Text-Based Learning

Did you know that texts are the best basis for foreign language acquisition?

by Louis Alexander

Texts have always been used to present new language to learners. These take
the form of dialogue or prose. In an earlier generation of language courses, texts were always far too long and there weren't many of them in a coursebook. Teachers spent hours presenting long texts to a class with very little follow-up after each presentation. The modern tendency is to present very short texts, followed by active practice. This is the style adopted in Direct English. The first two pages of the coursebook present the new language to be taught through a text; the next two pages follow up the presentation with language practice. We can think of this two-part approach in each lesson as presentation/activation.

It's worth itemising the advantages of using texts to teach and learn a language:

When texts are short (as in Direct English) they can be presented rapidly, leaving as much time as possible for follow-up practice.
The new language to be acquired in the lesson is built into each short text, so the learner experiences this new language in context.
Texts make language highly memorable, because it is easy to remember a situation. For example, you can remember the little text about Baby Sherise (Book 1, Unit 2, Lesson 1) and in doing so you will recall the language that was taught. If you were presented only with the raw language, devoid of text, you would never be able to recall it.
Learners generally find it easy to learn short texts by heart with hardly any effort. This has the effect of building up a great 'reservoir of language' in their minds.
Texts make language learning enjoyable because they introduce elements of humour which make language learning fun.
Texts make it possible to introduce characters and storylines which greatly contribute to the learners' enjoyment.
Short texts are not only unchallenging for the learner, but they facilitate reading and repetition. In Direct English, texts are broken up to match the learners' 'eye-span'. So, for example, instead of being presented like this (Book 1, Unit 1, Lesson 3):

Anne: Can you speak any foreign languages.
Dean: Not really. I speak a little Spanish, but I can't understand a word.
they are presented like this:
A: Can you speak
any foreign languages.
D: Not really.
I can speak a little Spanish,
but I can't understand a word.

Short texts can serve many different functions. In Direct English they are used for the purposes of role-play (= taking the parts of different characters) and are used as the basis for constant question and answer practice. In the second half of each lesson the new language is extrapolated from the text and practised in a series of different exercises.
The short presentation texts in Direct English are followed up with short prose texts which extend the storyline and provide further scope for language practice and entertainment.
Text-based learning is the key to success and the essence of Direct English.


© LG & DE Limited 2006


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