My teaching approach
The Academy of
ARTiculation© - The AA©
ARTiculation(AA©) is a company with one aim
in mind: getting people to speak confidently & consciously.
The initiation of this foundation came from
our founder’s observation of the unholistic approach that most language
institutions were adopting when teaching a foreign language. Many institutions
view students (SS) as revenue where a 'battery hen' type approach is utilised.
Institutions may benefit from high turnover, but the end product- the egg or
the language is of poor quality and the chickens or SS (or even teachers for
that matter) have not been treated as they should have been-with respect,
equality & dignity.
So it brings me absolute pleasure to
introduce some of the key concepts that have helped form
AA© from just a small seedling of an idea to a fully functioning
foundation which is spreading its roots and branches further and deeper day by
At AA© we have based our teaching ethos on
the communicative language teaching(CLT) approach.
This method uses the 'broad approach' where
teachers act as 'guides' and SS are encouraged to to take risks while communicating, and to use
constructs other than rote memorized patterns.
Lessons are based on David Nunan’s (1991)
five features of CLT. They comprise of various activities which involve:
All writing activities take place at home.
Students are provided with short written tasks which serve to cement that which
was covered in lessons. Students are expected to bring these tasks in for
However at AA© we further recognise that
the process of speaking itself comprises of many facets.
After much research we have subdivided
SPEAKING into 4 further areas:
- Respiratory System
- Eyes/Visual (Further research required)
The format of classes is based around the
Oxbridge model except. However, an additional step called 'Activation' is
No translation takes place at AA©. Students
are taught in-house or at their place of work, school etc.
'The body needs the mind
and the mind needs the body. When we align the body we also align the mind'
Vanda Scaravelli (1991)
The respiratory system:
In order to speak it is necessary to
From personal experience whilst presenting
orals and from my observations of students during lessons it is clear that
breathing is very shallow & fast (thoracic breathing). This naturally
occurs when a person is nervous, stressed or anxious. Thoracic breathing
- vocal tone
- clear thought
At AA© students are taught Diaphragmatic
breathing (DB©). This breathing utilises the diaphragm, a very large muscle
located horizontally between the chest cavity and stomach cavity.
SS breathe diagrammatically for 3 minutes
upon entering the class. This serves to relax the whole nervous system &
the body. All teachers are trained in DB as it has been proven that listeners
adapt their breathing to the speakers breathing 'in dialogue situation,
listeners and speakers tend to synchronize their breathing at the time of
turn-taking (Guaïtella, 1993; McFarland, 2001).
Moreover, perception studies found that
when breathing noise (e.g. when speakers inhale) is added to speech synthesis,
the listeners' recall performance increases (Whalen et al., 1995).
How we breathe also has a very big impact
on the rhythm of the speech which varies from language to language.
Specific details on how to instruct on DB©
provided in the supplementary pack.
Teachers are also provided with a DVD from
At AA© we believe that just as you should
not attempt to or are advised against running an hour long marathon without an
efficient warm up, so too shouldn't you attempt to speak intensely for an hour
without first warming up one of the most powerful and overworked muscles in the
The tongue is
the most important articulator of speech. This muscle is extremely strong, as
it must move food around in our mouths as we chew which requires a lot of force
and tension. However for speech the opposite of swallowing is required-you want
to relax the tongue up and forward or
the sound to resonate effectively, the less tongue root tension the better.
The quick movements of the tongue, necessary for rapid delivery of
tongue twisters for example, require very delicate control of the action of the
Even though the tongue is the most
important articulator of speech one cannot ignore the role of the vocal chords
and jaw muscles.
one would not attempt to play a guitar for an hour without first tuning all the
guitar strings! The warm up therefore also serves to stretch, loosen and
prepare the vocal chords, pharynx muscles, lips and jaw muscles for extended
warm up is referred to as the ARTiculation Tongue Tune-Up or AATT© and lasts
between 4-5mins. Specific guidance and individual step are in the supplementary
Example exercise for reader’s interest:
Step 7. SS repeat each keyword 3 times – stressing
and exaggerating each syllable. The full word is then repeated ('whole word
SS problems are caused by the interferrence of mother tongue.This may be
grammatic, syntactic or phonetic interference.
