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Language Learning

I call myself “the Language Guy” because language learning is what I really enjoy doing and writing about. Whereas Critical Infrastructure for Children was written as a response to need, language learning is what I enjoy. Good programs have the ability to elevate the experiences of students. After teaching and studying languages with total intensity for seven years, and casually for fourteen,  I have a little knowledge. 

Language Learning Questions Questions 47 to 85 in Critical Infrastructure for Children are strictly about language learning and they highlight some of the great successes in that field. Those questions are there in the hope that students and teachers in New England might benefit. This is especially true for recent arrivals.

Approach Teaching Beginners  As opposed to learning random lists of words, my beginning students begin by learning the 100 highest frequency words, and then learn to form simple sentences with them. I learned this approach in 1995 in a private language schools, where I spent my first two years teaching.  In a language school, customers pay money to acquire language skills, and success is expected. The books the language schools provided were really good.

Example: I like my students to learn to write sentences like “the table is big” or “The table is small”, with lots of different variations. Five or so sentences per class and maybe five for homework is good enough.

Easy Readers Reading is the best way to reinforce what has been learned, as it allows for the kind of repetition students need. The problem is that most students never get the vocabulary to read books effectively, which is the reason for easy readers. However, with the books of Blaine Ray and others , it’s possible for students to begin reading at a vocabulary of 300 words. This is in contrast to what is needed to read normal books, which is around 1500 or so. Once students can begin to read, they get the huge number of repetitions they need to truly know the language.

Below: The first stamp of the United Nations. I used to collect UN stamps, and some enjoy the spirit of cultural appreciation contained in it. 

The Study Routine To find a study routine that they truly enjoy. Myself, I’m a flash card learner; I can flip flash cards for six or seven hours and enjoy every minute. That said, students that find a way they love to learn can always go to that. Once a good base of vocabulary is established, then daily readings can be a great way to enjoy and better learn the language. A good study routine can relax students and help them feel great.

Spanish and Polish Books I wrote a couple little books for learning Spanish and Polish that are good for beginners looking for some simple practice. I’ll keep working on them. The rule I follow with those is to write books that easy to use and that support pre-existing books out there. They are designed as a bridge to so-called “easy readers”.  They’re good for mastering the basics.