Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Monday, May 19, 2003

A Long Silent Period Is Best
From David Long

All of the evidence we have gathered during the past several decades shows that those students who remain silent, refusing the temptation to ‘try to speak’, excel, whereas those students who ‘try to speak’ set limits on their ability to both learn and to use the language. We have never seen a single exception to this rule! The fact is, practicing to speak actually slows down the learning process! Much of the problem here is that we always want to gauge our progress by equating it with speaking ability. Speaking is one of the last parts that emerge in language acquisition. At our school, we recommend a silent period between 600 to 800 hours of instruction.

Automatic Language Growth

Saturday, May 17, 2003

Don't Force Speech
from Deyanira Smith

I am bilingual and learned English upon entering Kindergarten in the US. I remember going to school and having my teacher gesture to me to speak and I really hated it. I was understanding more and more English everyday but I resented being put on the spot. So in our terms I would say my ‘affective filter’ would just go up and I would pretend I did not understand so the teacher would just go away.

I do believe that meaningful speech will naturally emerge as students are exposed to the target language. I can see that students in Focal Skills programs would feel very comfortable because they would not have the pressure of having to perform in front of their classmates. I’m sure outside of class they experiment without any pressure of the classroom environment.

Speaking Will Emerge
From Ashley Hastings

We created a system of four sequential modules. Each module except the fourth focuses on a specific language skill. The modules, in order, are: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Advanced. In the Listening Module, students spend all of their time improving listening comprehension. The teacher provides comprehensible input in the form of clear, unhurried English, always accompanied by visual or contextual aids to comprehension. Video movies are used extensively, the teacher narrates the action and paraphrases the dialogue, thus providing exceptionally well-illustrated and contextualized input.

We do not require students to perform when they are not reading and willing to do so. Speaking is always voluntary, hence it is genuine speaking in contrast to the embarrassed, strained output that passes for speaking in some methods.

Focal Skills Center
Potovsky's Study

(Potovsky, Valerian. 1974. Effects of Delay in Oral Practice at the Beginning of Second Language Learning. Modern Language Journal, 58, pgs 229-239)) Potovsky did a study of military personnel between 18-24 years old. The results showed that overall proficiency in Russian was significantly better when oral practice was delayed at the beginning of language instruction until comprehension of spoken Russian was extensively internalized.
Comprehensible Input Is the Key
From Stephen Krashen

Studies with adults show that students in comprehensible input-based methods are as accurate grammatically as students in grammatically-based methods and are often more accurate. In addition, students in comprehensible-input based methods are ALWAYS superior in tests involving communication. Acquisition may happen most efficiently when the acquirer forgets that he is listening to or reading another language. This theory implies that second language classes should be filled with comprehensible input in a low anxiety environment. This is precisely what newer and more successful methods do, such as Terrell’s Natural Approach, Asher’s Total Physical Response, and Lozanov’s Suggestodpedia [also Ray’s Total Physical Response Storytelling, Brown’s Listening Approach, and Long’s Automatic Language Growth].

The Narrative Approach

Lucy Tse and Jeff McQuillan advocate a receptive Narrative Approach that uses storytelling and a silent period to facilitate language acquisition. “All individuals, regardless of language or culture, use stories to communicate, organize, and make sense of experiences. Storytelling helps the ESL students hear and use the target language in a powerful way and at the same time captures students’ interest and motivates them to want to learn.” Vocabulary is not pre-taught, it is learned through context. Speaking emerges when students are ready.
Total Physical Response Storytelling

Blaine Ray has developed an interesting blend of TPR and the Narrative Approach which bridges the gap between the two. The teacher tells ‘personalized mini-stories’ while directing students to act them out. The teacher then re-tells the story one or more times while acting out the action themselves. Key vocabulary is pre-taught, prior to storytelling, using classic Total Physical Response methods. In line with Krashen and Asher, Blaine advocates a short silent period of 10-12 hours, though this method is easily adaptable to a silent period of any length.
Total Physical Response
From Schessler

Learning a second language through TPR approximates the acquisition of the first language. This acquisition follows the order of listening first and then speaking. In the receptive listening stage, the child hears different ‘sounds’ such as “Pick up your truck” or “Drink your water”. As the child hears these ‘sounds’ the individual physically responds. After a period of 12 to 18 months, the child begins to speak. At this point, understanding is far in advance of speaking and it will remain that way for many years. It seems reasonable, then, that second language learning should approximate first language learning.