Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Internal Obstacles

by AJ

I just visited the Wisdom21 English school, in Osaka. Unfortunately, only the receptionist was there when I visited, so I wasnt able to interview anyone. However, I picked up some of their materials-- very interesting. Its clear that they are different... not your run of the mill language school.

Wisdom21s literature states 2 goals for their program:

1. Guide students in overcoming the cultural and internal obstacles to mastering English.

2. Exercise their intellects with challenging, thought-provoking, and in-depth discussions on topics of global importance.

Wait, I thought this was supposed to be a school... what's all this nonsense about challenges and thinking!!

But seriously. Im particularly impressed by their first goal- because "non linguistic" factors are so very important and so very neglected by most programs. I agree that this should be goal number 1, because it is indeed the first factor that MUST be addressed. If students are anxious, bored, unmotivated, disengaged emotionally, etc.... they arent going to learn much. If their confidence is low- they wont attempt communication in the target language.

Therefore, job number 1 is confidence! Before "i+1", before linguistic factors, before methodology... weve got to build students' confidence; and simultaneously weaken their fears, doubts, and anxieties.

And what is THE secret to building confidence? Success!

Blaine Ray puts it this way:

Success motivates students. The teacher guarantees success!

Thats the opposite to what most schools do. They guarantee mediocrity or failure for 80%; of their students.

They destroy confidence with direct error correction (totally ineffective), impossible exams, and obtuse grammar rules that confuse most native speakers. After a few of these sorts of courses, most students are convinced that they are "no good at English". Ive lost count of the number of students who have told me that.

Wisdom21 has it right. We must obssess over our students EMOTIONAL experiences. To be effective, we must "overcome the cultural and internal obstacles to mastering English". More than that, we must inspire euphoric, enthusiastic, bold, confident, and successful contact with the target language.

Creating Passionate Users puts it this way (more or less):

Your job is to help the student kick ass!

and also:

Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard.