DialoguE and the Four Language Learning Thresholds

DialoguE Effectiveness

To allow a complete beginner, within two weeks, to communicate in a foreign language, or to inspire vast improvements in speaking levels for an advanced speaker; these are DialoguE’s achievements. Though of relatively recent origin, this method has become the reference standard for language learning. The reason: whatever the level, beginning or advanced, each student makes enormous progress in only a few days.

The Secret

While the DialoguE formula (1) may not reveal a genuine secret, what it does do is create, without rote repetition, the conditions in which students learned their own native languages. The method recreates the natural environment in which students learned their original languages and made them their own. Nevertheless, there is a difference between a child learning his or her first language and an adult attempting another, a barrier that must be breached else the second language will remain inaccessible. We deal here with both psychological and physiological barriers.

One learns to speak a language in several steps. What are the four most important and yet daunting thresholds a students faces? Jean-Claude Narcy, in his book “Learn a Foreign Language” (2), suggests the four thresholds: psychological, listening, cultural and linguistic. How do each of these challenges relate to the strategy DialoguE uses?

The Psychological Threshold

What the learner often lacks most is self-confidence: a freedom from fear of communicating in a foreign language, of making errors, of hitting blocks posed by teachers and other students. Krashen (3) calls this “the lowering of the affective filter” and it is in essence, to give it a title, a prioritizing of priorities. It is better to communicate bravely, even if one makes errors, than not to communicate at all.

How do we give learners this self confidence and steer them clear of defensive strategies that inhibit their learning process?

How to Instill Self-Confidence

In it essential to learn how the particular student best learns. Learning style depends on life-style, but also on interpersonal needs.

As Jung has discovered, people juggle four fundamental interpersonal needs: the needs for validation, acceptance, achievement and security.

Persona Technique training (4) lets the teacher quickly ascertain the fundamental need of the student, the unconscious objective the student himself, as much as the teacher, will seek to attain. In interpersonal relations, according to Charles Osgood, one reveals oneself as either dominant, or compliant, and, on the emotional level one is either expansive or reserved. It is believed, according to the table below, that the dominant expansive learner is primarily pushed by a need for validation (showing his own worth), the non-dominant expansive by the need to be accepted. The dominant reserved personality needs to reach a level of quick results, while the reserved non-dominant needs to reach a feeling of security (learn by the best method, be assured that the method is working and is covering all the important bases).

  Expansive Reserved
Dominant APPRECIATION REALIZATION
Consenting ADMISSION SECURITY

By responding to the learner’s fundamental need the method avoids learner frustration. In cases where learners are given the opportunity to show that they have improved (appreciation), or are collaborating (admission), or are quickly getting through difficult tasks (realization), or seeing that they are covering all the steps (security), learners become quickly frustrated and de-motivated, regardless of their attitude toward the target language. The same result applies when the teacher misreads the learner’s needs, for example slowly covering step-by-step detail when the real need is for the student to show progress.

How to Motivate?

To lead a learner to progress, it is not enough to lower his “affective filter” and give him self-confidence; every good teacher knows he must motivate the learner. To the extent the teacher caters to the student’s fundamental need, he keeps the motivation alive. All teacher involvement should have as its goal the maintenance of motivation. Let’s look at the method of giving feedback the student and reducing tension and defensive mechanisms.

Feedback

Saying “bravo” to someone who needs appreciation, shaking the hand of a student who needs to be accepted, or telling him his contribution has value, congratulating the student who needs to see tangible progress, punctuating by an “it’s perfect” the performance of the person who needs security, are some of the ways a teacher can keep motivating the student. In contrast, it is not useful, even dangerous, to applaud a person whose goal in life is to show competence (need for security).

Reduce Tension

It is important to realize that some students need a bit of time before getting into the meat of the subject, while others prefer to jump right in. The reserved dominant does not need much in the way of preamble. If the non-dominant reserved needs a little time, so does the dominant expansive, though the non-dominant expansive needs the greatest time buffer before getting into the subject. The teacher must work patiently with the latter, or risk turning motivation off.

