• Over the years I've greatly changed how I teach, and I regularly try new ideas. In 2020 I read a book (While We're on the Topic by Bill VanPatten) on language teaching that changed how I think about teaching and learning languages. Now my teaching is more aligned than ever with how the brain acquires languages, and I've seen great results in terms of student growth and engagement. I've also started other books and have finished some: Key Questions in Second Language Acquisition, Making Communicative Language Teaching Happen, Theories in Second Language Acquisition, Common Ground: Second Language Acquisition Theory Goes to the Classroom, Explicit and Implicit Learning in Second Language Acquisition, How Languages Are Learned, and Comprehensible and Compelling: The Causes and Effects of Free Voluntary Reading. I've also listened to multiple podcasts on language acquisition and teaching, such as Tea with BVP, Talkin' L2 with BVP, The Motivated Classroom, Unpacking (SLA) Articles, World Language Classroom, Speaking My Language, We Teach Languages, and Inspired Proficiency. With these books, podcasts, and other resources, I plan to continue learning and applying what I learn.

    As summarized in While We're on the Topic, according to the last five decades (the past 50 years) of research in second language acquisition (how people learn languages), people acquire (implicitly or subconciously learn) languages through comprehensible (understandable and level-appropriate) input (things you hear and read) embedded in communicative events. Communication is the interpretation (understanding), expression (saying or writing things), and sometimes negotiation (seeing if people understand each other and fixing misunderstandings) of meaning (what is actually being said; the message) for a purpose (a reason) in a given context (the setting and participants). Real communication has only a few purposes: to relay information that will be used in some way, to build and maintain social relationships, and for entertainment. The focus should be on meaning (what is actually being said; the message), not on form (grammar, pronunciation, spelling, etc.).

    In other words...

    What you can do in the language that leads to true language learning:

    • Hearing or reading things that you understand (someone can help you understand it, and/or you can look up what the words mean; although if something is at the right level, you'll only have to look up words once and a while)
    • Looking up or learning information about something of interest
    • Small talk with other people, such as "how are you?", "good to see you," "I like your shirt," etc.
    • Reading, watching, or listening to things at your level for fun because they interest you
    • Listening to, watching, looking at, or reading stories, jokes, memes, videos, news, music, shows, movies, etc. that you can understand
    • Writing notes to yourself with actual information that you want to remember

    What does not lead to true language learning:

    • Drilling verb forms or endings
    • Filling in blanks with words to practice vocabulary or grammar
    • Repeating after the teacher
    • Writing words several times each
    • Using words in sentences for the purpose of practicing the words
    • Learning grammar rules that are probably wrong or unreliable anyway
    • Singing songs that you don't understand
    • Having errors corrected
    • Asking for someone's name if you already know their name
    • Word searches and similar things

    This is very different from traditional language teaching. Many parents may have taken Spanish, French, or other language classes in high school or college that were taught the old way with a present-practice model. Traditional language classes involve long vocab lists, explicitly taught and practiced grammar, verb and agreement drills, filling in blanks, generic textbook exercises, and often more talking about the language than actually using it in real communication.

    My vision is to give students things to hear and listen to that are interesting and relevant to them while helping them understand and interact with the input. I won't have students memorize vocab or drill grammar. Instead, they'll acquire words, chunks, and elements of language in context during real communication gradually over time. Most of class will be spent actually using Spanish, not just talking about it.