Two summer jobs and preparing to teach at a new school have kept me away from this site, but I’ll be back at it soon enough. In the meantime, with the beginning of a new year approaching, here are two analogies/illustrations that have hit me recently that could be used to explain to students and parents why we do what we do.
L2 as a new song
One of my summer jobs is music. I lead music at three different churches and play at other events when I can find time. Often, I must learn to play new songs. There are two ways for me to learn a new song. The first is to listen to the song a couple times and then start playing it myself. Unfortunately, I used this method much when I was younger. The result is that my lack of real knowledge of the song leads me to alter my own version until it becomes far different from the original, the way it should sound. The second option is to listen to the new song. Really listen. Over and over many times before grabbing an instrument and trying to play it. The result of option 2 is a much better feel for the song and greater integrity to how it should sound.
Maybe this will connect with your students. Maybe they will see where an over-emphasis on output practice can lead. Language is that song. If we try to sing it before we’re ready, we’ll butcher it. If we really listen to it and internalize it, our ability to make it sound right improves.
“Teach” your children
The second comes from a common question that I hear regarding our children. My wife and I both know Spanish, so people often ask, “Are you going to teach your kids Spanish?” The question is fair, but the way it is asked illustrates what language learning looks like to most. Most people who ask that question envision us sitting our children down and “teaching” them Spanish (“Vaca = cow. Azul is blue”) with flashcards or a textbook. After enough of that, they would become Spanish communicators. It would never happen. Such teaching might be helpful in knowledge of language and to prepare them for future study, but real language use would only result from hours and hours of comprehensible input. Living life in Spanish.
Again, maybe this will reach your students and show them why we do what we do in a TPRS classroom. We want to be their parents and help them live in the language until they can use it themselves.