Updated: Jun 26
Phased approaches to language learning may yield longer lasting results.
Intensive approaches to language learning like full immersion are popular, sure, but so are less intensive and much less intrusive methods. The appeal of the latter is made clear in so many ads promising language skills in exchange for just a few minutes per day. To be fair, the idea of learning a foreign language can be overwhelming. Like any new challenge, it can be intimidating.
What if you could phase in a new language?
There are a couple of DIY methods that facilitate learning a language gradually but steadily and efficiently. The LAMP method focuses on speaking and being understood when speaking. The other is the a substitution method called the di-glot weaving technique and emphasizes understanding spoken and written language.
LAMP (Language Acquisition through Motor Planning) was first developed for neurolinguistic therapy by John Halloran, Cindy Halloran, and Mia Emerson. In LAMP, the learner engages in storytelling of progressive complexity with native speakers. The first effort could consist of simply saying, “Hello. My name is (name). I am learning (language). Thank you for listening. This is all I can say today. Goodbye.” The favorable reaction from the native speaker having understood what the learner said is very powerful reinforcement for the learner.
If the method is utilized as intended, the learner will meet new people, build friendships, practice the language, and reap the rewards of being understood. After each statement, the listener should be given time to acknowledge having understood the speaker and even respond appropriately. For each interaction, the learner utters what she has prepared, no more, no less. For subsequent interactions, she can tell parts of a simple story.
Marisol: Hello. I am learning to tell a
story in English. Can I tell the first part to you?
Listener: Yes, sure.
Marisol: My name is Marisol.
Listener: Hi Marisol.
Marisol: I was born in Merida, Mexico. I am the oldest child in my family.
Listener: Very interesting!
Marisol: That is all for today, but I will tell you more next time.
Listener: Okay, very good Marisol!
Marisol: Thank you for listening.
Listener: You're welcome!
Within a few days, the learner will meet lots of people and tell the whole story. The ability to tell the story in phases equates with the learner’s ever-expanding ability to speak and be understood.
The Di-glot Weaving Method
The di-glot weaving method approaches language learning by means of gradual substitution of L1 with L2.
Professor Rudy Lentulay had just finished reading the renowned Anthony Burgess novel A Clockwork Orange in which the characters sprinkle almost 200 Russian slang words into their native English dialect. The reader, if unfamiliar with Russian, is challenged to comprehend the meaning of these new words from context. From this experience came Lentulay’s innovative technique to teach Russian to American kindergarten children in jusr 20 minutes per day.
Lentulay engaged in storytelling during each lesson, replacing English words with Russian, conservatively at first then more liberally. Each new story incorporated the previously used plus new vocabulary and always in context. He made the meanings of any new vocabulary even clearer through pictures and playful, non-verbal communication. Once a word or expression was introduced, the students were expected to use it in place of the English equivalent all the time. Before the course ended, Professor Lentulay was telling stories wholly in Russian that the children understood.
Materials designed to help English speakers learn other languages by means of gradual substitution are surprisingly few but this is changing. Innovative publishers like One Third Stories offer such reading materials for children and Prismatext offers adults popular literary classics.
Put It in Reverse!
The substitution technique can be applied in reverse as well with a supportive friend who happens to be a speaker or learner of the language you're learning. When you communicate, either vocally or in writing, replace words and short phrases in your L1 with new ones in the L2. Mixing the two languages will feel a bit odd, but it's fun and it works!
As you progress, your conversations should gradually become more L2 than L1. Once you use a L2 word or phrase, never use the L1 version of it again. Of course, eventually you’ll want to pay more careful attention to semantics (word choice) and syntax (word order) in the L2, but you can use this substitution exercise to build your vocabulary and phrase bank.
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