Defensive Positioning

To learn—the point is so obvious that it bears repeating—is to accept change, to de-structure so as to restructure. The process often generates a defensive stance on the part of the learner. The initial starting points for the learner in relation to a new language are—we cannot stress too much—critical. In every group one encounters four possible attitudinal combinations, depending on the student liking for or antipathy toward the target language combined with the level of self-confidence. We can summarize the tendencies in the following table:

Psychological conditions I like the target language I can speak it
Very difficult
-
-
Difficult
-
+
Good
+
-
Very good
+
+

If the teacher puts himself in the place of the student he can anticipate the blockages that may occur. If he in addition remains flexible enough to realize that the needs of the students are more important than his own, he creates, in responding to those needs, whatever the students’ needs or defensive mechanisms, a climate conducive to study, concentration, and emulation. Hence to be effective he has to know himself, following Socrates, but also know the others and modify his own personal style accordingly. The table below summarizes the points needed to avoid de-motivating the student and to be able to, on the contrary, keep the motivating going on a constant basis:

Needs Strong Points Try to Save Interested Under Tension
Appreciation Opening Comfort Originality Angry
Admission Tolerance Harmony Relations Depressed
Realization Authenticity Time Benefit Concerned
Security Reliability Face Data Guilty

Errors

We can also manage student error by knowing student approach. Few students enjoy making what are called “mistakes.” It is not possible to promulgate a concept of perfection in a language without opening up the risk, at any given moment, of committing an error. Rather the teacher uses a strategy that leads the student to make as few errors as possible. He does not dwell on faults, or push learners to do what they cannot accomplish, but rather works with them in promulgating a model before asking that they reproduce it. In a climate of real confidence, learners make fewer errors.

Thanks to the Persona approach, the Dialoge “empowerer” (a better term than “teacher”), uses his flexibility to adapt to all the students’ affective aspects (feelings, motivations, interests, attitudes, values) as much as to the language itself, to each person’s cognitive attitude and different way of using memory, to differing rhythms of teaching.

Lesson Support

Regardless of teacher and student style, successful motivation depends on effective lessons support.

Because of this, the DialoguE program stresses an individual approach. Many schools promise just this, but DialoguE delivers on the promise, structuring as a matter of course everything around the needs and goals of the student. Lesson thematic subject matter is always relevant to the student’s life, profession, range of interests, and the student ability to apply vocabulary in the real world. In fact, with the goal of motivating through empowering, DialoguE gives the student tasks to accomplish, objectives to attain. This is accomplished, usually, through the following means:

  • The instructor finds base material, illustrating concrete points, that directly relate to the student’s objectives. It is not enough here to use material that may be pedagogically adequate, but rather “authentic” themes relating to the life and thoughts of the target country.
  • At every point the learner goes through a process of discovering and appropriating the material.
  • The student is encouraged to apply his or her new abilities in the language with simulations that are as close as possible to real life situations (theme, content, etc.).
  • As much as possible, DialoguE adds expertise in subject matters relevant to student needs and prepares them to interact with native speakers other than their teachers.

It is only through task attainment and mission completion that the learner immerses himself in essential grammar and word use patterns. In distinction to many methods that claim the learner cannot learn to negotiate before a certain level, the DialoguE approach teaches the learner to negotiate and conduct vital communications from the first moments of instruction. DialoguE follows the tenet that a person can negotiate at any level of competence; for a beginning to say simply “yes” or “I agree” is certainly equivalent to an intermediate speaker saying the same thing in the form of “I’m thinking the same way as you” or an advanced speaker putting the thought in the form of “I share your point of view”.

With his back against the wall, faced with a task that must be accomplished, the learner will by necessity develop his or her own path to learning.

In putting the student into real-life situations, one stimulates the student, as much as possible, to be motivated; the student’s memory, be it visual, auditory, or kinesthetic, works at optimal strength.

We ought not to forget, however, following D. Thomières (5), “that spontaneity is learned slowly and through non-spontaneous means.” It is critical to put into place, in a systematized way, automatisms, which we discuss in detail in the section on the linguistic threshold.

