Does this sound familiar?
So many of our students tell us how they’ve tried all the traditional language schools and feel completely let down.
Their classroom experience has been depressing:
Inflexible curriculum with restricted vocabulary they may never use or is uninteresting to them (getting a ticket at a railway station…)
In a large class with people of different levels
On fixed days and times that don’t suit.
At the end of the course
They don’t have confidence in speaking English
Feel they’ve learnt very little despite having spent a lot of money
When among native or fluent English speakers they are lost.
Possibly 90% of our new students say this or something similar. The language they have learnt is not that used in the real world.
So the questions are WHY? and HOW can EnglishInsideOut help?
Firstly let’s explore the underlying issue.
Why? Horizontal Learning
The FUNDAMENTAL issue today is that the approach to learning is so often less governed by the need to COMMUNICATE but by the desire to PASS EXAMS.
Textbooks & Exams classify the student at a particular "LEVEL" of language such as "B2 Upper Intermediate", "A2 Pre-Intermediate".
Yet if you go to any of the English-speaking countries you will never find signs in shops all at level B2, they will use all levels, similarly NO ONE speaks at just “Upper Intermediate” level, they use a mix of language from all levels.
Real-world is thus totally different to the classroom but the classroom SYSTEM restrains you to only learn language at that particular level.
We call it Horizontal Learning, it’s an unnatural way of learning. It’s unrewarding and often frustrating as it leaves you unable to communicate in the real world.
How? Vertical Learning & Connections
So Horizontal Learning is an un-natural way to learn and completely different to the way you learnt your native language.
As a child you learnt Vertically, exposed to different situations, learning the vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation through association, building Connections between areas or Topics AT ALL LEVELS of learning.
Why Connections? Well as a young child you will have learnt in situations with word associations, for instance eating in the kitchen with your mother or father:
Simple words like "Spoon", "Fork", "Egg", "Potatoes", "Tomato", "salt" & "Pepper" to
More advanced vocabulary like "grub", "gourmand", "Cold Food"
Words with a wider meaning like "food", "nutritious"
Phrases such as "stomach ache" (hopefully not!), "I’m full" and Idioms & expressions like "eating like a pig" and "I’m stuffed"
You build a full vocabulary vertically from simple to complex.
These words typically can be connected with other topics such as the words "hot" and "cold", which are useful in other situations such as the weather which then drives further topics such as climate, sciences…
Or perhaps you start with simple
Body parts, "hand", "neck", "foot", which can then be connected to "clothes", which can be connected to "weather". Or
"Head" to "Headscarf" & "Hat" then to "Cold Weather" to "Snow" to idioms like "under the weather" and "Cold Weather" leads back to "Cold Food"
So learning the vocabulary for one topic, reinforces the vocabulary for another topic. "Connections!!"
So, in the real-world, Language learning is a Network of experiences that build connections and meanings in your brain. You learn at all levels and develop vertical competences, typically in areas or topics that interest you. It’s easier to remember that way.
This is what we try to mimic in our approach, a HIGHLY bespoke approach built around you, choosing and agreeing topics that would interest you even if you weren’t learning a foreign language. You build up to a full vocabulary, you are interested, and it’s easier to do homework with material chosen for you.
We also take this approach with young children, with topics like
the rooms of the house
the contents of the rooms
what you will find inside the fridge.
This is designed to build good everyday vocabulary - understanding the words NOT BY TRANSLATION but by image
It also builds connections to new vocabulary and meaning - for instance the people in the house, parents, relatives…
Work, Life, Business
For Business we use a similar approach, for instance
For someone with an interest in Sales and Marketing we would build to advanced texts & videos highlighting latest research or perhaps international examples of fascinating companies doing something different.
As examples we've used
The Indian company HCL Technologies and the approach their CEO Vineet Nayar used to create radical & lasting change: "Employees First, Customers Second"
Numerous texts from the Harvard Business Review and specialist Trade magazines
Company Annual Reports from the Telecoms world focusing on what the management are saying and thus thinking.
Discussions about Big Company sales methodologies
Lean Management & Toyota - breaking conventional thinking.
The aim is not just to learn business vocabulary but to explore business culture in different parts of the world - the cultural base on which business relations are built (see the Art section, yes the Art section, for more ideas) and thus the base for understanding the language used and what it means.
Why might this be interesting? Well, it impacts Sales approaches, the balance between relationship, product & contract which are so very different in the Anglo-American world.
Similarly for the Military we've worked with Air Force and Naval Officers.
One example was using a BBC documentary where a Michelin 3 star chef spent time on a Nuclear submarine working to improve the sailors diet - with no cost increase.
Among the subjects covered with one air force colonel were articles from the JAPCC Journal. Including articles that would challenge most English Teachers unfamiliar with the world of Software Development models like SEI-CMM.
What the British Say
Finally, to illustrate the importance of understanding how culture can completely change the meanings of language we would like to present this set of translations copied off the Internet (we wish we knew who did it).
It really perfectly illustrates the issue of needing to understand the cultural context to understand the real meaning behind the raw words.
There is of course a long discussion about the differences between British and American English and exactly why the British particularly have this way of speaking in riddles... and Americans tend to speak more transparently.