You only need to look at the spectacular failure of the education system when it comes to teaching languages and the absolutely TERRIBLE results it produces to see that traditional language learning methods don't work very well at all. In the UK, for example, children usually spend 5 years or more learning a language in high school, but most of them still can't speak it to any degree of competency, let alone fluency, when they graduate.
Yet, the education system still stubbornly clings onto its old, outdated and clearly ineffective teaching methods despite the evidence right in front of them that it is not working. It's a mad old world, eh?
What do I mean by 'traditional methods'?
By 'traditional methods', I mean the teaching methods used in most schools, by most language teachers, language schools, textbooks and self-study language courses (software, apps, etc).
They're all usually just a variation on the same thing: a teacher standing in front of a blackboard (or whiteboard) giving you lists of vocabulary to learn 'parrot fashion', talking about a bunch of grammar rules and the getting you to do exercises from a textbook. The language is also not taught in a systematic way, but in a haphazard fashion, and the classes are extremely dull and boring and don't engage the senses enough to keep the learners interested. Students see language learning as an extreme chore, something they have to brace themselves for and strain themselves to learn words and grammar, and it ends up being a very negative, stressful and unpleasant experience.
And it's only gotten worse and more gimmicky with all the floodgate of language learning apps which have reduced language learning into a game you play on your Smartphone for 10 minutes a day while promising you'll be fluent in no time (Duolingo, anyone?)
Anyone with at least half a brain can see that something better and more effective is needed if we are going to produce fluent speakers of a language and put fun and enjoyment into language learning. So what exactly needs to change?
The main problems with traditional methods, and what you need to do instead to successfully learn a language
Bluntly speaking, the biggest problems with traditional language learning methods are:
1) You're taught vocabulary, but not taught HOW to remember it
Here's the thing: you can't just present students with a list of vocabulary and magically expect them to remember it. But that's what pretty much every language teacher does. Scientific studies on the subject of memory have shown the brain's immediate (short term) memory cannot handle much more than 7 items before it starts to become overwhelmed, begins to forget things and struggles to learn anything more. Cognitive psychologist George Miller published a study on this subject in 1956, and this problem of remembering more than 7 items in the short term memory has since been called 'The Magical Number Seven, Plus Or Minus Two'.
So in practice, if your language teacher presents you with a list of 7 or more words, you're going to have trouble remembering them for this reason.
The solution: you can use scientifically proven memory techniques such as the keyword technique to get round the problem of '7 plus or minus 2'. This technique uses the right side of the brain and gets you to create fun little visual images in your mind's eye to help learn and recall vocabulary easily and effortlessly. The reason this works is because the visual part of the brain does not have the '7 plus or minus 2' limitation, thus allowing you to memorise lots and lots of words in a short space of time (you can even learn hundreds of words a day with this method if you've got enough time and focus).
How Neil Kendall Language School applies this solution: we teach you vocabulary in our classes using animated and software courses from Linkword Languages, which incorporate these visual memory techniques into them. The result is that we can teach you far more words, in a much shorter space of time than other classes. And it's also great fun too! Many case studies have shown our methods work around 3 times faster than normal methods! We also show you how you can turn words you already know in your own language into words in another language just by learning a few simples rules and changing the endings and/or pronunciation slightly, giving you access to 1000s of words in another language without having to memorise them all individually!
2) You're taught a bunch of grammar rules, and the explanations are usually really complicated and long-winded, leaving you even more confused
In most language classes, the teacher normally massively over-complicates their explanations of grammar rules, taking far too much time to explain a simple concept and being far too long winded with it. They go round the houses and to the moon and back with their explanations, turning grammar almost into a complex science, and it ends up taking their students far longer than necessary to grasp the point (or in many cases they never end up grasping it at all).
The solution: when teaching a grammar point, such as a verb tense, articles, etc, the explanation needs to be as simple, short and concise as possible. There is absolutely no need to go round the houses with a grammar explanation. The fact is grammar points in most languages are very, very simple. They only seem complicated because teachers and textbooks make them more complicated than they need to be.
How Neil Kendall Language School applies this solution: I've spent many years distilling grammar points down into the simplest, shortest, most concise explanations so that my students grasp them right away and can immediately apply them to accurately make up their own sentences in the language. In my classes I can usually explain a grammar point in about 10 to 30 seconds, and definitely in no more than a few minutes! And it only takes a couple more minutes of practice after that getting my students to apply the grammar points they've learned to create their own sentences, and then we can move on to something else.