 

Cultural Differences

A teacher who fails to take into account the cultural differences between himself and the learner risks creating damaging blockages for the student. All of us know there are certain taboo behaviors and subjects for given nationalities. It is not proper, for example, to ask a Chinese to speak about his health. It is not wise to insult an African by pointing out to other that he has not mastered the material he was supposed to study and review. It is also important to realize that for him to express such thoughts is fundamentally contrary to the values he was given by his parents and their tradition. Certainly, if the teaching milieu is one of real confidence, the learner will be less disturbed by these subjects or behaviors, but we know, at the cultural level, that it is best to act in a way that obviates the need to bring up these issues.

The Listening Threshold

Another possible area of concern for the learner is the level at which he understands messages transmitted in the target language. The human ear and level of consciousness is, on a physiological level, the same all over the world. Unfortunately, adults do not all hear the same sounds, because the native language puts auditory filters in the way. The French “u” sound (y) (6) sounds to an American ear as an “ou” (u). The ear cannot tell the difference between an open French “e” and a closed French “e,” etc.

Non-comprehension or partial comprehension of what the other person is saying is one of the major obstacles to communication. And insofar as the voice cannot form what the ear cannot hear (7), it is necessary to break through the listening barrier to be understood and (a point often lost) to be able to continue with the language but without the teacher. What strategy must be used to give the learner an “ear,” to allow him to understand native speakers and be understood by them?

1. Sound, Ear Preparation

There are certainly “sound machines” but, added to the fact that they are psychologically unpleasant to use, they demand great levels of patience and fortitude. So many students, disappointed at their previous experience, have called DialoguE in order to have a greater human touch, one that validates them and gives them effective learning levels.

All DialoguE training starts with an education, or rather a re-education, of the ear. What use is it to repeat and ask the student to memorize words and expressions he cannot understand? Starting with ear education gains precious time and avoids common frustrations. If any time in the course of the training the need seems critical, a good deal of the instruction is dedicated to this format.

How does the DialoguE approach educate the ear? By presenting language sounds, by exercising auditory discrimination, and message decoding.

- Presenting the Vocal Trapezoid and the Consonants

Since most of the time the student has no familiarity with the international phonetic alphabet, we give him the vowels—and this supports the natural approach—that he will encounter most often in reading, but in the form of a vocal triangle or trapezoid figure. This technique gives the learner a clear idea of what needs to happen in the vocal organs to produce a given vowel. ; in French, for example, the “a” produced at the bottom of the mouth is the most open sound, as much as the " i,” “u” and “ou,” pronounced at the front of the mouth, are the strongest vowels. As to consonants, we also show them in the form of oppositions (occlusives/constrictives, tensed/not tensed, etc.).

The pronunciation of each sound allows a “radioscopy” to occur in the ear, letting the learner detect the sounds he does not know, to detect the filters extant in the mother tongue. “The larynx, let’s remember, only emits harmonics the ear can hear.” (8) It is hence rather easy, in asking the learner to repeat the sounds, to isolate those he does not truly hear. If in doubt, an auditory discrimination test may be useful.

- Exercises in Auditory Discrimination

To make sure that the learner hears certain sounds and in order to train his ear to re-hear all of the frequencies needed (in expression and comprehension), the DialoguE trainer often employs auditory discrimination exercises. Thanks to this comparison technique, using opposition of sounds, the learner comes rapidly to differentiate sounds he earlier confused.

- Decoding Messages

The next step to better auditory comprehension involves decoding messages. This can be done on a global level, but also—and here DialoguE is unique—on a word for word basis. It is worth noting that many learners who do not yet have the ability to hear all the sounds expend enormous energy trying to compensate, to guess, with both good and bad results, the content of the message.

As Krashen (9) suggests, DialoguE sends messages whose content is slightly above the learner’s performance level (n+1). DialoguEs originality lies in putting into place a technique of discrimination that replaces bare sounds with their “sound context.” It is one thing for a learner to detect each sound of the target language; real difficulties arise when attempting to catch these same sounds in a message, in a natural environment composed of many sounds. Thanks to the technique (10), DialoguE guides the learner toward a state of “transparency” in hearing the message.

Working on the messages as reformulations also helps comprehension significantly. The act of learning the language in the country contributes to better comprehension from the moment—we insist—that the ear is ready, is changed. All DialoguE training, wherever situated, recreates these ideal learning conditions, all at once, to improve comprehension, enhance expression, and break through the cultural threshold.

