Some initial, contextualized thoughts to solve on ESL learning – Our Experience in Argentina:

In our perspective, languages are human products that follow the dynamics of living systems, rather than academic contents.

Most people who are willing to learn a second language (ESL = English as a Second Language), in our Argentinean experience, are pushed by the market or the academia requirements to do so. Many of them believe (with all due right) that a second language adds better opportunities in a difficult job-seeking scenario, or in the tough arena of academic competence.

But there are also those who literally enjoy the experience of learning for fun, travelling, starting new friendships and increasing their social competences. They have been the minority, but fortunately, tide is changing…and the best thing we have noticed, is that even the first “under-stress” group usually starts changing their minds regards English, and instead of considering the ESL as a stressing, boring educational requirement, once they see the new world opening in front of them, relax and take joy in the path of communication skills learning.

What creates that initial, distorted vision of ESL? We’ve identified some factors, among those…

  • The way in which licensed English teachers are trained
  • High school English competitions are taught in a very old fashioned, mechanistic system
  • Social factors including misconceptions about English (i.e, English speakers are snob, English is difficult to learn, even English is “yankee” thing!)
  • An impoverished situation of general Education in the country, that not only leads the outcome to lower levels in the polls, but, deeper inside, promotes a culture in which learning is not so necessary, and discourages the attitudes towards learning in its whole.

How Dialogue became a source for overcoming those obstacles:

From structured academia to living language…Dialogue is the perfect interface for making the qualitative breakthrough

As we stated above, we’ve observed in most cases a shift in these misconceptions while our students approach our courses. They usually occur during the attendance of LevelUp©, and it means a strong positive difference afterwards.

In simple words, our dear students start a new comprehension of English…as a communication tool. An instrument that would allow them to express their ideas and thoughts, and access other’s worlds. They no longer focus on grammar skills (which are very important, of course) but they move their focus into communicating “as effectively as they might”, that’s our favorite line to encourage them. Everything changes from that point on.

Learners engage better, become more active, the workshops turn into great learning situations for everybody (including the trainer!), and learning curves increase.

We ascribe that success to the similarity between the natural progression of the learning of the mother language: nobody learns to speak inside a classroom, with a notebook on their hands!

#EverydayDialogue – The Theories Behind: We understand people’s engagement through psychological variables that mainly include the opportunity to (literally) “function” – in a second language – in everyday life. Regardless the topic, we all enjoy sharing meaning and content with our friends, family, and neighbors. In our courses, we have covered from football preferences until cooking recipes, and many other interesting things in between, and always noticed the same outcome: increased attention, involvement and focus, and a gritting wish to express what learners have to say.

In our point of view, it is impossible to achieve such engagement without “modelling” it (Bandura, Social Learning Theory, 1977). That means we also “jump into the waters” of dialogue, we express our ideas and opinions, and we create a communicational synergy together with learners. It is our strong belief that there are no NLP tips or manipulation strategies that work better than just being honestly ourselves. If we are truly expressing what we want to say, then the others (in this case, ESL learners) will also do so, or tend to do so.

Ragnar Rommetveit (a 92 years-old, talented Norwegian Psychologist, specialized on Language, Learning and Communication) states a proposal for approaching everyday dialogue that criticizes the traditional, experimentalist, and individualist research. He understands (as we do) dialogue as an experience sharing. What do we share in a dialogue? Interactively- established meaning and understanding. And all of this is mediated by language. (Rommetveit, 1970)

Towards a Psychology (and Pedagogy) of the Second Person: Getting involved is mandatory!

He argues that, instead of the experimental, 3rd-person standpoint; we should approach the study of dialogues “from within”, from a Psychology of the Second Person…meaning involving ourselves and the interaction with others. He proposes to focus on:

  • Intersubjectivity
  • Perspectivity, and perspective relativity
  • The meaning potential of utterances, and
  • The epistemic responsibility of interlocutors

Intuitively, we have done so during our courses. We now are committed to in-detail document the whole experience to serve as evidence over this theoretical background, for we believe in a continuous dialogue between doing and thinking, giving and receiving, and since this development is about dialogue…ultimately, speaking and listening.

For more information regarding Rommetveit’s work, consult the Journal of Psycholinguistic Research: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10936-015-9404-0

Stay in touch for next article, covering practical tips for better conversations (…in a small peak advance, it includes tips on a good Swedish Fika and Argentinean Mate!)

Regards,

Christer Edman & Veronica Rebora at www.emindsetlab.com

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