Remember - anyone can be complicated, but it's often much smarter to be simple (as paradoxical as that might sound).
3) There's too much time spent with a head in a textbook doing grammar exercises etc, and not enough time speaking and using the language for learning practical application
Most language classes seem to have a weird obsession with using textbooks, despite that fact that the results of using them are so poor. They don't encourage the students to speak and interact in the language, but instead do boring grammar exercises with a pen and paper.
The solution: In order to make words and grammar points truly stick and become a part of you, it's much more effective to speak a language out loud than to do writing exercises at the beginning. You can save the writing part for a little bit further on down the line. Think about how we learned our native language - speech first, writing later, and we didn't sit down with a textbook doing boring drills or trying to cram word lists into our heads either!
How Neil Kendall Language School applies this solution: after I've taught some words ands introduced a new grammatical point, I get my students speaking sentences out loud as quickly as possible - and not merely memorised phrases, but actually creating their own sentences from scratch using the words and grammar concepts they've just learned. This gives them confidence in speaking and using the language, and further makes the words and grammar points stick.
4) The language isn't taught in a systematic way
Imagine if you tried building a house without building the foundations first or by putting the bricks and the rest of the house together in a weird order. Or if you tried baking a cake without following the steps of the recipe in the correct sequence. Would this produce a properly built house or a perfectly baked cake? Hell no! But this is how a lot of language courses go about teaching a language - they teach you a bit of this and bit of that, but don't show you how to put it all together systematically to create the full picture, and so it's no wonder their methods don't produce a good end result.
The solution: a language needs to be taught in a systematic way, almost like building a house - starting with the foundations and structural framework, then building up the rest of it brick by brick. Or you can think of learning language like a giant jigsaw puzzle - you start with the framework, then you gradually fill in the rest from there. While there isn't necessarily a set order to learn the parts of language in, and whilst no language course can teach you everything in a language, the best teachers understand that there needs to be a systematic teaching method in place which teaches the framework/foundations and most important parts of the language if the student wants to get great results from a course.
How Neil Kendall Language School applies this solution: our courses are cleverly structured and the material is taught in a specific sequence to ensure you know the most important elements of the language by the end of one of our courses. Every lesson builds on what you've learned in the previous lesson(s), which keeps you motivated and excited to learn more, and we incorporate the most effective accelerated learning methods in our classes too.
5) You're taught how to pass an exam rather than how to actually use the language effectively in the real world
When you're taught a language in school (or with any other formal educational course), the emphasis is on getting you to pass an exam rather than making you competent or fluent in the language. You're taught 'exam technique', you're taught what you need to know to pass the exam, but not necessarily what you need to know to become fluent. And many students DO end up passing their exam(s), but this merely gives them the ILLUSION that they know the language - until they try to use the language in the real world and realise they can't do it.
The solution: if your goal is to actually be able to speak (and read and write) a language and be able to communicate effectively with it in the real world, then focus on courses that teach you to do that.
How Neil Kendall Language School applies this solution: we focus on giving you the skills and ability to actually be able to speak, read, write and understand a language so you can use it in the real world. After all, that's the whole point of learning a language in the first place. If you can't actually use your language in real life after you've completed a course, you've just totally wasted your time (and money)!
6) Language learning is reduced to a 10 minute game you play on your smartphone
This point applies to people who try to learn languages with apps or software. There are tons of apps on the market which promise you 'practice for 10 minutes a day with our revolutionary language learning system, and you'll be fluent in no time'. They turn language learning into a series of multiple choice questions and games, etc.
Look let me spell it out to you - all these gimmicky language learning apps don't work and only give you the ILLUSION that you're progressing in a language, when in fact all you're doing is progressing through the levels of the game/app you're playing. But if you then try to go out and actually use the language in the real world, you'll fall flat on your face. Sorry to hurt your feelings, but you won't get fluent in a language by spending 10 minutes a day on Duolingo answering some multiple choice questions while you're on your commute to work.
