Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


February 25, 2008

Dear Readers:

I have a new blog. All the old posts will be retained, but the new site is or you can access it through The blog has a single purpose – to help you and me become better at TPRS.  Feel free to comment or question anything.


How Oz!

February 13, 2008

Speaking of boxes, our students are really just little munchkins who, hiding amongst the flowers, have long been waiting for a big box to slam down on their ugly old grammar teacher witch, and wait, as well, for that witch’s sister to melt. 

They have been waiting for a little dog, someone, anyone, to pull back the illusory curtain of how we learn languages, and to show them how to really do so, which is as easy as clicking one’s heals together and wishing for a story. Imagine that!

I have a message to all witches: look down the road. You will see a lion named Blaine, a Dorothy named Susie, a tin man named Jason, and a scarecrow named Joe, skipping arm in arm in your direction.

Here they come, skipping with joy down the yellow brick roads of their careers, revealing the gold, the pure gold, that gives the yellow color to the bricks. This is the TPRS road, and we invite all teachers to try a skip or two. You might like it! Better than monkeying around!

Our Greatest Challenge

February 5, 2008

In my view, the greatest challenge currently facing the TPRS world is to thoroughly convince other foreign language educators of one simple truth, that students trained in narrative methods acquire command of grammar in a way that is far superior to students who don’t receive such training.

The misconception that grammar-based methods actually work, when eradicated, will quickly create tremendous support for what is now a marginal approach to teaching.

As more and more teachers understand the true role of narrative methods in acquiring grammar, such methods will take their rightful place nationally and internationally at center stage in the game of foreign language acquisition.

Le Je est un Autre

February 4, 2008

Choice of content, again, is the spark that ignites or douses stories. Check out Double Je by Christophe Willem –  on YouTube.

You know what? The kids can get this. Easy for them because half of them ARE this video – they live it daily. We’ll spend a week on this song. Translation, PQA, extended PQA, listen to it, lipsync it, spin stories from the lyrics. Luckily not objectionable subject matter.

For those who believe that the language in this song is too fast and therefore not understandable by first year students, I say hooey. We learn languages because we are interested in what they mean, not because people start out speaking slowly to us.


January 30, 2008

When Mozart was a kid, his young mind was bathed in music – it is all he heard around him.  His dad didn’t say, “Hey, Wolfgang, this is an eighth note, and this is a half rest. And check out this treble clef over here. I bet you’d like to learn how to draw one of them! Cool, huh! And once you learn all this stuff, in about five years, I am going to let you hear some music by Bach and Buxtehude and Palestrina, and you can see how this all fits together!”

We don’t learn languages by putting off our listening to them. We don’t learn languages by studying pieces of them in written form. We don’t even learn languages by hearing snippets of them in aural form! We learn them by continuously hearing them and understanding them in a relaxed way on a daily basis. We learn them by listening to their music first.

If some day we decide to major in music, we can then study tonal systems and diminished sevenths and all that stuff. Can’t we just enjoy the music that language is first and break it into pieces later, once we understand what it is?


January 22, 2008

Having focused more heavily than usual on comprehensible input in the form of stories since August, I am now beginning to see the fruits of this work showing up in my reading classes. I am glad I put off serious reading (i.e. a full 40% of the week) until now.

The kids are able to translate easily, of course, because they are using sound, not the left brain, to do so. But the cool thing is that, as soon as we finish translating each paragraph, I am able to engage them in immediate and almost  effortless conversation that connects the facts in the book (Pauvre Anne in this case) to their own lives. I am able to bring in interesting new facts and characters like today’s Italian newcomer Bracco Bama (Anne’s friend) at will.

(By the way, “Bracco” is pronounced in the Italian way, first syllable heaviest, and then the second trailing away as if you were in Brindisi eating spaghetti. But Americans who do not live in NYC do not understand this and insist on saying his name with a “k” sound – Bracco Bama).

Anyway, had I tried this kind of reading earlier, it wouldn’t have worked as well. Now, with the kids’ rich auditory history, the details, true or not, that we add into the discussion (which can be called “Reading PQA” – RPQA) amaze them and me. Confidence is high. They know they are learning.

They are acquiring the French language, pinning it on their knowledge of its sound and, now, what it looks like on paper. The formula works – first they mostly listened, now they are reading and talking.

Writing, another skill I have put off this year in order to  test the value of massive verbal input in the form of stories all the way into January, will also fall to the mighty strength of the kids’ ability to understand the spoken language.

 The only caution here is that when you do reading classes, you must allow no idle commentary. Idle comments in reading classes, indeed, in all TPRS classes, are much more deleterious than they appear. Don’t allow them.

Another caution (my opinion only) is to read and translate yourself. Having the kids translate the text doesn’t work for me.