Expanding learners’ limits – How to speed up learning?
In this article, I would like to introduce you to some really important ideas regarding speeding up learning as a process that are brought from TED. In my opinion, this could be a very interesting source for self-developing for those who haven’t seen or known about the website before.
As it is stated on the TED website, it is “is a nonprofi t devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics – from science to business to global issues – in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.” (Taken directly form: https://www.ted.com/about/ourorganization)
The main mission is to ‘spread ideas’ regarding our world. There are people representing diff erent occupations and disciplines joining TED from all over the world. Teachers and learners may fi nd there some ideas for lessons, ideas for creative thinking and food for thought. In this article, I would like to review the ideas given by Chris Lonsdale. His talk took place at Lingnan University and was published in 2013. Lonsdale is Managing Director of Chris Lonsdale & Associates: a company established to catalyse breakthrough performance not only for individuals but for senior teams as well. In his speech, Chris gives a lot of interesting ideas connected with learning a foreign language.
There are many myths about learning a foreign language. In his speech, Chris says more about two of them. The fi rst myth is about having no talent for language learning or, in other words, that learners really need to have a huge talent for learning foreign languages. The author explains that the talent doesn’t really matter if you work hard with a language. Students have to try to work according to some of his rules and they will be able to communicate in a foreign language. There is no talent involved in the learning process but hard work and dealing with language n many, many ways.
The next myth is strictly connected with the first one. Namely, that only immersion is a way to learn. Let us have a look again at what the verb ‘to immerse’ really means. According to the Cambridge Dictionary (on-line version), to immerse is “to be or become completely involved in something, so that you do not notice anything else”. (Source: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/ english-polish/immerse?q=immersion). Chris asks a diff erent question. What if students are immersed but they can’t learn? According to the author, immersion per se doesn’t work. When students don’t speak a language, they are like children so they won’t be able to understand all the diffi cult structures that other natives use. Therefore, they can’t learn the thing that they don’t understand.
The speaker talks about some of the most important principles regarding language learning. He underlines that only if information is relevant for learners, they will remember it. Therefore, it helps if learning a language is a means of achieving a personal goal.
The graph presents the connection between all the four principles. Students need to be aware of attention, meaning, relevance and memory. If something is relevant to students, the chances of remembering are higher. It is also in that way that if something is relevant, it has got a special meaning. In addition, students pay attention to the issue and this will stay in their memory for some time. If students train their memory, the information may be remembered for a longer time. It is all a cycle and being aware of those facts is very important not only in the process of learning, but teaching as well.
Chris discusses some rules that, according to him, are the best way of mastering the target language. Firstly, he says that students need to focus on language content that is relevant to them together with using certain tools that will help in creating proper opportunities for language use.
Secondly, he claims that students need to use their new language from day one. In this way, this target language will be their tool of communication. They will feel more like kids learning a foreign language but this is inevitable in the way of learning.
Thirdly, if a message in target language (L2) is understandable, the chances of acquiring the language unconsciously are really high. Chris also describes Stephen Crashen’s issue of comprehensible input. He underlines that comprehension really is the key – consequently, language learning is not about only accumulating lots of knowledge but about using it in a real context.
The other signifi cant issue is psychological training. Students need to be trained in producing certain sounds, exercising diff erent muscles of their faces to be able to coordinate the way they speak to produce utterances that will be understandable by diff erent people. He expresses the belief that “we have fi lters in our brain that fi lter in the sounds that we are familiar with and they fi lter out the sounds of languages we’re not. And if you can’t hear it, you won’t understand it and if you can’t understand it, you’re not going to learnt it” (Taken direcly from Chris speech.).
Finally, there is something that is called the physio-psychological state. If students are unhappy, scared, nervous or full of anxiety, they aren’t going to learn at all. Learners aren’t perfect because they learn. Also, some tolerance of ambiguity needs to be taken into account while learning. The best physiopsychological state is when a student is relaxed and has a positive attitude towards learning.
In his speech, Chris enumerates seven actions that help to master the target language. To put it shortly, these are:
- listen a lot – it is called ‘brain soaking’,
- “focus on getting the meaning fi rst – before the words4”, also use body language to help yourself,
- be creative and start mixing the words that you know with the phrases and start creating new sentences,
- focus on the core -start from really easy phrases like What is it? I don’t know,
- fi nd a partner, fi nd a language parent – this environment is safe for developing one’s skills,
- try to copy the face and have direct feedback,
- connect words with mental images.
It is also important to remember that a good language parent:
- Must understand the learner.
- Can’t correct their mistakes.
- With the use of target language should confi rm what they understood.
- Should use the words that the learner knows.
Chris Lonsdale tries to convince all people that, in spite of the fact that learning is a really long process, there are some methods that learners may apply in order to learn in a more effi cient way. There are and always will be some obstacles and excuses on the way of learning but, with the use of at least some of his tips, the chances of speeding up learning are really high. It’s worth trying.