Dynamic language education
Dynamic Language Learning is not a teaching method. It is a whole range of teaching strategies based on the premise that learning a new language is different from studying geography or biology, in terms of how our brain processes information. Language is not knowledge. Language is a system that our brain develops based on all the language we hear and read. This means that you acquire a language completely differently from the way you learn the facts you need to pass a geography exam. Language is not knowledge. This is why we at Dynamic Language Learning believe language teaching should be approached in an entirely different manner.
What is wrong with current language education?
In schools, language learning is treated the same way as other subjects. Students are offered pieces of information and are given exercises to apply that knowledge to. This teaching style completely overlooks the way our brain acquires a language, at any age. Even with so-called ‘interactive’ learning methods, language is still chopped into grammar-based chunks that need to ‘understood’ and then ‘practiced’ in dialogues that students have to learn by heart. Or through gap-fill exercises that they can do without actually understanding the meaning of, as long as they know how to apply the rule.
Obviously, language on its own can be studied in the professional sense. It is very interesting to detect patterns in a language and try to define the general rules that apply to it. But learning these rules for, let’s say French, will not bring you any closer to acquiring the French language. It will not get you to understand or speak the language effortlessly. On the contrary, knowing the ‘rules’ only disrupts the flow of communication. Just listen to the stammering of your average secondary school pupil trying to speak French, or an adult learning Spanish as a hobby.
So what should it look like? How can we make language education more effective and efficient?
Think of the way you use your native language every day. You read the newspaper, you check your social media. You have short and long conversations with the people around you. Do you give a single thought to the use of the subordinate conjunction? No, you are busy interacting, understanding the meaning of other people’s words and conveying what you want to say yourself. You use language as a tool to communicate. To send a message into the world and to understand other people’s messages. You use language for communication, social interaction, connecting with people. Are you consciously thinking about how you phrase things? Only occasionally, like in a socially delicate situation do you consciously think of how you want to word or phrase something. But again, the keyword is social interaction. You might be paying attention to your language, but not to rules you learned at school.
Now think back to your early childhood, or look around at parents with young children. Are they making any effort at all to teach their children the rules of Dutch, or whatever their first language is? Do they give their children word lists or exercises? No, of course not, silly question. What do they do instead? They talk, point out, show children things, let them feel them, ask questions, use facial expressions and body language. In short, they convey meaning with the tools they possess: Language and an array of sensory experiences. Parents intuitively offer their child exactly what their brain needs to acquire a language: immersion combined with sufficient extra information (pointing, feeling) to help them understand the meaning of the spoken language.
It is precisely this combination of hearing a language and understanding its meaning that allows the brain to develop a language system. One that encompasses not only the various meanings of words, but also the different combinations they can form with other words, and their countless different nuances. Sounds complicated? It is, and it is in fact impossible to capture in grammar rules. By contrast, as long as we keep hearing the new language, reading, and interacting in that language, our brain will acquire the language effortlessly.
Natural language acquisition is possible!
This is why we at Dynamic Language Learning are convinced everyone should stop trying to teach students a language according to incomplete rules and as though it were geography. If we want our students to communicate fluently in their second or third language, if we want to enable them to interact socially, then we need to create a learning environment in which natural language acquisition can take place. This is possible! There are several teaching strategies that allow students to be immersed in the language and still understanding everything.
Dynamic Language Learning offers courses, workshops and consultation. We can help schools and language trainers to structure their lessons in a way that will truly enable students to acquire the language necessary for spontaneous social interaction.