Making the Feedback Training Method Work:
This chapter will give you some practical suggestions in applying the Feedback Training Method to your language study, helping you to gain fluency as quickly as possible. From past experience with the Spoken English Learned Quickly course, it is fair to say that these methods can help you double the rate at which you acquire a new language. That is, in hour-for-hour of study, you can reach the same fluency level in six months that you would otherwise reach in a full year of study relying only on an established school’s program. This language-learning rate should be just as attainable when using your own program in an area where formal instruction is limited.
In order to succeed, however, you must remember the four rules that were previously given in:
- To learn to speak a language correctly, you must speak it aloud.
- To learn to speak a language fluently, you must think in that language.
- The more you speak a language aloud, the more quickly you will learn to speak fluently.
- You must never make a mistake when you are speaking.
There is no alternative to committing a great amount of time to language study. If you are devoting full time to it, then try to spend a full eight hours a day, five days a week on language study. Ideally, that will be eight hours devoted to actual speaking by means of recorded exercises and newspaper reading. If you are enrolled in a structured class, you will need to supplement your class and preparation time with additional newspaper reading and spoken exercises for a total of eight hours of study each day.
Whatever your schedule permits — from one hour a day to eight hours a day — bring as much spoken the language of your study time as possible.
If you are applying the four rules above and simultaneously thinking, speaking out loud, and listening to yourself in your target language, you are using a Feedback Training Method of language study.
Learning an alphabet:
Let’s assume that you are a first language English-speaking adult, that you possibly also have a college degree, and that you know the Latin alphabet. With this background, you should find it fairly easy to learn the alphabet for languages such as Polish and others that use additional accents and diacritical marks.
However, if you are learning a language that uses another alphabet, you will need to learn that alphabet first.
Most languages use a relatively small number of letters in their alphabet. You would severely hamper your language learning efforts if you did not first learn that short alphabet. Some languages have considerably longer alphabets, and you may not need to learn all of the letters before starting to study the spoken language itself. On the other hand, Chinese is the only language that uses only characters while Japanese uses two alphabets and additional Chinese characters. In time, you will want to learn as many characters as possible. However, with no personal experience to guide me regarding these two languages, I would think that your time might be better spent by initially concentrating on the spoken language.
Making the Feedback Training Method work during formal language study:
If you are studying in a highly structured program which emphasizes written assignments, you will need to supplement that study with spoken language. Our bias against written assignments for language learning does not concern the accuracy of the sentences themselves. In all likelihood, the written sentences used in these language programs are an excellent representation of the language. They should, however, be learned as spoken phrases rather than as written sentences.
If you are in a language program that emphasizes written assignments, then after completing the written portion of the daily work, spend your additional study time using the assignments as spoken exercises.
- Practice only with written sentences that you know to be correct. You may want to use the sentences from the previous day’s lesson after they have been corrected in class. Or you may have access to a first language speaker who can check them for you. Avoid getting your primary help from an advanced student who is a first language speaker of your own language.
- In the early part of your study, be very certain that your pronunciation is correct. When the pronunciation of your own language and the target language are similar, this will not be a major problem. In other instances, it will be a serious concern. For example, a first language English speaker cannot learn proper French pronunciation without help from either a first language French-speaking person or some form of audio recordings.
- In some cases, you can record short segments from the local television or radio programs for use as pronunciation drills.
- In time, your pronunciation will become more reliable and you can return to reading written class assignments and newspapers aloud for pronunciation practice.
- You will need to use a mix of methods when you are reading. The second rule above suggests that you never merely read the sentences, but that you also recite the sentences from recall memory. That is, you read a sentence aloud and then look away from the page and immediately repeat the sentence from memory. On the other hand, there will be times when reading an entire newspaper article or written language assignment aloud, using precise pronunciation, will be of great benefit. Reading longer portions without pause will develop your sense of the cadence of your target language. Be creative in adding variety so that you are able to maintain the intense schedule while avoiding the monotony that could undermine your best intentions.
- In all likelihood, if you are in a structured class, verbs, as well as other types of speech, will be introduced progressively rather than as was suggested in; Studying the Verb. You may greatly enhance your learning speed if you construct verb tables as you encounter new verbs. Very quickly, you should be able to take any new regular verb and recite the entire table without first writing it. You may find it to be helpful to make tables with suffixes and prefixes while leaving blank spaces for the verb root. Then each time you encounter a new verb, you can refer to that table for spoken practice. As already suggested, get into the habit of learning each verb in its entirety. Also, develop the habit of learning the verb as a spoken rather than written vocabulary word.
