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  • Amazing Article – Picture Stories, ALG Concept in ESL

    Posted on January 23rd, 2009 Mairo Vergara 4 comments

    logo-algPerhaps one of the best articles on language learning that I have read in these last months! Antonio Graceffo is a language teacher, writer and martial artist. In this amazing article he discusses how he uses the ALG Concept (Automatic Language Growth) in his teaching. This article is just awesome, it shows how we can in fact change the way we teach, how we can forget this thing about “make the students talk” and start focusing on what’s really important: comprehensible input (OK, I love Krashen!).

    Some quotes from the article:

    So, in a strict ALG classroom, students would listen for around 800 hours before they are permitted to start speaking.

    This is so cool! Listen to almost 1000 hours, after that start speaking. Katz and Steve Kaufmann would go crazy!

    Sadly, EFL, ESL, TESOL and whatever other acronyms you want to use for English language teaching, is a business. If parents knew that their kids weren’t speaking in class, they would pull their students out and send them to another school.

    That’s a reality we have to change. Unfortunately too many TEACHERS still believe it is necessary to speak in order to speak. Listening and reading, and how it can improve your output skills still misunderstood by many people.

    “Just keep them talking!” is a mantra I have often heard from employers. But how can students talk if they have nothing to say? Perhaps the correct mantra should be “Keep them listening.”

    100% agreed. Keep listening and you’re going kick a…

    Check out the following video, and after that read the article! You have to!

  • The 90-day rule – How to learn a language in 90 days

    Posted on January 6th, 2009 Mairo Vergara 9 comments

    90daysHave your ever heard about the 90-Day Rule? Basically it means whatever you are doing right now, today, will affect your life in 90 days. Start working on it today and the results will come 90 days from now. Are you wondering why you still can understand German newspapers or Japanese Anime? If so, ask yourself what were you doing 90 day ago. Were you practicing you German, Japanese, or whatever language you’re learning? Did you practice it from 90 day ago until today, every day? Probably if you did it you must have improved a lot, didn’t you? If you didn’t,  you will most likely realize that you simply don’t understand the German newspaper or the Japanese Anime because you were not working on it, you were doing other “important” things.

    Start working on something, be it language or whatever, and keep working on it for 90 days. I guarantee you the results will come up and you will be amazed of how “easy” it was. In fact, becoming good at something doesn’t require a tremendous amount of effort, it requires regularity, patience and discipline. One can sit down and study Chinese for 4 hours, but can you do these same 4 hours in 15 minutes a day for 16 days? Even though you’re going to spend only 15 minutes a day, it will still take 16 days, which is a lot a time. If you sit down and study for 4 hours straight, it will be just one day and you’re done, it’s over. Unfortunately, we tend to learn more through regularity than through intensity.

    Getting into languages, you can easily learn a good amount of any language (or improve a language you already know) by working on it during 90 days. 90 days isn’t a long amount of time, but also isn’t a short amount time. Devote one hour of your day to learn a language, do it for 90 days and see what comes out of it. Let’s say for example you want to learn Spanish from scratch in 90 days, what you can do?

    You can use Michel Thomas and Pimsleur. Curiously, Pimsleur is divided in 90 lesson, so you can do one lesson a day. Or you can use methods like Assimil and set up a plan to finish it in 90 days. Or you can even just read and listen to content on the Internet. Whatever you do, do it regularly for these 90 days. The results will come for certain. Maybe if you take a difficult language they will not be big results, but they still will be good results. If you take an easy language for you (like Spanish for me) you could end up learning a good amount of the language in just 3 months. One thing I can guarantee, you are going to learn much more than those guys at the language school. Just make sure you are doing it every day, at least one hour a day.

    Take for instance this blog. I set up this blog for two main reasons: 1) to improve my English, 2) to blog (because I like blogging). The first post published dates December 15th, which means I have been working on the blog for less than a month. Let’s see what it will look like and March 15th, 90 days after the first post. Surely it will be better than now, as long as I keep working on it everyday.

    And you, what language do you want to learn? Start working on it today and stick with it for 90 days. After that come here again and tell me the results!

    See you all later!

  • What’s the best method to learn a foreign language?

    Posted on December 15th, 2008 Mairo Vergara 1 comment

    languageDuring these last years I have been learning a lot about language learning. Although at the university they seem to care more about language teaching, if you check out the Internet or ask language learners out there you will find out that what really matters is learning. It’s all about learning and how to do it, how to learn a language. Once you know how, you just do it, without further questions. There are many methods, many ways in which one can learn a language. We are, naturally, always looking for the best method, the fastest way, the easiest path to mastering English, Japanese, Spanish, whateverish…

    In fact, there are good and bad methods. Take language schools for instance; Language schools, when combined with poor teachers, can be amazingly awful. I’m not saying all schools are bad, but you probably know that guy who spent years and years learning English (or any other language) at that school and ended up not being able to maintain a basic conversation or read the newspaper in English. On the other hand, good methods when used wrong can produce poor results. Some methods can be too hardcore for our simple minds, although we know the method itself really works, we just can’t follow/do it.

    In the end, what you should know, what you should (at least you should…) notice by yourself is that there isn’t A SINGLE METHOD for language learning. Each student has to find his own method, his own way of learning. Of course, this isn’t an easy thing to do. I have been studying languages on and off for about 7 years, and still don’t know what kind of study suits me better. I know some things work and some don’t, but to find out exactly what does work isn’t that easy.

    All methods have good and bad points, so what you have to do is notice the good points and use them in your own way. As I said, each one has his own method of learning, so maybe what works for you isn’t going to work for me, but you still have to check it out, try it out. Take a look at AJATT, learning about exposure, RSS and 10000 hours of hard-work. Check out Steve Kaufmann’s ideas on language learning, and try his system “LingQ“. Watch YouTubes from professor Arguelles and Stu Jay. Go to a language school near your house. Write something on Lang-8. Try out Pimsleur, Michel Thomas, Assimil, etc. There are many, MANY, methods for language learning. None of them will ever be THE METHOD. Lisa can learn 10 languages using only Assimil, Thania can learn the same using AJATT method, and Claudia can learn just going to classes. Of course I’m being a bit theatrical, but I just want to show that there isn’t one method that rules over all others. Your method will probably be a combination of many methods. That’s why you have to try out different approaches, and once you find out your way, stick to it and keep going!

    If you work hard on it, you probably will not only find out which learning methods and strategies suit you better, but you also will start to notice some universal principles about language learning. The average language learner, who usually follows just one methods (like many English teachers here in Brazil who have taught English using the same method for more than 20 years), will probably not learn these principles and, therefore, become kind of limited when it comes to how to learn a language. The union of knowing the principles of language learning and what study methods and strategies suit you better is certainly the best method (your best method!). You just have to find it out!