Polyglot Benny Lewis’ advice on learning languages

Bennie Lewis, the Irish polygot,  speaks over 12 languages. He did not start his language learning until he was 21.

When he was in Spain, he took a language courese and it did not work. He tried Spansih language books and that did not work;he  tried software and DVDs and that did not work; he tried to read a book in Spanish and that did not work. After 6 months living in Spain, he could not speak Spanish. He began to speak it and use it all the time and he became fluent.

He states several reasons for not learning a language and why these are not true

—  Don’t have the words- if learning a Romance language, then 10,000 words from English are similar; figure out how to say things. Think of a word that has a cognate: country to nation (nación) and come in to enter (entrar in Spanish). Use Cognates.  Even in a non Romance language use brand name or technology – coca cola,  ipad.

— Can’t learn the vocabulary. Learn  vocabularythrough association- make it more fun – playa = beach in Spanish ( think of a player walking down a beach).

— Don’t know the grammar. Most of language learning in school is grammar, Grammar is a list of rules, it is not language, Language is a means of communication,  More effective is to embrace speaking and speaking wrongly. Speak with many mistakes a day, 100. Start with Tarzan like speak.People will understand you in broken language. After you can speak, then go back and learn the grammar.

— Will make mistakes. People feel like they’re not allowed to use the language, to speak it, unless every conjugation is perfect, every pronunciation is right, they know a thousand words, or whatever it is. They feel they need to know it perfect, and that is a mistake because a language is not like geography or history, a list of facts that you need to cram into your brain. It’s a means of communication, so you can’t study it for five years and then suddenly be able to speak it. You have to be speaking it throughout the entire process. It is a mistake to not be okay with making mistakes.

— Will frustrate the listener. It does not work like that. Frustration over not speaking language is the greater frustration. All over the world people are over joyed that you are speaking their language, they encourage you even though your grammar is bad.

Live the language, it is not locking yourself away with a dusty old grammar book, It is about getting out there and using the language..

Summarized from the following sites:

TEDxSanAntonio – Benny Lewis – Fluent in Three Months – Rapid Language Hacking  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZqUeWshwMs

Benny encouraging language learners on RTE’s The Saturday Night Show  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQFb9_FPPBM

5-brilliant-language-learning-tips-from-benny-lewis-the-irish-polyglot  http://blog.vocapp.com/5-brilliant-language-learning-tips-from-benny-lewis-the-irish-polyglot,140/

Benny Lewis’website  https://fi3mplus.com/premium-3/?_ga=1.261621704.438442521.1440099707

How does your class encourage language learners to communicate in their world language?

Many activities to get your students actively using the language in beginning levels at http://bit.ly/mlcomcult and a list of mobile speaking activities at http://bit.ly/90mlact

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Increase World Language Comprehensible Input through Gestures

World language teachers want to immerse their students in the target language. One technique to keep the class in the target language is through gestures that indicate the meaning of a word or sentence. As the teacher introduces a new word, he/she does a gesture to help the students understand the meaning of the world. A good gesture makes the meaning clear to the students and helps students to remember the word  since the gesture visualizes the meaning.  For example, one sign for “separated” as in
“My father and mother are separated” is both hands in fists with the knuckles touching, lift up the thumbs and quickly spread the hands apart ; students understand “separated” instantly.  Likewise, as a teacher tells a story and comes upon a new word, the teacher gestures the meaning of the world.  Additionally, as students talk in the language, they may not remember a world and the teacher can do the gesture to help them remember the word.  Gestures can help clarify grammar such as when the teacher does a flip of the hair to indicate a feminine ending after the student uses an incorrect masculine ending.  Gestures help the class stay in the target language.

The teacher has several options for gestures:
1) Create his/ her own gestures to convey the meaning of words or sentences.
2) Use the gestures from a program such as the  Accelerated Integatived Method (AIM)
3) Use TPR gestures
4) Use ASL (American Sign Language) signs such as from the Signing Savvy webiste.
5) Use sign gestures from the target language country by searching for “sign dictionary online” +country such as this one for Spanish teachers  from Ecuador 

How do you use gestures to help your students have more comprehensible input in the  class?

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle,  I have 5 any language  picture speaking activities and 25+ ready-to-use Spanish structured speaking activities  for beginning students (including 5 Can-Do ones); and numerous students-as-investigators cultural activities(modern language culture).  At  http://bit.ly/tsmash, I have two ebooks, Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do Strategies and 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities (mainly speaking and culture). At http://bit.ly/tuttlebks, I have a book, Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment.

Reflection on Students’ Modern Language Success Using Can-Do Statements

Although I try to reflect during the semester/ year on what I can do to improve my students’ modern language  success, I find that the end of the semester/year allows me a bigger picture of their success. This semester I gave  the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements to my college beginning Spanish students at the start of the semester. I used a reformatted form which had the Novice Level on one side and the Intermediate on the other. Students checked off what they felt they could do.

During the course, I extended the textbook material  to cover the Can-Do Statements. I modified the tests to include more assessment of these Statements. I gave them the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements at mid-point for their self-assessment.  Many students, especially students who had never taken a language before, were amazed at their progress. They realized that they still had much to learn before they could function in many world situations.

