There are two essential approaches to language teaching in this era of humanity, as I see it and as Stephen Krashen has posited:
Language Learning vs. Language Acquisition
Let’s be clear. “Learning” takes language out of the acoustic realm and lands it squarely in the analytical realm. Any time the focus is on intentional learning or practice of rules, memorizing vocabulary or dialogues or recognizing and regurgitating specific grammatical patterns like verb conjugations or article/noun/adjective agreements, you are in the language learning zone.
It often relies on already high academic ability.
And guess what: It doesn’t create people who can communicate their ideas spontaneously.
What it does create are parents who say, “I took X language in high school. It was boring and hard and I stunk at it.”
At best it creates robotic regurgitators of memorized language.
I stink at it? How can a human being who is uniquely evolved to acquire language “stink” at it? Well, it’s not about the person. It’s about the teaching. Despite the best of intentions, it’s just not effective.
Acquisition, in contrast, asks the learner to focus on comprehending meaningful, relevant messages through the eyes and ears. It trusts and relies on the brain’s unique ability to acquire language subconsciously.
The focus is not on analyzing, practicing rules or memorizing linguistic terminology, but on comprehending and appreciating the whole. A student relaxes, smiles and listens. It feels easy. They respond spontaneously at their level. It’s authentic communication about a topic – any topic – that a student can access. When well done, the communication is driven by the student learners. It’s full of joy, positive emotion and engagement.
And guess what: It creates students who spontaneously communicate.
Today, an 8th grader said to me at the end of the day,
Profe, I look forward to this class all day long. It’s my favorite. It’s so much fun!
A young, happy girl said, moments later as she exited the class,
My face hurts from laughing so much!
Mine too. Mine too.
I never, ever laughed so hard and experienced so much joy with students as I do now. I focus on interesting and relevant ways to deliver understandable messages to my students’ ears. And I’ve also never, ever experienced so much student growth in the first year. Don’t fool yourself. It’s not easy. It takes determination, practice, failure and support. But the reward is pure JOY.
I can’t make anyone change how they do things in their classroom. Change comes from inside. But I can share my story and invite others to taste the beauty that is TCI.
I savor it daily.