Why is teaching in the target language the best solution.


A situational sketch of the biggest misunderstanding around language learning: you take a language course because you are dissatisfied with your way of functioning in that foreign language. You don't get said in the foreign language what you want to say. You don't know enough words and lack the necessary sentence structures. You are therefore convinced that you should succeed with additional lexical and grammatical input. After all, at school the emphasis was always on vocabulary and grammar.

Recognisable? You start here from the "translation model". You want to make the leap from the form of your mother tongue to the form in the foreign language. 

However, you forget one crucial fact in doing so. That in your mother tongue you function at top level; CEFR level C1 to be precise. In your mother tongue, you combine fluency with great accuracy of words and complex sentence structure quite effortlessly. Because you have the most difficulty with fluency when speaking in the foreign language, you think you can improve it by boosting your knowledge of words and grammar. But that's not how it works.

Speaking in a foreign language is always a compromise between fluency, accuracy and complexity. This means that if you boost your fluency, you sacrifice accuracy and complexity in the first place. In other words, you have to look for the level at which you do function in that foreign language. So that means : simplify. Using vaguer words, speaking in simpler sentences. So you have to "retranslate": see what message is behind your Dutch formulation and then see what linguistic material you have at your disposal to get that message said in the other language. With that intermediate step: Dutch form - message - foreign form it works. Now suddenly you can "speak". And that doesn't always require a lot of "knowledge".

If someone "translates" Ik mag niet van mijn vader as Je ne peux pas de mon père , he produces so-called "unlanguage" : a Dutch sentence padded with French words, unintelligible to a French speaker because no meaning has been produced. And "speak" is simply "convey a message". However, you don't have to know much in the other language to come across as intelligible. At level 1, "Ik mag niet van mijn vader" sounds like this: "Je veux, mais papa ne veut pas"; at level 2: "Mon père ne me le permet pas" and at an even higher level: "Mon père ne m'accorde pas l'autorisation". Each time the same message, at each level.

In principal, the task is quite simple: instead of trying to use the French you don't know (yet), use the French you do know. However, this regained (relative) fluency is also a source of frustration. The French form is a lot poorer compared to the mother tongue. Sometimes the message is (inevitably) incompletely "re-translated" : nuances are missing and sentence structure is not very varied. Our trainer then tackles this. Gradually increasing accuracy and complexity, always with an eye on maintaining fluency.

You often notice at this stage that you "remember things from the past". Due to the fact that you are now functioning at your level, previous stored knowledge is spontaneously activated. Freed from the "dust" under which the passive (because unused) knowledge slumbered, that knowledge emerges in a renewed context where it is now (finally)" employable".

Teaching in the target language has a purpose.

Even if it feels less familiar the first few lessons. It ensures that you click from what you CANNOT do in the other language to what you CAN do. It gives you confidence in speaking, which in turn leads to more speaking and more practice. And that is exactly what learning a language is all about! 

Would you like to know more about our approach?

Schedule your screening