Our Learning Methodology
“One on one language instruction is a key element of our methodology.”
Private language study facilitates acquisition by providing a relaxed environment (low anxiety), in the client’s accommodations, in a cozy café, or in any other comfortable location you might choose. A local, immersed environment also helps to provide interesting input, especially if it involves interaction with locals. The language instructors that we’ve selected are all well versed in “The Natural Approach” and rely heavily on the idea that communication is the key component to language acquisition.
Almost all of the conversation will be in the foreign language with many visual aids, reading and vocabulary, and grammar introduced only gradually as is needed to address practical needs and uses throughout the day. The personal language instructor will also provide optional activities designed to be fun and interesting as well as useful to language acquisition. And these activities can be tailored to the client’s individual interests to make them even more relevant. And again, interaction with locals will only complement the personal language instruction as the best form of meaningful input (conversation)!
Richard Phelps: “We need to boost our self-esteem and confidence to learn a language…”
Second Language Acquisition Theory
“The central component of language acquisition is not grammar but rather it is communication.”
While our language instructors may have their individual styles and tailored curriculums, they share a common methodology based on modern language acquisition theory as defined primarily by Stephen Krashen, professor emeritus at the University of Southern California. Surprisingly, Dr. Krashen has come to the conclusion that humans do indeed all acquire language the same way, although of course there are some individual variations.
The Natural Approach, as Krashen has defined it, is based on the premise that the one way we acquire language is by “comprehensible input”, or receiving messages that we understand. Thus, the central component of language acquisition is not grammar but rather it is communication. And it is not necessarily by speaking that we acquire language but rather the speaking emerges over time as we acquire the language through understanding messages received in the targeted language.
In practice there are basically two ways in which we learn and those are Acquisition and Learning. Acquisition was described above, basically receiving and interpreting relevant messages. Learning is the formal process by which we fine tune what we have acquired and the learning functions as a Monitor to correct and improve the language. Here is where some of the individual variations come in. Extraverts will have a tendency to “under monitor”, meaning more acquisition and less monitoring, while introverts and perfectionists tend to “over monitor”, meaning less acquisition and more learning.
Other key factors to language acquisition include the individual’s Motivation, Self-esteem, and Anxiety. If a learner is motivated, of high self-esteem, and in a condition of low-anxiety (at least in the language learning environment) they will acquire language much easier than someone with the opposite disposition. In fact, low self-esteem and high anxiety can actually create a mental block situation with respect to language acquisition, so it’s important to have a relaxing environment in which to learn.
As the central component of language acquisition is not grammar but communication, it’s essential that language instruction include a lot of visual stimulation, vocabulary and reading, with interesting input and in a relaxing, low anxiety environment.
Krashen, Stephen D. Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. Prentice-Hall International, 1987.
Krashen, Stephen D. Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning. Prentice-Hall International, 1988.
Richard Phelps: “It’s a myth that we can no longer learn language as adults…”
Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment
The majority of our instructors also utilize and refer to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, or CEFR. It was designed to provide a common basis for language syllabuses and curriculum guidelines, the design of teaching and learning materials, and the assessment of foreign language proficiency.
The CEFR is often used by instructors to assess a student’s foreign language proficiency before and after the language acquisition process. It describes foreign language proficiency at six levels: A1 and A2, B1 and B2, C1 and C2. It also defines three ‘plus’ levels (A2+, B1+, B2+)
The primary users of the system are individual learners who study languages independently or in formal language courses, as well as language instructors who ﬁnd many of the features of the system useful for their purposes. The actual reference document referenced below can be found online and is actually several hundred pages in length.
COMMON EUROPEAN FRAMEWORK OF REFERENCE FOR LANGUAGES: LEARNING, TEACHING, ASSESSMENT, Council of Europe. The English edition is published by Cambridge University Press, 2001.