Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Friday, June 16, 2006

Great Conversations

by AJ

Im beginning to think that my conversations on The Linguist are more fun for me than for the students! I had two fantastic discussions today.

The first was with a Russian man named Ilya. Ilya is a very motivated learner.. but more than that.. he is an innovative thinker. Currently Ilya is working on a system to use movies to teach languages. This would be a self-study system, allowing students to pop a movie into their laptop, watch it, and learn. He's designing an in-sync subtitle system that will help learners acquire the language without needing to constantly pause the movie. The software is in development now, but Im hoping to get a crack at a test run before the end of the year.

My next discussion was with Kyoung and Humberto. Humberto is amazing. He is a native Spanish speaker with a story most of us can relate to. He came to Canada and enrolled in traditional ESL classes. He studied and dutifully attended classes. He steadily rose through the levels, eventually getting a certificate of completion. After all of this, however, he couldnt speak English or hold even a rudimentary conversation.

He joined The Linguist three months ago. Everyday he read and listened to authentic content. He listened repeatedly to the same content. He continued to do this everyday and then suddenly made a breakthrough. In our discussion, he spoke quickly and fluently. I had a hard time believing that just 3 months ago he was struggling with speech.

Humberto's enthusiasm was contagious. He was very excited about his progress, and the "structured input" system he is using at The Linguist. He gave me (and Kyoung) a very powerful pep talk.

As part of our discussion, Humberto related how he tried to get his friends to join The Linguist, but could not convince them. He bemoaned the fact that they insisted on using traditional methods and insisted on relying on a classroom and teacher. Even though he has made amazing progress, and they still can't communicate in English... they insist that they must learn in a classroom and must focus on grammar.

Which just goes to show how powerful the brainwashing is. Truth be told, thats what it is. So many students believe that the traditional classroom, teacher, tests, grades, grammar, textbook system is THE only legitimate way to learn. Even though this system may be failing them utterly, they remain stuck in it. They often blame themselves.. thinking they arent smart enough, or dedicated enough. When in fact the system is to blame.

How do you break students out of this mentality? Its a very tough challenge. Even when the difference in results is as powerful as between Humberto's and his friends'-- its still very difficult to get learners to accept another way.

Yet, if we truly care about our students, that is exactly what we must do.

San Francisco, CA