The motivation behind step 7 serves not
only to warm the tongue up but also serves to minimise physical/phonetic
interference by introducing new & unfamiliar tongue movements. Students come from different areas that have different sound systems with
the second language learning and so natutrally encounter difficulties in their learning process
because since childhood they have been speaking their mother tongue and so
their speech organs have been set to produce the speech sounds of their
own language. Katamba (1989)
All muscles in the body
have something called 'muscle memory'. Muscles 'remember' past movements.
Unfortunately, if the students tongue has never moved in the specific way required for correct
pronunciation, the tongue will automatically try to apply past 'memory' or
movement to the second language.
Excercise 7 serves to
do is to build on and expand the muscle
memory of the tongue. With practice, each time a student attempts to speak
their second language, the tongue will be able to manage these movements more easily.
Although it is well
known that muscle strength reduces with age,it is also claimed that, regardless
of age, muscle has the capacity to improve. (Galley & Forster,1996).
The new vocabulary is referred to as 'key'
words(KW), as these new words serve to 'unlock' the objective of each
Students are sent a maximum of 8 new keywords prior to their lesson with an
attached audio file.
This is based on the Oxbridge model,
whereby students take a certain level of responsibility for their progress.
It is during step 7 that KW´s are made
visible to aid visual learners. KW´s are normally seen from no more than 2m
away and are therefore printed in text no smaller than 36 point. Text is Comic
Sans(Most easily read by most students specifically those with dyslexia) and in
black and white.
I would like to say that this warm up is
similar to the Callan method in terms of repetition but unlike the Callan
method, AATT© is not heavily reliant on any mental process. In this phase of
the class the focus is purely on tuning in physically to unfamiliar
modes of pronunciation.
The mental state i.e. mood of the student
is an important factor in the learning process and greatly affects the speed
and quality of assimilation. Many of our SS arrive to class stressed, tired,
distracted or anxious.
It is essential for the teacher to ground
and relax the student as this will help them focus and therefore naturally
produce better results in class and out of class!
The National Brain Tumour Society has
identified that there are specific parts of the brain dedicated to language
Wernicke's Area is part of the temporal
lobe that surrounds the auditory cortex and is thought to be essential for
understanding and formulating speech. Interestingly, this area is in close
proximity to the ears!
At AA© we recognise that when students enter
the lesson, they are not automatically responding from the Wernickes area. They
may just have been in a 'problem solving' meeting or just had a mathematics
test, which all utilise different parts of the brain which do not specifically
support language learning.
The most effective
priming frequency for stimulating this area has found to be
1-20Hz.High-frequency repetitive 20 Hz over the Wernicke's area has been
reported to facilitate picture naming (Mottaghy
et al. 1999), whereas high-frequency over Broca's area facilitated phonologic
processing. (Nixon et
teachers are supplied with a 'mini-rig' in order to play AA© audio files
throughout lessons. AA© are expected to have their own portable device (such as
an iPod) from which to play the audio file.
It is very clear-speaking is not simply a
mental process, but relies heavily on our state of physicality. In fact, both
physical and mental processes work in complete conjunction with one another
when speaking-neither process can or should be ignored or thought of as more or
less important as the other.
teaching slots have a duration of 1hr. From our observations longer classes are
not much more productive as students are not able to concentrate efficiently
for much longer. The same goes for shorter lessons as it does take time for
students to 'switch' their thinking and speaking into the second language
At AA© we believe that quite simply-you get
what you pay for. All teachers hold a university degree and are all carefully
selected for their genuine passion for teaching linguistics.
may not be the cheapest language academy out there but we can guarantee that we
treat all students with sincerity, respect and dignity. We believe that
speaking is a very personal & creative process that should be honoured,
explored and most importantly-enjoyed!