In January and February this year I had the honor of equipping 13 new missionaries for language learning. Our students are preparing to head into the mission field. For them life is fast, white knuckle, and often a unique mix of exhilaration, sleepless nights, and a lot of prayer.
One thing that I gave my students to help them on their journey was a summary of the 4 most powerful techniques I know. I'm deeply indebted to Greg and Angela Thomson for these ideas.
If you're in a season of language learning, looking to start, or just want to understand the process a little more, consider checking these out. There are lots of great books and a ton of advice out there, but these techniques have really been helpful to me.
Technique 1: Total Physical Response (Simon Says!)
Total physical response (TPR) is a language teaching method developed by James Asher, a professor emeritus of psychology at San José State University. It is based on the coordination of language and physical movement. In TPR, instructors give commands to students in the target language, and students respond with whole-body actions (source).
I love using this technique to tune my ear into the sounds of a language and quickly build my comprehension vocabulary.
If you'd like to hear my language learning heroes Greg and Angela Thomson talk about and demonstrate this (they call it the Dirty Dozen) click here.
Technique 2: Information Gap Activities (Battleship!)
An information gap task is a technique in language teaching where students are missing information necessary to complete a task or solve a problem, and must communicate with their classmates to fill in the gaps (source).
I love playing these games to start really communicating with the limited language I have as a beginner!
For a video of my mentors Greg and Angela demonstrating information gap games, click here.
Technique 3: Negotiating Meaning (Taboo! Charades!)
Negotiation of meaning is a process that speakers go through to reach a clear understanding of each other. Asking for clarification, rephrasing, and confirming what you think you have understood are all strategies for the negotiation of meaning (source).
One of my favorite examples of negotiating meaning happened in France with my sister and her friends, one of which was getting sick and wanted something to help her coughs be more productive. I hadn't been in France too long, so I did a lot of negotiation of meaning. At the pharmacy I said (in French) "This is my friend. She is sick. She coughs. She wants to…". Then I made a coughing sound and gestured things coming out of my chest. The pharmacist said (in French) "She wants to expectorate? She wants an expectorant?" Victory!
Evelyn and I negotiate a lot of meaning in the next video.
Technique 4: Unpacking a recording
In later language learning I make recordings of my language helper talking about things. Then we listen to it together, and stop the recording for an explanation in my new language of things I don't understand. It's using language to learn language, and it's a lot of fun.
For a brand new video I made in Australia about these four techniques, including demonstrations of unpacking recordings and negotiating meaning, click here!
What are some of your favorite language learning techniques and victory stories? I'd love to hear them — especially if they're funny. Leave a comment below!