Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Intensity & Efficiency

by AJ

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My worst criticism of traditional education is that it is incredibly wasteful. Vast amounts of time are wasted in the classroom. We waste time taking attendance. We waste time as students straggle in late. We waste time on long winded explanations and complicated grammar questions. We waste time on idle chat. At times, it seems that the last thing in the world the students and teachers want is to actually read, listen to, and use comprehensible language.

By contrast, individual study is far more intense and efficient. When I study Spanish for an hour, I'm getting a full hour of comprehensible input. I read. I listen. I read and listen again.

Another advantage of individual study is that it allows for repetition. In class, students whine about repetition. They get bored easily because they have a passive mindset from the start. But when studying as an individual, I can repeat the same content as often as I want or need to. At this point in my Spanish learning, I repeat everything at least 30 times. This would never happen in a traditional classroom.

My 1 hour a day of individual study is incredibly more effective than the four hours a day students get at my school. I get much more comprehensible input, much more repetition, much more vocabulary, and even more practical grammar.

When I study for an hour, I'm usually focused and motivated. But in the classroom, its common for students to be sleepy, to lose concentration, to become bored. They are not in charge. They are not choosing the content. They don't see themselves as totally responsible for their own learning. And so its easy for them to become distracted, bored, and unfocused.

Traditional education is not about learning. Its about societal programming. In school, you learn your country's official propaganda (called "history"). You learn various "facts" that turn out not to be facts at all. Eventually, you earn a diploma or degree that gives you the stamp of approval for work. You get a transcript showing that you had all "A's" in English or Spanish. But you can't understand or speak the language.

Don't confuse education with learning. Education has its practical uses for getting a job. But you won't learn a language well simply by going to school. In fact, school is probably the worst possible place to learn a language.

True learning, for the most part, happens outside of the classroom. Learning is what you do on your own. Learning takes place in the apartment, in a cafe, in the library, on the bus. You get no grades or transcripts for true learning.

San Francisco, CA