Saturday, March 06, 2010

Can Michel Thomas still be your teacher, revisited

The other day, I wrote about whether Michel Thomas could still be your teacher, in a manner of speaking, if instead of trying to simply understand material, you tried to get a sense for how he would teach it. At the time, I referred to a few specific points, but as I've been thinking about this, I think it can go further. There are already some folks over at how-to-learn-any-language.com who have either taught according to what they regard as the method or even made (very) short courses for general distribution. (See here for more). This leads me to the next step for thinking things through: If you had to create a two-hour MT course for your language, what would you put in it? How about an eight-hour course?

One of the things that makes an MT course great is the sense of how much you've covered in a few hours. This is because while you learn the rules, in some sense, what you really learn is how to do stuff with the language. If you're making the notecards for what would go into your two hour course, you'd want to focus not on which conjugations or declensions you were going to teach. You'd want to focus on what the student should be able to do and look for the simplest way to achieve it without laying a totally inaccurate foundation for further learning.

I've started doing this with Uzbek, as sort of a thought experiment, and here's what I've hit upon... you should be able to:

1) Express a need
2) Express a want
3) Express what you are doing
4) Express what you did
5) Express what you are going to do
6) Say what something is... predicate noun
7) Say how something is... predicate adjective
8) Ask simple questions about all of the above

You can present this in whatever order makes things most understandable. For Uzbek, for example, the verb conjugations and the "to be" present endings are almost identical. So if you learn "I am American," you're just a step from learning "I see." The past tense endings are almost identical to the possessive, so I'd throw it in as a bonus. While the things above are not enough to make you fluent, if you could learn that much in two hours, it would be pretty cool, no? Even in four, it would be impressive, I think.

In the next week or so, I'll continue editing my cards, then post what I've come up with. I don't plan on teaching anyone else this way, but I think it will be useful for getting a better handle on what I know and what I need to work on. And if seeing how things got laid out for Uzbek helps anyone else think more clearly about where they need work on their language of choice, that will be great.

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