Monday, April 23, 2012

We were speaking with a teacher who evaluated the QTalk method of language instruction last year, but the school decided to purchase a more traditional language textbook instead of purchasing the QTalk classroom suite

Now the teacher is looking at the QTalk Classroom Suite to use as a supplement, because the traditional textbook is "nothing but a bunch of vocabulary lists." That's probably an exaggeration, and no doubt every textbook has something of value in it, but it helps to illustrate why the QTalk method uses such a relatively small vocabulary set, compared to other methods.

The cognitive "mesh" that is formed in the language acquisition process, is strongest when it is used often and repeatedly. But just as you can get carpal tunnel syndrome or similar repetitive stress inflammation (RSI) when you repeat a physical motion over and over without any variation or rest, so the "drill, drill, drill" approach to language instruction results in parroting rather than truly thinking and speaking in the target language. The vocabulary list memorized before this week's quiz is long forgotten in six weeks or six months, while the sentence pattern used to express one's actual likes and dislikes, will be retained for years, especially if "I like cookies," was accompanied by the taste of an actual cookie!

Question and answer patterns, storytelling, and word substitution are all great ways to keep students talking and thinking. Next class, try using a question game for the first five minutes of class. A multiple choice answer makes it very easy when the vocabulary is new. Once the vocabulary is mastered, don't provide a prompt, just wait for the answer. Let the student work around to express the idea, if they cannot recall the exact correct word, or cannot recall the correct sentence pattern for what they want to say. Just trying their best, and using only the target language, relaxes the brain and builds confidence.

With the QTalk method we comment on every student response (in the target language), "Good!" and then if correction is needed, we repeat the answer with the correction included but never emphasized, so that a student will know they made a mistake, but they won't feel embarrassed or reluctant to speak for fear of making another mistake.

Do you believe that traditional vocabulary lists, grammar rules and charts, etc. have a role to play in language acquisition? In our view there is some value, especially for adult learners whose minds work in a way that makes those resources meaningful. There is no single approach to language instruction that will fit every student in every situation, so we would suggest that a multi-modal, blended approach is the best way to ensure success for every one of your students.

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