At the end of the semester, I gave out the Can-Do Statements for self-assessment again.  I asked the students to comment on their ending results. All students had mastered at least 85% of the Novice level. They could not do the statements that requirement different tenses since we only cover the present tense in beginning Spanish.  Many could do numerous statements on the Intermediate Level. They were very aware of their language growth in the course. I gave a supplementary speaking final to assess how well their self-assessment was realistic. 95% of the students exceeded my expectations.

The Can-Do Statements provide built-in reflection as to the students’ progress. I have a plan for how to help the students do an even better job of meeting the very real-world Can-Do  Statements. The following ebooks are available at  http://bit.ly/tsmash

90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities by Harry Grover Tuttle

90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities by Harry Grover Tuttle

Modern Language Proficiencies: Can-Do Strategies

Modern Language Proficiencies: Can-Do Strategies

Modern Language Proficiency – What does it mean?

What does proficiency mean in the modern language classroom? Proficiencies are defined either by the state curriculum such as the NYS checkpoint A, B, or C or by the ACTFL proficiency standards / NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements.

Proficiencies do not refer to individual  activities such as  translating a word from English to the modern language nor doing a verb conjugation. A proficiency is not identifying the forms of a verb. A proficiency is not saying the names of  the family members in the modern language from a list of English words.  A proficiency is not pronouncing places. The ACTFL Can-Do statements do have a Grammar proficiency section. Grammar is integrated in meaningful ways such as Interpersonal Communication  Intermediate High- I can participate with ease and confidence in conversations on familiar topics..in various time frames.”

Proficiency refer to the student’s ability to communicate such as speaking  at the Interpersonal Communication Novice Mid level – “I can communicate basic information about myself and the people I know”  as the student says “something about the members of my family  and ask about someone’s family”. When students demonstrate this communication, they have shown a specific speaking proficiency. With the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements, students can see their achievements as they accomplish more  proficiencies. Since the Can-Do statements divide up the big level of Novice into three subcategories and each subcategory has numerous proficiencies, students can see progress as they go from Novice Low to Novice Mid to Novice High.

For our students to be proficient in the modern language, we will want to quickly move them from the low subskills of vocabulary and grammar to the proficiencies of language for communication. The more we have them use the modern language for real life purposes, the more proficient they become.

What do you mean by proficiency?

By early May, my book, tentatively titled,  Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do Strategies will be published at Smashwords. It contains many strategies for developing  Can-Do proficiencies for speaking,  listening, reading and writing;it also has  sections on vocabulary, textbook and mobile; the major emphasis is on speaking. Each strategy contains a Can-Do statement and a sample activity.

To help your beginning and more advanced students move toward spontaneous speaking which students need as they climb the Can-Do statements. I have developed 5 Visual activities/games  for any modern language (no words) and have developed 28 Spanish activities for students.  I am developing activities based on the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements. Teacherspayteachers:  http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle

My ebook, 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities, is available at http://bit.ly/90mlact.You can instantly use these many communication and cultural activities in your classroom with even beginning students when only half the class has mobile devices. It can be downloaded as a pdf.

My three formative assessment books, Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students and Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, are available at  http://bit.ly/tuttlebks

What Can Your Modern Language Students Do in Terms of Real-Life Communication?

As I prepare for my Spring semester,  I am asking myself for each chapter in the textbook “What can the students do after learning this unit?”  Unfortunately, the most common answer is to “talk about the topic” .  How real world is their learning? As  I think about the school chapter (classes, things in the school, parts of the classroom), I realize that the topic is one that relates to students but I wonder how often will they use these vocabulary words, phrases and questions outside of school?  How important is it to daily life outside of the school in the target language country?  Most modern language travel books do not even include school as a topic.

Maybe we should rethink the topics in textbooks to better prepare our students to actually be in another country.  What topics are truly important for students to be in a target language country? For example, NCSSFL-ACTFL  Can Do Statements include in the Novice Mid level “I can ask and understand how much something costs”.  When do your student learn “how much something costs” in your curriculum?  Mine occurs in the fifth or last chapter we cover.  How does that match up with what students would need to know if they were in another country? Let’s move from academic modern language to real world modern language for our students!

How does your textbook match up with real world modern language use?

I have developed 5 Visual activities/games  for any modern language (no words) and have developed 27 Spanish activities for students to begin to express themselves in the modern language and to move toward spontaneous speaking Teacherspayteachers:  http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle

My ebook, 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities, is available at http://bit.ly/90mlact.You can instantly use these many communication activities in your classroom with even beginning students when only half the class has mobile devices. It can be downloaded as a pdf.

My three formative assessment books, Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students and Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, are available at  http://bit.ly/tuttlebks

Modern Language Communication vs Grammar Focus: What is Your Focus?

Imagine walking up to a target language  speaker and saying “I talk, you talk, he/she/it talks, we talk, they talk”.  The native speaker would look at you weirdly since you are not communicating. You are reciting grammar.

