Maybe you’ve tried to learn another language, or worse: you’ve tried to teach another language. For many people, additional-language acquisition doesn’t come too quickly. We all process information at different speeds, and it is basically impossible to make a brain process any faster than it can or force it to process information that it’s not ready to accept. Yet, many educational methodologies expect that to happen. The result is mostly a lot of wasted braintime and garbage information. It’s game over before we even begin.
Think about how you tried to learn your first language. Wait a minute. You probably can’t really think about how that happened; it just kind of… happened. Your community spoke to you in that language, over and over, and when your brain was ready, you picked up what you could. But, could you do it over and over again?
Recently I attended a TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) training seminar by Blaine Ray. TPRS is based heavily on input-focused learning. By repeatedly hearing/seeing something, eventually it is captured by your brain, and when your brain is ready, it will also be able to output the same content.
The key is to keep filling the bottle with the correct substance. Instead of pointing out that the bottle is outputting the wrong thing, just keep pouring in the right thing. When it’s ready, the bottle will produce correctly. It is, in a sense, a form of
bottle brainwashing, which is much more accepted by the brain than reprimand. Knowing that, only factual errors should be corrected. Incorrect grammar, and yes, even mispronunciation, should not be directly judged. Instead, when the brain is ready, it will pick up the proper language from enough exposure through repetition.
The vehicle of repetition is stories, which help to hold the attention of the learner. I was a first-time German-language learner at the TPRS conference. After a couple sessions of observing a German-language story with the TPRS teaching technique, I was given the task of writing my own unique story within five minutes. Even though it stinks (hehe), I definitely produced more than I expected.
A Case for Face
In the near future when ABC Company creates a translation device, then we won’t really need to learn language… However, communication has a lot more to it than a bunch of words strung together. It even goes beyond emotion in speech. There’s something about meeting someone face-to-face that is very difficult for a machine to replicate. Sight and hearing are not the only senses involved in communication. That is because language is also culture (for lack of a better term). You can only truly learn that from being around other people. It makes sense that if you want to be better at talking with people, then you have to talk with other people.
A Case for Community
Being an input-based form of education, TPRS sure sounds like a strong case for a “broken record”. That works, but we should also be asking “who made the record, an what was the intention behind its creation?” Thus, it is important to get different points of view.
We already talked about how many senses are required to truly understand a language, but how can we know if what we are learning is effective? The test is to use the knowledge in the wild. We need multiple sources of input in order to verify information and detect variations.
If it takes a village to raise a child, then it also takes a community to raise a new language learner.
A Case for Ubuntu
If you haven’t seen the connections to Ubuntu already, then your brain isn’t ready yet, but that’s ok. When you’re ready, you will get it 😉
Ubuntu is a language. In addition to terminology, it also has a vibrant “culture” that needs to be learned. If Ubuntu is to be effectively disseminated, then we will need to:
- Tell stories
- Make use of repetition
- Engage all of our senses
- Meet face-to-face
- Involve the community (Don’t have one? See here)
But, like most skills, if we want to be good at teaching Ubuntu then we must practice doing it. So, GYFOTS, and go practice how you preach.