (this is to keep the brain relaxed and 'in the zone').
Step Four: The Passive Concert
The Passive Concert takes place at the end of a Activation Phase lesson. Here the students relax completely while they listen to the text being read in a soothing and calm way. It is preferable that they are in a reclining position and listening the baroque or 'Alpha State' sounds. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the 'Alpha State' it is a state where the brains activity is at an optimum activity for absorbing knowledge, you can read more about it here: 'Alpha Waves'.
Step Five: The Adaption Phase
The Adaption Phase is where the students now play around with the text they have been hearing. Here are some examples of Adamption Phase activities from Lonny Goldman's Website:
'a. Oral Comprehension. The whole class listens to a tape, and then breaks up into groups of three or four students per group. Each group receives a bundle of cut-up paragraphs, all of which, together, constitute the entire text just heard. The different groups can put the paragraphs into the right order first. When a group thinks it has won, the teacher replays the tape to check whether the order is right (more hidden oral practice!).
b. Written Comprehension. Each student receives a different newspaper clipping and quickly reads it. Then, in pairs, the students tell their partners about their particular article. The teacher now collects all the articles and puts them down on the ground (or pins them up on a wall). The students then mill about, looking at all the articles to identify which one their partner had.
c. Written Expression. Students must create something in writing based on a situation in the text. This might be an advertisement for a nice restaurant, an exotic tour proposed by a travel agency, a funny newscast, etc.'
Step Six: The Grammar Phase
This is the only time in the course where grammar is consciously examined. That being so, it's only grammar they they already subconsciously have an understanding of through the text. This phase is usually done in a similar fashion to the Activation Phase in that students play games with the grammar structures in a fun and stress free environment.
Okay Guys! Well I hope you enjoyed reading about Suggestopedia. As you can see it's actually very in line with what we have learnt about how the brain works in the last 25 years. It is also in line with Steven Krashen's 5 hypotheses of Language Acquisition. So why don't you give it a try some time?
Even if you can't follow the above steps that's know problem because being a suggestopedic teacher doesn't mean you follow a formula, it just means you understand the power of suggestion or 'desuggestion' (desuggesting negative feelings and filters) and you make sure your lessons all harness it's power.
If you'd like to see some suggetopedic lessons in action you can watch this movie series from Lonny Goldman (a practitioner of Suggestopedia from the USA):