Furthermore, imagine a native speaker listening to a  person who says , “Yesterday I to buy in store”.  The native speaker would hesitate a little but still understand the person.  However, if the person said, “Yesterday I swam in the store”, the native speaker would have no idea of what the person was trying to say even though the sentence is grammatically correct.

How do you know if you are focusing on grammar instead of on the communication of ideas?

1) A grammar based class  focuses on correctness, not on communicating ideas.  “Did you buy candy yesterday?  Yes, I bought candy yesterday.” has a grammar focus if the teacher  concentrates on the correct form of the past tense of the verb. If the teacher does not want to know more about the candy, then it is probably a grammar exercise.

2) In a grammar based or vocabulary based class, students do not comment or respond to the meaning of statements made by other students.  Communication is an interactive   exchange of ideas. John says, “I like to swim  I do not like to walk.” and  his partner, Jane,  waits her turn to say her two sentences using this specific verb structure.  Jane is not responding to John. She simply waits to talk regardless of what he said. In true communication, John’s partner, Jane would respond to  “I like to swim” with something like “Me, too” or “Where do you swim?” She listens and responds directly to her partner’s statements. She inquires. She interacts with John. She does not just exchange grammar based sentences that have no personal meaning to either speaker.

3) In a grammar based class, more of the textbook pages deal with grammar than anything else. Most of the  class exercises center on grammar.  Most of the workbook or electronic exercises concentrate on grammar. The teacher spends most of the class time in  practicing the grammar.  A teacher can time him/herself during a class to see where he/she spends most of his/her time by writing down each classroom activity and how long each takes.  At the end of class, the teacher totals  the different categories of classroom activities and divides by the total minutes of class.

4) In a grammar based class, the teacher’s main corrections are grammar based, not on how to communicate better.  A grammar based  teacher spends very little time on teaching common responses such as “Me too…Me, neither,  I do not agree” and does not correct students when they do not use these expressions.  The  communicative teacher does spend much time on specifically teaching language functions such as words or phrases for elaboration, inquiry, persuasion and constantly helps students to use these expressions. The teacher’s corrections center on meaning.

5) In a grammar based class, most student responses are short one sentence responses that show the correct verb form.. Or the students say a series of unrelated sentences that use the particular verb form.  In a communicative class, students often elaborate on their responses using multiple sentences.  “Yes, I bought candy. I really like chocolate because it is so sweet. I usually buy five candy bars and I share one with my father.” Each sentence adds more information to the original personal  idea.

6) In a grammar based class, students mainly respond to a specific question or statement. Their speaking is very structured and very controlled.   In a communicative classroom, students spontaneously speak and they can go from topic to topic. Students may start to talk about school, then they talk about the school’s sport team, next they move on to a sports game on TV.  Their conversations resemble a natural conversation with all of its twists.

Is your classroom grammar or communication based?

If you would like to see some communicative activities, I have some available at TeachersPayTeachers http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle (see below).

90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities by Harry Grover Tuttle
90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities by Harry Grover Tuttle

My ebook, 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities, is available at http://bit.ly/90mlact.You can instantly use these many communication activities in your classroom with even beginning students when only half the class has mobile devices. It can be downloaded as a pdf.

I have developed 5 Visual activities/games  for any modern language (no words) and have developed 27 Spanish activities for students to begin to express themselves in the modern language and to move toward spontaneous speaking Teacherspayteachers:  http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle

My three formative assessment books, Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students and Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, are available at   http://is.gd/tbook

Promoting Real Modern Language Speaking in Your Class- 30+ Activities

If our real purpose is in the modern language classroom is student communication skills and specifically, student speaking, what do we do to improve that speaking skill?  When our language students say grammar drills or do oral vocabulary exercises,they are not communicating as defined by ACTFL Proficiency Levels. Have you ever heard a native speaker walk up to another speaker and say a verb conjugation?  Have you ever heard an adult native speaker walk up to another speaker and rattle off a list of nouns? Research shows that speaking is the least developed skill in the modern language classroom and, paradoxically, an extremely critical skill for being in a target language country.

Our students need to progress from orally identifying vocabulary to responding to and creating sentences as they climb the ACTFL Proficiency Levels. They need to interact in the modern language.

There is a wide range of speaking activities that can help the students increase in their speaking  and particularly spontaneous speaking.  Most encounters in authentic language are spontaneous ones.  Students can develop their speaking skill through learning how to substitute words in standard sentences, learning how to ask and answer questions,  answering questions, talking about specific topics, and role playing real situations.

I have created the following activities to develop speaking in the classroom. There are numerous speaking activities for any modern language  and many for Spanish. You can decide on how you want to develop their speaking skill, select any activity, print it out, copy it for the students, and use it immediately in the classroom (95% require no other  preparation). Each activity engages the whole class, small group or partners at the same time so that all students maximize their speaking.  These activities are found at http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle

HarryTuttleSpeakingTPTActivitiesGrid

My ebook, 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities, is available at http://bit.ly/90mlact.

I have developed 27 Spanish activities  and 5 Modern Language Visual activities for students to begin to express themselves in the modern language and to move toward spontaneous speaking Teacherspayteachers:  http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle

My three formative assessment books, Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students and Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, are available at   http://is.gd/tbook