- If you are in a classroom language study program, you will undoubtedly have a language textbook that will provide enough information for you to be able to construct your own verb tables.
- When you begin the study, you will have a limited vocabulary that will not permit you to practice individual verbs in the context of a sentence. Again, turn to your newspaper. Find sentences that include specific verbs with the tenses and persons you are looking for. Look up the vocabulary for those sentences and then use the full sentences in spoken practice. With that model sentence, you can construct oral drills by changes in person or tense.
- During your initial language study, the process suggested in the previous paragraph will be slow. It may require a good deal of time for you to find a sentence that can be appropriately adapted and then to find the meaning of each word. Don’t be discouraged. The laborious process is still teaching you important lessons about the language. Soon it will take far less time as you become familiar with vocabulary and syntax.
- Notice that the emphasis on speaking is not initially done “on the street.” Of course, as quickly as you are able, you will want to engage in live conversation. Understand, however, that your polite listeners will allow you to use their language incorrectly. Because they will feign understanding, you will be unable to determine if your syntax or pronunciation is correct. Carefully apply the fourth rule and try to learn basic syntax before you get into the habit of using words that
will just get you by because your listeners are polite or have learned to interpret what you mean.
Making the Feedback Training Method work as your only language course:
Several assumptions are made in this section. Presumably, the target language is spoken by a relatively large population, is used in public education, and, at least to some degree, is used in university level education. Also, presumably books and newspapers are readily available in the language.
We are also assuming that you will be able to locate a language helper who has the equivalent of a public school education. Better yet, your language helper will be a university student. University students trying to earn extra money are good language helpers. They also have excellent contacts among their peers which would permit a substitute if they become temporarily — or permanently — unavailable.
This chapter is not concerned with a target language that is unwritten and/or used by a remote and isolated group of people. There are organizations that deal with language learning in that setting. Therefore, devising a method for learning that language is not the intent of this book.
You may find that language courses are actually offered in the country by a university or private tutors. However, you may have used them and decided that they are not effective for you. Typically, these courses will consist largely of lectures on grammar or culture and will have class sizes that are too large to allow for significant spoken language experience. They will provide little to nothing in audio playback language laboratories or pre-recorded spoken language exercises.
You may enroll in a class as described above but plan on supplementing your class work with a great deal of additional spoken material as suggested in the section on formal classes. Enrolling in this kind, of course, gives you access to a language teacher who could correct your pronunciation and syntax problems. On the other hand, after evaluating the language courses that are locally available, you may decide that you would accomplish more by designing your own spoken language course.
The information in the following sub-headings should help you structure your course.
Selecting a language helper. If you live close to a university, a student might be a good choice. If you use a Feedback Training Method, an effective language helper does not need to have any training as a language teacher as long as he or she speaks your target language fluently. In fact, if you feel confident in establishing the kind of language learning program suggested in this book, you may find that a university student with training as a language teacher could actually hinder your progress. In all probability, this training would place the high value on teaching grammar. In the absence of a local university, a secondary school student or graduate could also serve the purpose just as well.
You will want a language helper who speaks clearly, can read well, and has an acceptable voice for recording purposes. The language helper should also be able to write and spell correctly. In your study, you will be using written exercise pages that your language helper will write. It is important that you see correctly written sentences with correct spelling. Of course, as suggested in; Selecting a Text, you will also use a newspaper which is well edited, with good grammar and spelling.
Your language helper will be making voice recordings that you will use for practice. It is important that his or her pronunciation is correct and clear so that you can be confident in mimicking the recording. As much as possible, find a language helper who speaks with a normal cadence. Also be aware that missing front teeth or speech impediments will likely distort pronunciation.
Initially, if you and your language helper share another language in common other than the target language, you could use it for communicating as you establish the pay, the study schedule, and your expectations. In many parts of the world, you would expect to pay your language helper at least weekly, if not daily.
Training your language helper. Understand the skill differences between you and your language helper. He or she is the expert in the language — you are not. You are the expert in the language learning method — he or she is not. After you have studied for a while, you could presumptuously assume that you know more about the language than your language helper does, hindering the process. That can happen more often than you might imagine! On the other hand, your language helper has more than likely studied language in school using a grammar-based method. If the university system uses a European language as the means of instruction, your language helper will almost certainly have studied that European language’s grammar for many years in school. It would also mean that grammar study was superimposed on the local language. Your language helper will expect that you want him or her to teach you grammar. It would be surprising if your language helper would initially understand the Feedback Training Method of using only spoken the language.
