Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Friday, February 24, 2006


by AJ

Of all my students, G. is the one with the best English skills. He's the most fluent. He has the best grammar and the largest vocabulary. He is nearly native.

Whenever I encounter students like G., I always interview them. Im always curious how they did it... and what they attribute their success to. Invariably, these students did not follow the traditional textbook-grammar path (though Im sure there are exceptions out there :)

When I asked G., "How did you do it.. what's your secret?", he gave credit to his middle school English teacher. G.'s Korean English teacher was not normal. For one, unlike many English teachers in the Korean school system, this teacher spoke fluent English. Also, this teacher was a maverick. He threw out the textbooks and "required" curriculum.

This teacher taught G. with movies. Essentially, he used the movie technique. Thus, at a fairly young age, G. had a rich supply of comprehensible input. Not only was it comprehensible, it was authentic... English as it is actually used and spoken in America (most textbooks are more prescriptivist than authentic). While his peers in other schools were slogging through grammar-translation texts.. G. was learning idiomatic language.. from a collection of native English speakers (ie. the actors in the movies). G.'s teacher helped by making the movies comprehensible... explaining the language, paraphrasing with simpler language, etc.

G. went on to be an English major at University. He told me, "my middle school English class was better than the classes I took in High School and University. I became an English teacher because of my middle school teacher. He is the reason I can now speak English fluently."

Ive encountered many stories like G.'s. In fact, whenever I meet a truly fluent non-native speaker.. they almost always tell me they used comprehensible-input based methods. And whenever I encounter an anxious, fossilized, frustrated English learner... they inevitably employ textbook-grammar based methods.

Just a coincidence? I dont think so.