Why Language Classes Don’t Work

Tim Ferris, of Four Hour Work Week (on Amazon US or here on Amazon Japan)  fame, has just put up a new blog post: Why Language Classes Don’t Work:

It’s certainly worth a read and as usual he gives lots of food for thought.  Is this how your brighter adult students see you?  Here are his main points:

1. Teachers are viewed as saviors when materials are actually the determining factor.

Needless to say I’m going to like this bit!  I also like this “no matter what, do not begin with classes or texts that solely use the target language (e.g., Spanish textbooks in Spanish)”.

2. Classes move as slowly as the slowest student.

Totally agree for private schools.  It would also be great if we could do this in public schools as well.

3. Conversation can be learned but not taught.

“The rules (grammar) can be learned through materials and classes, but the necessary tools (vocabulary and idiomatic usage) will come from independent study and practice in a native environment.”

For individual learners I’d agree with this as well.  This is the reason we try and use games for kids classes, to try and artificially create a speaking environment.  Ideally we should be moving on the using Skype and projects as quickly as possible!

4. Teachers are often prescriptive instead of descriptive.

In conclusion—the learner is the problem (what?)

Now that just makes you want to read the rest of the article, doesn’t it!

6 Day Course
This weekend I’ve also been looking at Rocket Languages.  They’ve got free trials on at the moment for Chinese, French, Japanese, Spanish & German which sound interesting.  Despite the way too long sales pages I’m thinking of trying the Chinese one. But I’m not sure if it will be worth the time invested as I’ve never tried this system before.  Have any of you tried them? Or would you care to try them out and let me know how you get on?

Richard Graham

Hello, I'm Richard Graham. And when I was a kid I found school to be sooooo boring... So I transformed my way of teaching. I listened to what the kids were really wanting to say and taught it in ways they really wanted to learn. The results were magical. So I'm sharing it all with you now...

2 Responses to “Why Language Classes Don’t Work”

  1. Yumiko Kusunoki

    I started Free 6-Day Chinese Course today.
    The approach is different from Michel Thomas method, but I’ve found similarity too. No textbooks (Is it only today?). No stress.

    Michel Thomas method (I’m using a CD titled Get Started.)starts from learning structures of sentences in an amazing way. Rocket starts from practical conversation.

    I took up Chinese only a few days ago. But thanks to these two methods, I’ve learned a lot.

    I’ll tell you how 6-Day course was after I finished it. So far, I think it’s worth trying because I find it interesting!


  2. richard

    You’re going to be learning Chinese faster than I am! I’ve got to break off to do some Hindi next week.

    Keep us updated with your progress!

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