Our approach is built on the truth that the only way to learn a skill is to practice that exact skill. We note that conventional language learning programs train students how to fill in blanks and take tests. One becomes good at filling in blanks and taking tests by practicing the filling in of blanks and working through practice tests. Holding a conversation is a vastly different skill. To learn how to converse in a foreign language, one must practice conversing in the foreign language.
A conversation can be considered as two parts: understanding and responding. Training functional conversation must then focus on understanding and formulating a response. Enter 'guided imitation'.
With our guided imitation drills, the student hears a stimulus and then constructs a sentence in response. The tutor provides the correct response as a check. The student has a short pause in which to provide an answer. In this way, the student is practicing hearing, understanding and responding in real-time.
In the first drills, we ask the student to simply repeat vocabulary words, phrases and simple sentences. A complete beginner is able to do this. Then, the student is asked to slightly modify a given sentence pattern. As the program continues, we ask the student to perform more difficult variations to set patterns, and increase the length and complexity of the sentences. At the end, the student is able to construct his/her own sentences on the fly.
|Tutor Stimulus||Student Response||Tutor Answer Verification|
|I see the dog.||I see the dog.||I see the dog.|
|cat||I see the cat.||I see the cat.|
|hear||I hear the cat.||I hear the cat.|
|he||He hears the cat.||He hears the cat.|
In the drill above, the student is learning how to use subject, object, verb and conjugation in a standard sentence structure. At the same time, the student is internalizing all grammar required to formulate the sentence. The student is doing this real-time in the target language. He is also thinking in the target language.
After mastering such an exercise, the student will have the ability to adapt the learned pattern for his own uses in free-flowing speech.
With the guided imitation technique, we guide the student to become proficient at formulating his own ideas in the new language using proper sentence structure.