I’ve really been enjoying what AJ has been posting about over at Effortless Language Acquisition.
He’s presently in the middle of teaching himself Spanish, and has been recording how he’s been going about this. What I really have been enjoying is seeing how the whole process is about deepness.
Learning is not about how fast you can go. It’s not how much you can cover. Sadly, at least in ESL, "learning" is about speed. One of the most frequent of all FAQ’s that gets asked is the classic: "How long will it take me to be fluent?"
Our industry then dives into a beautiful looking table which outlines what course books we use and when, and for what level. Each book is neatly packaged into say six month blocks of time.
We boldly, and quite falsely claim that in a year and a half or two years, you’ll be fluent. You finish a book, you finish a level. You acquire a chunk of English.
But if you’ve been at this for a while, and better yet, if you’ve had the joy of sticking it out with the same students for a long while, you’ll notice something very disturbing: You finish a level means you just finished a book. Little to nothing has happened to your student’s language.
Self-confidence goes up. Fluency, sometimes goes up. But I’ve noticed that many of my students seem to be riding a very slow acquisition curve.
The one guy, and I’ve blogged on him before, who is really experiencing a jump is the one who is going for deepness.
It could be that I am also starting to buyinto deeper, not the faster or wider mindset. My case in point is the "My Personal Story" project we’ve been working on for the past month or so.
Our work has been to have my students talk about what they studied in university and why, how they started working where they are now, what exactly they do, what they love about their jobs, what they do for fun and if they have hobbies, and their plans for the future.
The objective was to prepare a few of them for some upcoming interviews. (A couple of my students are preparing to go abroad to study Master’s degrees.)
The prep work took us a good month. We did a lot of planning on paper. A lot of brainstorming. A lot of writing the story out, and a lot of talking about expectations. We watched mini videos of people talking about their story - and noticed how they did it. What language they used. What grammar was commonly present. Vocabulary words and phrases that were useful. We went deep. We didn’t branch out into ten different topics or study points. We didn’t cover three or four more chapters in a course book. We just dove deep.
We had great results. We recorded their story in the last class, which was a fun project in itself. (If I get their permission, maybe I can post them here.) We had the chance to reflect on the exercise, which turned into my grand intro into blogging…and they all had very positive things to say.
They noticed how they talked. They noticed their areas of weakness. But best of all, they noticed where they did really well.
I had them do self-reflection, and then peer reflection. What did you notice about your buddy’s work? What did you like, and what would you suggest for them to improve on?
The comments were really amazing. Mostly, they were very uplifting and positive. Everyone left the room wearing a smile. But most of all, everyone felt they had done something important. Something meaningful.
We didn’t rush, and the result was something quality. It wasn’t bunches of chapters in some book. It was one skill done really well.