Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Why Teachers.. Part II

by AJ

We don't "need" teachers, but language teachers can certainly be helpful.. especially for students who are below the high-intermediate level. Below that level, it is quite difficult to get comprehensible input from the environment.

Krashen pointed out that going to Mexico to learn Spanish is a very bad idea unless you are already at an intermediate level. If you are a beginner... or an absolute novice, you will not learn much by being "immersed" in Spanish. The input you get from most Mexicans will be MUCH too complex-- you won't understand it and therefore will not acquire much language.

I experienced this exact phenomenon in Japan. Every day I was immersed in Japanese, but I learned almost nothing... just some very basic vocabulary that I heard every day. I would have learned much more if Id taken Japanese classes for a year before going to Japan... then the input from the environment would have been more understandable and I could have learned much more.

Another important mistake I made- in Japan I self-studied Japanese using grammar-translation methods. Every day I tried to memorize lists of vocabulary and grammar rules. I HATED it. I quickly began to associate Japanese with drudgery and boredom. After a few months, I gave up and stopped trying.

If I had it to do over, here's what I would have done:

1. I would have hired a Japanese person to be my tutor in America... before I moved to Japan. Id have them use TPR and TPR Storytelling techniques when teaching me.

2. I would have used more pleasant and effective self-study methods... before going to Japan and while in Japan. I would have read children's books every day (in Hiragana) and would have watched children's TV shows. Id use a kana-English dictionary to look up words I couldnt figure out from context.

There are many advantages to the above strategies, but for me the biggest advantage is sustainability. There are a few super-motivated mutants out there- but most of us simply cannot sustain grammar-translation methods. Thats why over 95% of language students never achieve fluency. They drop out.

Learning a language is like running a marathon.... it requires endurance and consistency. For this reason, whether we are taking classes or studying on our own... we must use strategies that are inherently enjoyable- which we can sustain day after day for several years.

Teachers can help students discover these methods.