In all probability, your language helper will expect that you are paying him or her to give you grammar lessons. He or she will probably further expect that the language of instruction will rely heavily on a common language between you — either he or she has studied English or you have studied French or another language of instruction used in the local university. Your language helper may also have an agenda, hoping to practice English as well.
Considering all of the above, you have an important task ahead of you in training your language helper to speak only the target language. Nonetheless, in this section let’s assume that you have a common language in which you can communicate to some degree. However, you will not be using this common language for instruction. All instruction will be in your target language. You will need to work together as a team — you will be guiding the language sessions, while your language helper will be providing the language expertise.
Developing initial exercises. The following suggestions assume that you have no language ability in your target language and that you are just beginning your initial language study.
- Start with the “hello”s and “goodbye”s of the language. Show your language helper that you want to mimic everything he or she says and that you want to speak at a normal cadence, using correct pronunciation. Work with your language helper until the two of you can carry out a complete conversation using the appropriate greetings and farewells.
- Keep a notebook in which your language helper writes every phrase he or she is suggesting to you. When you have written the phrases in the notebook, the two of you should be able to repeat the phrases as a dialogue.
- Work on vocabulary. You will keep a vocabulary notebook that is separate from the phrase notebook your language helper is using. Make a list of vocabulary words and write the definitions in English.
- Using your recording equipment, have your language helper record four or five phrases as a test recording. After each phrase, your language helper must pause long enough to give you time to repeat the phrase. However, your voice is not recorded. Now, demonstrate how you will use the recording during a study. This will give your language helper a better idea of how much time should be allowed during the pauses.
- If the pause time is either too short or too long, re-record the first phrases until it is correct. Then finish the recording so that all phrases written in the notebook are recorded. Depending on the time allowed for each session, this may complete the first lesson.
- You will keep both the phrase notebook and the vocabulary notebook with you.
- After your language helper leaves, you will spend a number of hours studying before the next lesson. You will practice until you can say all of the phrases with good pronunciation without referring to the phrase notebook. You will also learn all of the vocabularies.
- During your next lesson, you may introduce the idea of verb tables. Select verbs from the vocabulary. Have your language helper give you all of the tenses and persons — and other grammatical functions placed within the verb if pertinent to that language. If it is a common verb, be alert to the fact that it may be an irregular verb. If you have purchased language texts for your target language, you may already have textbooks giving all of this information. If so, you can prepare the initial table information without your language helper’s involvement.
- Have your language helper write a number of the verbs used in the first lesson in table format. Have him or her repeat each person and tense — and other verb grammar functions — as demonstrated in; Studying the Verb. Respond by repeating everything your language helper says. Finally, using appropriate pauses, have your language helper record all of the verb tables he or she has just written. This will probably be the end of the second lesson.
- Again, you will study using the recordings until you can repeat everything from the first two lessons perfectly without looking at the phrase or vocabulary notebooks.
- During the next lesson, have your language helper write simple sentences for each person and tense for as many verb tables as you will be able to finish and record for that lesson. Use as many of the words as possible which are already on your vocabulary list. You will need to encourage your language helper to frequently reuse vocabulary you are already familiar with. He or she must be in the habit of using your vocabulary notebook whenever new phases are written for recording.
- In successive lessons, you can complete more verb tables and example sentences for each of the verbs you have already used. Of course, new example sentences will introduce new verbs. The new verbs will introduce even more new vocabulary as the new sample phrases are written and recorded. Be creative and you will find that this process will be self-perpetuating, producing enough material for many weeks of intense language study. You will also soon accumulate enough recorded material so that you can profitably spend many hours a day repeating it.
- There is a mistake you must avoid. Your objective is not to review the recordings until you merely understand the meaning and the vocabulary. You will reach that point quickly. You should study every recording until you can flawlessly pronounce each phrase. That will take considerably more work. Do not be satisfied with merely understanding the phrases. Work until you can reproduce the phrases with the fluency of a first language speaker.
Selecting a text. At some point, you will begin drawing your text from a newspaper. Three previously stated principles need to be reviewed regarding newspapers as language study aids:
- You will need to select your newspaper carefully, making certain that it is an edition that uses everyday common language rather than one that uses a literary style.
- You cannot use a newspaper for language study without having appropriate pronunciation assistance. During your early study, you will want to have your language helper guide you so that your pronunciation is correct. You may want to read the article together and then continue reading the same article after your language helper leaves for the day. You should have your language helper record the newspaper article with appropriate pauses.
- You should always read the newspaper aloud.