2. Sounds: Preparation of the Mouth

Understanding another person is one thing; the student also must respond. Understanding grammar and knowing vocabulary is scant help if the student’s pronunciation and intonation are unacceptable. Many students call Dialogue after having come to this sad realization. Preparation of the ear so one can speak better is a necessary rite of passage. Having an ear that can rapidly and accurately distinguish the sounds of the language allows the student to get over the pronunciation threshold, indistinguishable, we think, from the hearing threshold.

In being influenced by the verbo-tonal correction technique of Professor R. Renard (reflecting the methodology of SGAV/Saint-Cloud-Zagreb), and Professor Intravaia’s “differential pronunciation” technique (both from the University of Mons in Belgium), Dialogue, all the while keeping to natural learning conditions, creates over a minimum time span the automaticities required to produce truly sounds.

CONCLUSION

To get through the hearing barrier is basic; it is nothing less than accessing communication. Insofar as the student fails to get over the hurdle, he is ill at ease, he must try to guess too many things and make his interlocutor repeat too much. This is a substantial obstacle to learning; one can repeat and reuse only with difficulty that which one does not fully hear. If the instructor is not sensitive to this issue, bad habits of expression weasel their way in, and we know how much more difficult it is to re-educate that to educate. One can of course hear perfectly without truly understanding. Getting through the cultural threshold avoids this pitfall.

THE CULTURAL THRESHOLD

It is easy to relegate the cultural threshold to a less important realm considering the two preceding barriers, but it is nevertheless critical. Dialogue treats this issue taking into consideration both psychological and practical issues.

What exactly is the cultural threshold? It is easy to simply call it an interest in the foreign culture (the language, the country). Robert Galisson makes an important distinction for our purposes between the culture of behavior and that of cultivation, between that of knowing and that of prestige. The second, followed by most schools, is little more than an elaboration of the first, and not the reverse, as one may believe or be made to believe. Why have they avoided for so long the issue of culturality by over-stressing cultivation? Why do they remain satisfied to adapt, at the risk of turning students off, material presented to native speakers?

In psychological terms, if the learner gets through the cultural threshold quickly, entering quickly and spontaneously into the “foreign” culture, he will come to think that the task of learning the language is much lighter than he may previously have believed. On the other hand, if the means of expression, whether on a syntactic or paradigmatic level, seems stilted and abnormal, even seemingly illogical, he risks getting bogged down and stagnating. Put otherwise, standing in front of this threshold, the foreign culture seems to be an obstacle to learning; once through, it appears to facilitate the learning process.

Independent of this key psychological aspect, on a practical level it is certain that the method of expressing oneself in a language is radically different from the method of expressing oneself in all other languages. The “je vous prie de,” a form appearing nicer and more civilized in German, may be interpreted in today’s French as pushy and rude.

In other senses, to pass through the cultural threshold is, in part, to understand the true meaning of expressions used by native speakers, as well as the ability to speak their language and use the means of expressing themselves they use with each other. Without that, one only appears to communicate. The teacher’s mission is to inculcate in his students the correct interpretation of the behavior of native speakers, which involves not only verbal elements, but non-verbal and para-verbal as well. He must also make students understand the system of allusions used by native speakers, sensitizing students to the practical application of the language. Without these skills, students will not be able to ask, suggest, accept, or refuse without their utterance appearing stiff and strange.

How does the DialoguE approach enhance the ability to break through the cultural barrier?

Total immersion in the language, also an indispensable condition for passing through the psychological and listening barriers, is extremely important here as well. By undertaking all his activities in the target language, the learner rapidly improves his social relations and cultural knowledge.

Secure in a climate of confidence, the learner, confronted continually with social traps, acts and adapts, without fear of ridicule. He asks natives how he should act in any given situation, he is activated by their remarks and penetrates little by little into the new way of thinking, the new ways of seeing and reacting to occurrences. The “J’ai assez mangé,” more quantitative than qualitative, soon transforms into a “J’ai bien mangé.” Social communication is often more form than content. What the foreigner needs to remember is that he must, as his goal, uncover the basic cultural (and not cultivated) values and make them his own to be able to speak on a basis of equality in a language that is not his own.

