On language input, TPR, and storytelling…

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Happy New Year to everyone. Today I would like to comment on a very interesting and original online presentation available here. The presentation has surprised me both in terms of format and content. Unbelievably, t summarises a Thesis work in two minutes. If you have the opportunity to watch it, you will (re)discover how important visuals (combined with language) are to understand any message. In this case, the whole background, procedure, results and reflection of a Doctoral Dissertation is explained clearly in just a few minutes.

Apart from the format, the presentation is also interesting in terms of content. The PhD work focuses on the importance of the language input children receive at early ages. If, as it happens with Sherpa communities, children just listen to commands, they will reproduce the same language patterns, and, more importantly, the behaviour related to these language patterns.

This has made me think about the type of language used in the EFL/bilingual classrooms at infant level. It remains clear that the language input should be in English (or in the foreign language) as much as possible, even at these levels. I have heard teachers claim that children are “too young” to do so, but rather than a question of age, it is a question of the didactic tools the teacher is using. If the teacher feels “obliged” to resort to the mother tongue, there is something to change in the methodology he/she is using.

Second, and regarding the use of commands, in many cases, teachers (or textbooks) overuse TPR activities, which are many times limited to the understanding and production of this type of language.. If we want to make children L2s richer, we need to be careful about the type of language we are offering them. Krashen’s input hypothesis may not be flawless, but it is undeniable that  language input clearly influences the type of language the student is going to produce (language output).  TPR activities are useful, funny and effective, but we should make a step forward if we want our children to become language competent in the L2 in the future.

My final reflection on this presentation has to do with its storytelling format. I am currently working on assessment tools for CLIL which are based on storytelling. Each of our students has a story of learning. If we want our students to learn effectively, we should try to provide them with tools to “create” this story. This will make them aware of their progress, and will give them the chance to REFLECT on their learning. After all, there is not good learning without reflection, don’t you think so?



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