Friday, August 29, 2014

A more efficient, more pleasant way to teach English

Sent to the South Chine Morning Post, August 29, 2014

Philip Yeung's observations about Hong Kong English instruction ("Teach English that's actually of use to struggling students," August 28) applies to language instruction in other countries.  Yeung tells us that Sir Aker-Jones' daughter, after 12 years of English, could not "say or write a three word sentence." Survivors of foreign language classes in the US make similar statements. 

Yeung's analysis of the problem applies world-wide: Boring classes based on "fill-in-the-blanks" methods.  We know how to do it better.

Study after study confirms that we acquire language when we understand what we hear and what we read. Our vocabulary knowledge comes from "comprehensible input," not from memorizing vocabulary lists, and our ability to understand and use correct grammar comes largely from reading and listening, not from conjugating verbs.

For students to pay attention to the input, it has to be interesting: The best input is extremely interesting, or "compelling," so interesting that we are not even aware that it is in another language.

Methods developed over the last few decades, such as "TPRS", provide interesting activities for beginners (games, plays, stories, discussions) and encourage the development of a pleasure reading habit in English at the intermediate level.

Research shows that these methods produce far better results than traditional methods and are more pleasant for teachers and students.

Stephen Krashen

Original article (online):
Published version title: Teach English that's actually of use to struggling students

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