Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Friday, July 07, 2006

MJ, Tiger, Ronaldhino

by AJ

In general, I'm having a great time studying Spanish on my own. I'm consistently studying everyday, at least an hour. I feel I am making progress.

Clearly, its possible to learn a language on your own. As I've noted in past posts, I also feel that traditional classroom instruction is extremely wasteful. Often, in fact, its worse than that-- its counter-productive.

Dependence on a teacher is not a good thing. A teacher can't learn for you. A teacher can't force the language into your brain.

However, I do realize that there are many benefits to having a COACH. Michael Jordan had a coach. Tiger Woods has a coach. Ronaldhino has a coach.

Let's face it, learning a language is a long process. Sometimes its frustrating, whatever methods you use. Sometimes it helps to have someone to encourage you, to pat you on the back, to give you a bit of advice. In fact, its amazing how helpful just this little bit of help is.

My current burst of consistent Spanish effort grew out of a conversation with Steve Kaufman (at The Linguist). At the time, about two months ago, I had just started to study. I was making an effort, but was constantly frustrated. I felt my progress was too difficult and slow. I couldn't understand most of the audio in "Las Puertas Retorcidas". I doubted if I really had the ability and persistence to learn a language. I remembered all of my past failures.

Steve gave me a pep talk. In fact, he gave me a couple. He didn't have any magic words or shortcuts. But he convinced me that I could indeed do it, that I was using good methods, and that I would be successful if I stuck with it. Coming from him, a guy who has been VERY successful learning languages, it meant a lot. He gave me a tremendous boost of confidence which has fueled my efforts ever since.

This is the most important thing a teacher/coach/tutor does. They help you to keep going. They address the emotional ("affective") issues that cause students to become anxious & frustrated. They help you develop an effective learning plan and they help you to stick to it. When you need it, they compliment you and point out your strengths. At other times (especially for accomplished/advanced learners) they give you a kick in the butt and a "get back to work" nudge. They remind you that you can, and WILL, succeed.

Students & teachers underestimate the value of this role. (And they grossly OVERestimate the role of explaining the language).

San Francisco, CA