The process is rather delicate. We cannot demand that the learner radically change his behavior, and abandon values he considers, perhaps unconsciously, to be inviolable. While the process may advance in fits and starts, it can only occur in a climate of mutual confidence.

Socio-cultural activities—television shows, discussions at breaks, at dinner, in the evening, attending speeches, expositions, meeting native speakers other than the instructors—all facilitate getting through the cultural barrier without a great deal of stress.

This language immersion often provides the occasion for the learner to use and re-use the material he has studied in the systematic learning sessions. Indeed, from the beginning, and unceasingly through the instruction, the student is immersed in culture. Genuine materials, word acts and especially the formulation of feelings and opinions become, in a way, the framework of the training. This is a key path Dialogue uses in giving the learner the “form.” The errors and misunderstandings that arise inevitably in the simulations (discussions, telephone conversations, editing of letters, etc.) become as much opportunities to sensitize the learner as they are to suggest how he may be viewed by a native speaker. The learner does not become comfortable expressing himself until he can do it with enjoyment and using all registers (neutral tone, friendly, familiar, dry, aggressive, etc.) and until he abandons translating. But he will only be able to think in the language when he passed through the linguistic threshold.

THE LINGUISTIC THRESHOLD

In contrast to the case of a child, who uses no outside reference in learning his native tongue, learners of second or even third languages tend to dart between the languages already spoken and the target language.

This process, while it saves time in the beginning of language learning, eventually becomes at best a serious obstacle, at worst the root of stagnation.

As the beginning of learning, the learners “monitor,” like that of a computer, sorts, compares and differentiates the data from the new language referencing the language the learner already has in memory. This procedure takes on the role of a lifejacket, a security blanket for the learner who fears drowning in a sea of new impressions. This way of working has the advantage of making tangible the real differences posed by the target language in terms of auditory representation, articulation, and cultural and linguistic frameworks.

Just as the swimming teacher’s goal is to give the learner, as rapidly as possible, his independence and a feeling of pleasure in swimming, the Dialogue instructor looks for ways not to panic the learner while introducing a new linguistic reference frame. Leading the learner to abandon the lifejacket is certainly a long-term project. Getting through this last threshold is only done with the full and active consent of the learner, when he becomes convinced of his own possibilities and ability to progress on his own.

DEFINITION

For Dialogue, the linguistic threshold is the beginning of true learner independence, is the level reached by a learner who practically never translates, who starts to think directly in the target language, a level which is created by automatization, that strives to and succeeds at high level and correct expression.

HOW DOES THE DIALOGUE APPROACH LET LEARNERS GET THROUGH THE LINGUISTIC THRESHOLD?

In moving the learner toward reach a state of independence, and in giving him a linguistic wealth sufficient for all situations, in helping him “integrategrammar and, through proceduralization, to speak correctly and think directly in the language he wishes to make his own.

1. Autonomy

Becoming autonomous is more than slavishly repeating what one has heard, but is rather the function of producing ones own messages, creating sentences that adequately express ones thoughts, opinions and feelings. It is also, conversely, a high-level ability to receive and interpret the messages of others.

To rapidly make a language one’s own, outside the seeming necessity to be totally immersed in the language (the benefit of which we will not repeat here), the learner must come not only to compose sentences, but communicate his point of view in non-scholarly contexts.

THE LEARNER NEEDS TO COMMUNICATE IN AUTHENTIC CIRCUMSTANCES

By simulating situations that approach those of real life or of the learner’s professional life, Dialogue gives the learner the ability to approach challenges that may arise later on: reacting, improvising, dealing with the unexpected. The confidence DialoguE gives is an important asset the learner can apply in circumstances long removed from the instructional experience.

THE LEARNER HAS TO BE ABLE TO COMMUNICATE HIS POINT OF VIEW

We realize that teaching any foreign language much allow the learner to express his point of view, feelings and perceptions of events. In making the learner–and this happens all too frequently—defend a point of view not his own (play a role, for example, imposed by the teacher), one creates artificial, even theatrical situations which result, more often than not, in undesirable blockages. The notion of learning while remaining oneself is another theme that has made the reputation of the DialoguE Method.