It may be helpful to have two identical newspapers so that both you and your language helper have the same text. You will proceed much as you did earlier. Initially, you will be able to use a single newspaper article for many weeks, so you do not need to buy a newspaper for each session.
- Select a short article that interests you. Your language helper may help you make selections based on the vocabulary or expressions contained in the article.
- Start by reading the article together. Have your language helper read a phrase, and then you reread the same phrase yourself until your pronunciation is perfect. Then go to the next phrase or sentence, and so on.
- When you begin to study the same sentences on the recording, you will not be looking at the newspaper. Your response will be entirely from recall memory. Therefore, show your language helper how longer sentences should be broken into shorter phrases. For examples, see Appendix B: Text Exercises.
- During your practice reading, it might be helpful for your language helper to insert slash marks in the text to indicate where pauses should occur during the recording.
- Develop vocabulary lists in your vocabulary notebook as you have already done.
- Continue to develop verb tables.
- Add a new category for expressions and idioms. A newspaper will generally use many common expressions. Identify each expression and define it. In many cases, keywords may be substituted in the expression to change either the subject or the action of the expression. You may also be able to change the time of the expression with the verb tense. Learn how the expression can be modified.
- In time, your language helper may write actual exercises using word substitution or verb manipulation. However, this may require more time than is available during the lesson period that, in fairness, may require additional payment.
The alphabet and numbers. Assuming that your target language uses an alphabet with a relatively few letter, you will want to learn the correct pronunciation of each letter in order to be able to spell words for first language speakers. You will also want to learn the correct pronunciation for numbers. Construct simple drills for both letters and numbers. Review the drills frequently enough that you can readily use both letters and numbers, utilizing perfect pronunciation. See the alphabet and number drills in Appendix A: Introductory Lesson.
You will probably use numbers more frequently because they are a part of daily conversation in making purchases. Consequently, you will probably gain fluency with numbers relatively quickly. However, be certain that you also learn the alphabet. As a foreigner, you will frequently be asked to spell words. It will be a great help to you if you learn to spell fluently in your target language.
Finally, if your target language uses a monetary system that is identified with anything other than simple numbers such as we use in English — for example, we say seven dollars or three hundred and eighty dollars — you will also need to learn to rapidly use that system as well. For example, in the country in which I lived for nine years, a price could be specified in either MGF francs or the national aviary. The ariary was worth five MGF francs. In the larger cities, you could get by with calling the price 350 francs. In remote areas, one was forced to bargain by calling the same amount 70 ariary. I learned, much to my chagrin, that mistakenly bargaining a price for 350 ariary was going to cost me a lot more than 350 francs. At least I won that bartering round at my first stated price!
Recording the exercises. In spite of the high technology equipment that is available today for MP3 and CD (compact disc) computer-based recording, some may still prefer the low-tech cassette tape recorder. It is inexpensive and easy to use as both a recording and a playback machine, and it has a pause button and counter that facilitates use in language study. However, if you take a recorder with you, you will need to either take an ample supply of cassette tapes with you or verify that tapes can be purchased locally. Also, make certain that any equipment you take with you will work on the supplied voltage and frequency of that country.
If you use a cassette recorder, limit your cassettes to the 60-minute length or less. Longer duration cassettes use thinner tape that will not hold up to repeated forward and reverse usage in language study. The thinner tape also tangles more easily.
Today’s choice, however, would be MP3 technology. If you use an iPod or MP3 player and have appropriate computer equipment, you may find that making the voice recording on a CD and downloading it to the MP3 player is a good alternative. You can also purchase auxiliary attachments that permit an iPod to record directly. In this case, you will probably want to upload your MP3 files to a computer so that they could be stored on CDs. Many MP3 players may be paused just like a cassette tape recorder.
You will need to establish a routine with your language helper. During the time he or she is helping you, you will be working on text material that will be spontaneously organized or written as recorded exercises. In addition, you may also record verb tables and the like. You will need to allow enough time so that each day’s recording can be completed.
View the recorded material as the most important part of the lesson time spent with your language helper. You can easily get three or four hours of language practice time from each hour of recorded material. Thus, live conversation with your language helper will only give you an hour of spoken language for an hour of your language helper’s time, whereas an hour of recording will give you a minimum of three or four hours of spoken language time for the same hour of your language helper’s time. In addition, past recorded exercises can be frequently reviewed, which will give you even that much more spoken language exercise.
There will also be days when your language helper is not available because of illness, school schedule, holidays, and other reasons. Previously recorded exercises will allow you to continue language study without lost time.