Friday

A better way of language teaching

I have had a Damascene conversion about the teaching of languages. Until now I have been a believer in the old-fashioned methods: learning how to conjugate verbs, learning the grammar, learning vocabulary and doing translations.
I have considered the modern idea of language-learning – particularly the idea of learning phrases – to be absurd and obviously misguided. It was, I thought, clearly a bad idea not to learn the meaning of individual words. I still hold to that view.
However there is a different, modern way of learning which I have stumbled across which seems to me an improvement on both (though it surely needs to be backed up by some of the old-fashioned methods).
I tried a CD course by Michel Thomas. I bought it with the idea of helping my 10 year-old daughter to learn Italian. There is a dearth of Italian language textbooks for children. She, I must admit, is not as excited by the CDs as I am. On the other hand, I think they are helping her a great deal. (My teaching of both Italian and French to her has, I confess, not been as successful as I had hoped.)
Michel Thomas’ approach is clever in a number of ways, not all of which can I easily describe.
You are always learning something new yet also using something you have already learned. This gives you an encouraging sense of gaining knowledge and being able to say something new in a foreign language. But at the same time, since you are repeating something you already know, you are also sub-consciously re-inforcing your memory of that.
You thus are motivated to keep going and you are memorising without any conscious effort. You are also learning to speak the language from the very start.
I recommend the course certainly to adults and older children and probably for children down to the age of 10. And I am copying Michel Thomas’s technique for my own teaching of French to my daughter.

  1. Recommended books for learning at home
  2. Why I am having a go at home-educating my daughter
  3. The teaching of history as dictated by government
  4. The standard of Latin in schools has ‘plummeted’
  5. Understanding the language of the election
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