THE LEARNER MUST BE ABLE TO PRODUCE SENTENCES

If words are important, from the beginning of instruction when the learner tends to reach for scraps, sentences remain crucial for tying diverse facets of the language together. In every Dialogue learning session the instructor records an audio CD, not with disparate words, but with various sentences considered key sentences relating to the material covered in the lesson. These sentences incorporate key vocabulary and appropriate grammatical structures.

2. THE LEXICAL RICHNESS

The paucity of lexical ability, which constitutes a tangible barrier for the beginner, can feel even worse for the advanced student who feels capable of communicating with crutches or evasions, who can, as in the native language, express his thoughts using appropriate and freely chosen words.

Many instructors, unwittingly, under the guide of enriching the learner’s vocabulary, follow a strictly grammatical path. Grammatical structure provides such a satisfying way of measuring progress that they sometimes forget lexicography. They may in some cases only turn to vocabulary enrichment when they feel they have exhausted grammatical avenues. Of course it is necessary to teach ways to express blame, regrets, satisfaction on the use of the subjunctive. The Dialogue guide has as a mission, from the beginning of instruction, to think of himself not as a grammatical guide but as a communicator. To give the learner his autonomy, the vocabulary used will always be of a pragmatic nature (the word “cravate” being less important than the expression “Je pense” ) and of high communicative value: word acts, polite formulas, ways to articulate thoughts. The goal we look for is for the learner to be able to automatically and without hesitation express what is in his imagination and have on hand a panoply of words and expressions from which, as with his native language, he may choose. Synonyms, antonyms and paraphrases, in all registers and tones, are brought in and used in real context. But let’s look for a moment on how these capacities are used. They must be used in the presence of the instructor. Letting the learners discuss points among themselves without instructor guidance can be dangerous. If the instructor fails to correct and motivate learners to use correct forms (under the pretexts that there are many students and they need to develop confidence by speaking for themselves), the instructor encourages to some extent the “fossilization” of errors.

3. A COMPLETE GRAMMAR

It is logical to believe that the learner does not cross the linguistic threshold until he has taken on a complete grammar. Possession of grammatical competence is not simply the state of needing no help in conversation. To the contrary, competence alone brings the risks of stoppages and blockages. Students do not take on, in general, the grammar of their native languages, since when they speak, they are already communicating. Grammatical studies at school are more of an academic subject. One learns more to analyze, to reason, to polish the language than to speak it better.

To teach a foreign language while referring to “grammar” is tantamount to putting the cart before the horse. All grammatical structure is only relevant when used as a path to communication. In presenting a grammatical item as the equivalent of a vocabulary word, and vice versa, the teacher proposes that one can learn practical grammar as a holistic part of communication. By introducing grammar as “admitting, recognizing, agreeing, conceding, according,” “although, even if” it is assimilated naturally and easily.

Why pose grammatical questions and use grammatical terms if they fail to motivate the learner; a grammatical concept like "the subject," that is, the "doer" of the action, can be incorporated into the learner's repertoire quite naturally over the course of communication without reference to an academic grammatical rule (14). Oftentimes the teaching of grammatical rules serves primarily to reassure the instructor that he is covering all the bases.

Nevertheless, Dialogue does have a book of grammar, better called “Grammar a la carte.” Certain learners need to see a serious grammar reference to gauge the quality of the teaching, nor can we completely prevent learners from making grammatical comparisons between the target language and their nature language or another language they already know. The title of the book, Keys to Communication, transcends grammar per se. It does not use the linguistic meta-language. Several entries on the Table of Contents serve to bring home that this is a “communicative grammar;” let’s not talk about “indirect discourse,” for an example, but rather about “relating what others have said.” Rather than give a table of demonstrative or possessive adjectives, to give another example, the book explains how to show or indicate possession.

In centering the concept around actual communicative function, the grammar becomes not simply an objective in itself but a path to communication; Dialogue training avoids a number of snags that often prevent the student from turning conscious competence into automatic subconscious ability.

