Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Friday, April 01, 2005


by AJ

Create interesting, fun, absorbing happenings in the target language-- thats how AUA?s David Long describes the goal of his program. And it was great.

He also had another great saying, "all education should be kindergarten". He envisioned a school for adults that was structured on the same principles as kindergarten. The "school" would be a giant room with many centers. In each center, a teacher would create happenings around a particular topic. These would not be passive lectures. Rather, they would be hands on workshops. One teacher might teach Thai massage. Another might be taking apart a motorcycle with students. Another would be teaching the basics of SCUBA. Another would be telling stories, while still another would be teaching a class on making SomTam (spicy papaya salad). All of this would be happening in Thai (geared to the level of the students).

Students would be free to wander into the school, peruse the centers, and join whichever one appealed to them. If the teachers did their jobs well, the students would be so absorbed in the happenings they would forget they were occuring in the target language (in this case, Thai).

I got a taste of this in AUAs level one classes and it was great. I learned that when you learn something unconsciously, you truly ACQUIRE it.

For example, I learned the Thai word for "pineapple" this way. I did not learn it by memorizing a translation. I did not learn it from drilling a language point using a flashcard of a pineapple. I learned it by cutting a pineapple, eating a pineapple, and listening to stories that included pineapples.

As a result, if someone asks me in English "Whats the Thai word for 'pineapple'"... I will often pause and be confused. It takes me a second because I didnt learn a translation.

But if you show me a pineapple, I will instantly think "sapparot".... no hesitation. If I want to say the word, I dont first think of the English word "pineapple" then scan my memory for the Thai word. Rather, I picture a pineapple in my mind and up pops "sapparot" instantly.

Ive already detailed my disappointments with AUAs other levels... but those disappointments stem from the fact that they neglected their own method at those levels. The method is sound. Its tremendous fun, its totally stress free, its interesting, and it works. If only they had continued to use it past level one!

I favor David Longs approach: All education should be kindergarten.