What is the Most Frequent Belief of English Students about the Neuro-L
Feb 1, 2015 English Language Teaching (ELT) 1816 Views
What is the most frequent belief of English student about the neuro-linguistic learning process?
In my experience, the most commonly-held belief of students who I take on is that the brain is a vessel, which, when full up with lots of stuff, will allow them to reach their highest possible level of fluency. The belief is that the mind needs some brain food before the actual doing can be up to standards. Many students pursue this belief without ever questioning what they believe or how it affects their English ability.
I think it is great to view the mind as an ever-expanding pool, which you can fill with vocabulary, grammatical rules, phrases, etc. The ability to develop yourself is only limited by your motivation to do so. Sort of. If you want greater results in English, then you need to work harder than you were previously. That’s logical and it makes perfect sense. If we never take the time to improve our memory with things like word associations, some foreign sounds just seem impossible to remember. I’m learning Spanish now, and I am going to use every tool I can think of to memorize things as quickly as possible. While writing things down helps, nothing beats committing the language to memory. This holy grail of storing a second language in your brain is a traditional approach to neuro-linguistic learning theory, and I wonder if it maybe isn’t time for more English teachers like myself to help tell the difficult truth about language learning.
It’s hard, and if you can work smarter instead of harder, hats off to you. Something I focus on to differentiate the rift between this, what I will call the ‘memorise everything perfectly’ model, and the newer model, is perfectionism. I will call the other model, the ‘use English in your life and just get out there’ model. English students who believe this is the best way to learn English often learn to acquire social rewards and status in English-speaking countries much faster than those who won’t say boo to a goose for fear of mispronouncing the vocabulary, ‘boo’. The competitive edge of language equates to a lot of economic and political power to the social groups most equipped to get on with the fact that English is the global language of business and politics. Some nationalities are especially happy with their abilities in English, and are very impressive. Others are very unhappy with their abilities, and never go out and impress anybody.
What countries have these difficulties is not important to me. It’s always changing as immigration and globalisation keeps changing the demographic landscape. I feel the 3 important elements of language acquisition of accuracy, fluency and confidence are nothing without that final element of confidence. What causes some to succeed in English? They don’t feel overwhelmed by the sea of vocabulary they have acquired already. They thrive. What makes some fail in English? Not that they didn’t learn the vocabulary. We nearly all have that ability. No. They fail at that moment when they realise they have thousands of words in their brain, they can’t remember they way to express themselves and they feel like their brain is at capacity. They feel they cannot take any more English into their mind. My student incorrectly called this a ‘brainstorm’ in a recent lesson. Calling it a brainstorm has to be one of the most interesting insights into what it feels like for students when they believe their brain is a vessel.
Students feel good when they can learn everything and then practice it without tending to the flock of information in their heads. The two jobs of being learner/learning manager are overwhelming to students. It upsets even the most independent of students. The way students would like to learn English is to set it and forget it. To neurologically download the linguistic data to their brains and then upload it to their intellectual cloud storage, which can hold infinite GB of RAM. This way the student can give 99.95% to communicating and 0.05% to processing data (linguistic facts and rules).
While it is challenging to us teachers’ beliefs about what is possible for students to achieve, if we adopt this kind of mindset as a teacher we can push the boundaries of how technologies interact with the mind. I can foresee one day when a language will be stored on google drive just like we can now store music and documents. The access to those documents will become easier to access remotely and with even less device interaction. As tech becomes more about fast and effective UX, the scope of interacting with language learning academia is huge. Just think of wearable technology. People are buying fitbits to measure, track and control their exercise routines. How long will it be before someone creates wearable tech that does the same thing for your language performance.
Be fluent today”
My closing thoughts are that the mind is not a slave, and some people really beat themselves up when it doesn’t perform to optimal performance. Maybe it’s time this burning need is addressed by an innovating educator. Ps. this idea is not copywritten and I am not endorsing an actual product here. It’s just my musings on what a nice world it would be if this existed.
Shameless self-marketing. My blog has more articles on English and language learning, and can be found over at markzucker.co.uk.