4. LANGUAGE CORRECTION

After crossing the second and third thresholds, possibly before, correction of their use of the foreign languages begins to seem critical to most learners. In visiting other schools that wish to train their teachers in the Dialogue method, we often witness the difficulties students have at this stage of their learning. They complain that the teacher does not correct them, or not as often as they would like. After getting through the psychological threshold, they see as their goal making fewer and fewer errors. It is not enough for them to speak spontaneously; they also wait for the teacher to correct them mercilessly and to help them reach correct forms. They only progress rapidly if the teacher uses techniques that promote “proceduralization.”

5. PROCEDURALIZATION

The ultimate aim of the learner is to reach the level he has in his native language: communicate with pleasure and without fatigue, without expending enormous energy and concentration. Since we want the students to be able to think directly in the target language we never encourage translation or borrowing from the native language but rather encourage routines and promulgate the most correct and complete “proceduralization” possible.

S.P. Corder (15) believes students commit certain errors in an effort to verify certain hypotheses about the nature of the language there are studying. The Dialogue approach, insofar as it encourages the student to uncover facts about the language himself, strives, from day one, to instill as naturally as possible, proceduralization and automatic treatment. This gives the student not the memory of a system (knowledge, grammatical rules, etc.), but a memory that retrieves automatically, as needed, the form that fits best with the sentiment the student needs to express in any given situation. Thanks to the use of the Skinner system filtered through Socratic method, and detailed in the article mentioned below (cf note 1), the Dialogue learner avoids the interlingual transfer process and uses translation less and less. This conditioning prevents proceduralizing transfers from the native language and, paradoxically, enhances spontaneity and creativity. In facilitating, from the beginning, acquisition of automatic routines, in using questions that revolves around the same theme, in recording key sentences for the learner, in proposing systematic but not scholastic reviews, the Dialogue approach tries to make the learner as independent as possible. It does not encourage “learning by heart” but rather the application of what one has learned using “free and spontaneous action” in conditions as natural as possible.

CONCLUSION

Since we have conducted many courses of instruction in foreign and second languages, we know how rare are the courses that share the clarity and focus of the methods we have discussed here. We believe we have shown they are essential. Not using them, or merely referring to them, brings the risk of student stagnation among certain learners, and an impression that the instruction does not serve their true needs.

Every instructor wishes to succeed at the mission he has taken on: in reading this article, he will feel that the Dialogue method can respond to his concerns. He will have also understood that his students will only get through the linguistic threshold if he has, from the beginning of instruction, put forth contextual strategies. He knows that from the first contact he has to pay attention to communication and to negotiation, that he must dip into the lexical wealth and incorporate the grammar, correct in a timely manner, and foment procedutalization.

1. In ENJEUX, Revue de didactique du français (French instructional review), n° 27, CEDOCEF, décembre 1992, ISSN 0771-6532.

2. Jean-Paul NARCY, Apprendre une langue étrangère, Didactique des langues: le cas de l’anglais (Learning a Foreign Language; Teaching languages: the case of English), Les Editions d’Organisation, Paris, 1990.

3. S. KRASHEN & T. TERRELL, The natural approach, 1983, Oxford, Pergamon Press.

4. Persona Brochure on request from DIALOGUE, 55, Route du Tonnelet, 4900 Spa, Specify "Instructor Training".

5. Daniel THOMIERES, A chacun son approche? Présentation réciproque des pratiques pédagogiques (To each his own approach. Receiprocal presentation of pedagogical practices). Rapport de pré-synthèse [pour les journées de l’A.P.L.V. de Bordeaux, juillet 1985]. L’anglais (English), in Les Langues Modernes, 1985.

6. On the international phonetic alphabet

7. Alfred TOMATIS, Nous sommes tous nés polyglottes (We are all born polyglots), Fixot, 1991.

8. Alfred TOMATIS, op. cit. supra.

9. S. KRASHEN, The input hypothesis: issues and implications, Londres, Longman, 1985.

10. In an article to appear soon.

11. To guess perhaps a positive exercise, but up to a certain point

12. Robert GALISSON, Etudes de linguistique appliquée (Applied linguistic exercises) n°69, Paris.

13. Not to be confused with "Je vous (en) prie." in French.

14. Even more so, as some learners do not know the the grammar of their own mother tongue.

15. S.P. CORDER, Error Analysis and Interlanguage, Oxford, OUP, 1981.

 
 
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