The solution: there's nothing wrong with an app or software as long as the underlying methods within them are effective. The problem is that with most language learning apps or software it's all outer flash and gimmicks, which lures people in, but the actual methods behind them usually aren't very effective at all. I've never heard of someone becoming fluent in a language using Duolingo or any other common language learning app, for example, despite the popularity of them. Popular doesn't always mean good - I had a student come to me recently who was using Rosetta Stone (another totally terrible product which is only popular because of marketing) and was having problems with recalling vocabulary. When she started learning with me, we soon fixed that.
How Neil Kendall Language School applies this solution: we don't use gimmicky apps, but we DO use fun animations and software as a teaching aid as part of our classes, which both look great on the outside and have a scientifically proven method behind them. This helps our students learn the language very effectively and gets them speaking and interacting in the language as quickly as possible.
7) Their courses take far too long (and still don't produce results after all that time)
If you're still attending a language class with the same teacher 3 years later, 5 years later or God forbid, longer than that, then your teacher is a BAD teacher and the methods they've been using DON'T WORK. Or worse - that teacher just wants to keep you around for as long as possible and teach you as slowly as possible so they can get more money out of you.
Imagine if you went to a cookery class for 5 years but at the end of it you still didn't know how to cook. Or if you went to piano lessons for 6 years and still couldn't play the piano. Would you say those classes were a success? Absolutely not - and you'd be a fool to keep going back and to have stayed there so long! Yet for some bizarre reason, when it comes to language classes, many people have a weird obsession with sticking around despite the fact the classes are doing nothing to get them actually speaking the language in real life.
The solution: you do not need to have a language teacher nor attend a language class for life. The best language teachers, classes and courses should give you the key skills in a language fairly quickly so that you can then continue learning on your own. Once you've reached a certain point in a language and learned the core grammatical structures and vocabulary, you no longer need a teacher or a class. You can progress to higher levels on your own and gradually build up the range of what you can say and understand in the language simply by using the language regularly and getting as much exposure to it as possible.
How Neil Kendall Language School applies this solution: our aim is to teach the core vocabulary and grammar of a language as quickly as possible, and get our students to the point where they no longer need us. We get them to become confident independent language learners who are ready to delve into using the language in the real world and grow their skills naturally after finishing a course with us.
8) Students get punished or put down for making mistakes
In school, you're usually taught that mistakes are a bad thing, something to be ashamed or embarrassed about, and if you make a mistake in a language class then the teacher often tells you off or makes you feel bad for it. All this does is add stress and anxiety to the experience and cause students to associate language learning with negativity.
The solution: the truth is, mistakes are a natural and normal part of the process of learning and part of life. To master any skill in life, you will make mistakes along the way until you develop the skill, and that is never anything to be ashamed about.
How Neil Kendall Language School applies this solution: in our classes, you're allowed to make as many 'mistakes' as you like. In fact, they're not mistakes, they're simply learning experiences. We won't make you feel stupid or put down in any way whatsoever- we'll just gently correct you and help you iron out anything you need help with, so you can improve at your own pace. Many of our students even light-heartedly laugh at the 'mistakes' they make in another language too, which puts a fun and humorous slant on them!
9) Language lessons are usually deadly serious - there's no fun in the classroom
Another downside of traditional language classes is they're usually presented and taught in a really uptight, formal and overly serious manner, making it an unpleasant experience for the students. When did the education system decide that language classes couldn't be fun?
The solution: language lessons need to be fun and enjoyable, and people get much better results that way. Fun and enjoyment reduce also reduce anxiety, which is a major block to learning.
How Neil Kendall Language School applies this solution: we focus on making sure our classes are always great fun and a very positive experience for our students. Our classes engage the senses with proven accelerated learning techniques, animations, software and presentations, as well as class interaction.
The bottom line:
Traditional language learning methods don't produce great results, and until language teachers and the education system start embracing what actually works instead of clinging onto their old, ineffective methods, then nothing is going to change.
If your current language teacher, language school or language course is guilty of any of the above problems then FIRE THEM NOW and come to Neil Kendall Language School instead.
If you or your children tried learning a language with traditional classroom methods and failed, then we have the solutions for you!
Our classes avoid and solve the most common problems you'll encounter with traditional language courses, and will give you the ability and confidence to use your new language in the real world. Oh, and they're great fun too.
So what are you waiting for? Why not sign up to one of our courses now and get started on your language learning journey!