Techniques in Language Teaching
by Marjorie Rosenberg
article originally appeared in ELT News, Issue 33, October,
1997, published by Teachers of English in Austria/The British
Is there a method which motivates learners to become more
independent? What possibilities are there to help learners
trust their instincts and discover resources within themselves?
How do these factors help them to learn a foreign language?
questions are becoming increasingly important as global communication
takes on a major role in our lives causing the demand for
language courses to grow at a steady rate. In addition, learners
at the adult level want courses to be enjoyable as well as
efficient and in schools teachers find themselves competing
with outside distractions which didn't even exist when they
themselves were pupils.
my opinion, superlearning is a method which takes all of the
above-mentioned points into account. Superlearning, as it
is used today, is a method which incorporates input from people
from all over the globe. Its origin can be traced to Suggestopedia,
which is a holistic model of learning and teaching developed
by the Bulgarian psychiatrist and educator, Dr. Georgi Lozanov
(Suggestology and Outlines of Suggestopedy, 1978). His original
work dealt primarily with improving memory, breaking down
barriers to learning by reawakening the childlike curiosity
of the learner, and teaching on both conscious and subconscious
levels. Also important to the development of Superlearning,
was the Nobel Prize-winning work of Dr. Roger Sperry from
California Institute of Technology dealing with the differing
functions of the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
In the field of education, Donald Schuster and Charles Gritton
(Suggestive Accelerative Learning Techniques, 1986) set out
practical uses of suggestopedia for schools and universities.
They adapted many of the Lozanov's original ideas to language
learning and their book can be partially regarded as a practical
handbook for the classroom. Many other ideas have been added
to Lozanov's original contribution including Second Language
Acquisition from Stephen Krashen, Total Physical Response
from James Asher, and the NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming)
Sensory Acuity and Processing models from Richard Bandler
and John Grinder. Contrary to popular belief, a superlearning
class does not mean that the students lie on the floor, listen
to slow Baroque music and let themselves be "sprinkled"
with vocabulary words in a state of total relaxation. A superlearning
class consists of specific phases which make up a learning
Lessons generally begin with some sort of preparation which
serves as a bridge from the world outside the classroom to
the learning atmosphere within. This preparation can be in
the form of a warm-up or activation activity or a song or
game. Preparation, in this case, refers more to the preparation
of the attitude, learning ability, and mental state of the
student than to preparation of material which is going to
be presented. At the first meeting of the class the preparation
phase is especially important because the students need to
feel comfortable in the atmosphere which the teacher wants
to create. Some teachers begin the first evening with a fantasy
trip or various warm-up games in which the students can all
participate and experience their first contact with the language
as well as the method. In my classes we begin with a game
dealing with the right and left halves of the brain and an
explanation of what is coming so that my students know that
even if an activity might seem strange to them, there is a
reason for it. It is important for adult learners to cognitively
understand reasons for doing things, especially when methods
are totally different from those they have previously experienced.
Michael Grinder (Righting the Educational Conveyor Belt, 1991)
talks about "permission" of a group which is necessary
if we want to communicate successfully and establish rapport
with our students. By explaining the method to the left half
of the brain (the logical, analytical side) we teachers make
it "OK" for the students to enjoy themselves because
we connect the enjoyment with learning. Another important
activity is the choosing of new identities. These consist
of new (English) names, new countries and new jobs. We then
practice the greetings' forms using these new identities.
Students keep these identities throughout the entire course
which encourages them to take chances and be creative. Psychologically
the learners feel safer with a new name because if they make
a mistake they have a certain feeling of dissociation and
don't have the feeling that they actually made the mistake.
This simple "change in identity" increases the sense
of learner independence because they aren't afraid to try
things out. In addition, they simply have more fun and have
the feeling that they can say whatever comes into their heads.
More vocabulary is used and curiosity regarding other students'
statements promotes active listening.
page 2 of 2
to the articles index