You may understand more English than you can speak. That is very typical, however, if you spent any significant amount of time taking English classes, that is a very disappointing result.
You passed the classes, perhaps even with perfect scores. Now you wonder why you can’t remember much. It may feel like you didn’t learn anything. If you never failed a class, how can this be true? You did what you were supposed to do.
You might decide to agree with what everybody else says: More mature learners simply don’t learn as well as young children do, but this is what really happened:
You followed an English course.
You didn’t learn to speak English.
You remember your first English language immersion class.
More likely than not, the teacher spoke to the class slowly, patiently, and with a friendly smile on her face. Everything she said was in English. The immersion-only method was used to guide you through your new language.
Besides speaking very slowly and clearly, she did a lot to help you understand what she was saying through gestures and other clues. She also helped you understand how you should reply.
It’s likely that she spoke in complete sentences. She used some greetings and introduced herself as the teacher. She probably helped you introduce yourself. You learned to share your name, where you are from, and your profession. You learned how to ask the same of her and the others. It’s also certain that you learned to say please, thank you, and goodbye. You left feeling good about the new language. You were eager to learn.
Then came your questions. You first had to figure out how to ask these questions in English. Then you had to figure out what the answers meant. Usually, it was easier to wait patiently for the answers to come through further instruction. This is likely what you were encouraged to do.
They always say to be patient and trust the process because the understanding will come. But who has time for that?
They called this "natural" and said it was just like a child learns his native language.
Not Efficient=Not Effective
The only problem? You were not a child. You were an adult. Adults have deeper and more precise questions right away. These questions were not addressed. You also didn't have the time that children have.
Thankfully, the teacher did not expect you to know more than she taught you.
This is why that although the immersion method does work, it takes much longer to be highly effective. First, you have to surrender your effective adult learning tools that have developed over decades and that have served you well in everything else. Next, you have to trust a process that is really only practical for children. Finally, you have to put in all the time required, and it is a lot.
Adults don't experience any learning opportunities under the same circumstances that they had as children. Adults have to learn in ways more efficient for them, not try again to learn exactly like children do. That's absurd.
The amount of time necessary for this immersion method to work well was not part of your experience. In fact, there was a quiz coming up right away! You couldn’t ask questions that you could not formulate, so you did the next best thing: memorize, cram, and hope for the best.
Your English classes provided no opportunity to observe natural speech casually without the pressure to respond the way very young children are allowed and expected to do. If it wasn't your turn, you had to be ready to speak next. That made you nervous. You had to think carefully about what you were going to say which interfered with meeting your need to listen carefully to what others were saying. What a dilemma!
Outside of class meetings, you didn't observe much natural speech because you didn't live or work in an environment where you could hear natural English constantly. Sure, you could listen to English artificially, but you had many other things to do too. Listening to English programming at the same time all the time was simply not practical. Besides, listening to so much English was tiring and you needed to preserve your energy to get everything else done.
Is Becoming Fluent in English Hopeless for Adults?
Nowadays, immersion-only--the method of teaching and learning a new language in that same language--is considered superior to any other. Compared with the many other poor ways that have been employed to teach and learn languages, that is almost true. But does a more effective way exist?
The Parlay Way, Parlay Vacay's method, is called "insertion" which efficiently uses immersion but isn't immersion-only. Through insertion, you use what you already know, the leverage your brain already has. You are given the roles and the means to operate as a fluent native speaker even before you are fluent. This can both relax you and give your brain the structure and tools that it needs to build fluency. Plus, with insertion, your questions will always be answered. The formation and answering of questions are key parts of your learning process and propel you forward faster. Finally, you discover how to prevent listening from tiring you and employ passive learning in powerful ways.
We look forward to seeing you in a Parlay Vacay course. Thanks for reading.
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