Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


by AJ/Skald

The ideas of Krashen, David Long, and Tom Asacker intersect quite powerfully. Krashen and Long are in the language education field, while Tom Asacker is a marketing consultant.

But all three recognize that feelings and experience are THE key elements in learning & motivation. And I agree. The challenge,... the incredible and daunting challenge.. is to trigger euphoric feelings in the target language. Euphoric experiences.

Not good. Not interesting. Euphoric.

That sets the bar much higher than merely aiming for "understandable and interesting" happenings. Understanding and interesting are a good start. Certainly most programs would be doing great if they could hit those two goals. Most don't. Myself, Im just hinting at those two... getting there.

But I aspire to more. Im not satisfied with mediocre... or even "good". I want great... I want to create the best language program in the world.

That STARTS with research tested, authentic language techniques such as TPR Storytelling. But it doesn't end there. Not by a long shot. First of all, TPRS does not guarantee a great experience. Its certainly possible to tell boring stories using language that is of the wrong level. Its also possible to tell great stories in a boring way.

Mastering this technique takes time. Im just starting, and Im teaching myself with the trial and error method. But after each class I learn something more... I identify important distinctions... things to add, things to subtract... here a tweak, there a tweak.

But it won't end there. For I also want to master the Movie Technique... which will involve a similar period of self-training. And then there's classic TPR.

After all that, I will have merely arrived at "good". "Great" requires a thousand sensory touches... something Tom Asacker recently wrote about in his blog. This means putting as much energy into non-lingusitic factors as I put into learning teaching methods. It means a TRANSFORMATIVE classroom environment-- think of a Tibetan temple, an old catholic church, an indoor botanical garden, a zen garden, an artsy cafe.... these are places that instantly alter moods and attitudes. Thats the kind of physical space I want for my classroom. Every sense must be addressed.. including taste (I envision a small, but tasty, selection of drinks and snacks).

That will be a big hurdle for me. Im a dreadful decorator, and so Ill have to contract this out and/or rely on Kristin. At least I know what I like... what Im aiming for.

Next, there is the social realm. I want to create a rich social experience... a program that acts as social catalyst for students. No use learning a language, after all, if you have no one to use it with. This means I've got to ramp up intercultural events and opportunities... get students and fluent speakers mingling.

By addressing these factors, we begin to move beyond merely "teaching language" and start getting at "providing euphoric experiences and feelings in the target language". And that is the point at which effortlessness kicks in. Students don't even realize they are acquiring the language. No striving. No strain.

But, truth be told, arriving at that effortless acquisition point first requires a whole lot of effort on my (and Kristin's) part!