My teaching approach
Pure Travel Methodoloy - “The Rocky Method”
Do you remember the movie Rocky IV? Not a classic to be sure but do you remember where Rocky trained for his fight against the dreaded Ivan Drago? Or more importantly, do you remember how Rocky trained?
We learn a language by being immersed in it. Live it and you shall learn it.
Just as Rocky isolated himself from the rest of the world to prepare for battle. So can you when learning a new language.
The concept of Pure Travel Method (PTM) is simple, 100% immersion without influence from the “outside world”. So what do I mean by the “outside world”? Label it as any entity that could directly or indirectly effect comprehension of the Target Language (TL) and the culture in which it lies.
One must get away from the everyday chaos that surrounds us 24/7. These external factors can have a negative effect on our learning of a new language. It makes it almost impossible to truly understand the TL when inside the native language bubble.
PTM is one of the best ways to learn a language for older students and adults who are able to travel for their education. For example, someone who wants to learn English doesn’t even need to be enrolled in an English language course to use this method -- all they need are the resources involved in travel and set up with host.
For students wanting to learn Russian, a trip to Siberia is recommended. For students wanting to learn Arabic, a trip to the Sahara is recommended. For students wanting to learn English, a trip to Natchez, Mississippi, USA is recommended. If the student wants an academic-heavy approach to the TL, this is not the proper method. If the student wants a life-heavy approach to the TL, there is no better.
Again, an academic program is not required for this method. Staying in a new country and learning the language through pure immersion and necessity is one of the best ways to learn it quickly. Students will be surrounded by media in that language, and people who speak the TL. It is a great way to break off from the distractions of your native tongue, and learn how to think in the TL as well as speak it.
Languages are living. They can reflect culture and milieu. For example: in Arabic the word for splash is kharir. And in Arab lands, water sometimes if not most of the time can be a rarity, so it has always been spoken of with loving reverence. A splash is simply a splash to us, but to the Arab—kharir actually means “the sweet sound of water falling gently upon water.” Think about that for a second. This kind of meaning ascends this simple word to a superior state. We now have found the essence of the word. Hence, we now have a little (and just a little) better understanding of Arab culture and maybe, life in the Sahara.
PTM Fundamental Criteria:
Destinations - no big cities, small towns that have historical significance
(preferably farming communities or blue collar areas). Proper destination selection will significantly help the student to understand the culture and TL.
Living Habitat - with a host teacher, family (absolutely prohibited to speak native
tongue of student), solitary (allowed but not recommended), stays for 3, 6, 12, 24 months.
Employment (optional) - will be set up for the student if desired, highly recommended in PTM, strong strong tool for comprehension of TL.
Macro Skills Focus - When learning a TL, the best way to do so is by engaging in a balance between the receptive and productive skills, as they are all interconnected. PTM establishes a strong focus on these skills.
Listening - There are three modes of listening: competitive, passive and active. Active listening is considered the most effective because the listener is not only listening with interest, but actively acknowledging listening by brief responses. PTM uses the active mode.
Speaking - Speaking can be an intimidating experience, even in your native tongue, let alone when learning a TL. The best way to learn how to speak, though, is by practicing, so put your inhibitions aside and strike up a conversation whenever you are given the chance to do so. PTM allows a great deal of one on one conversation. Out of all the skills, PTM considers this the most important to comprehend.
Reading - The phonetic approach to reading—using sound units to figure out the words—is arguably the best approach because theoretically, if you know the sounds, you can read any word, regardless of the difficulty level. This is also the case when learning a new language. Reading has many benefits, including improving memory, increasing vocabulary and exposing you to new ideas. Who doesn’t want to read Tolstoy in Russian? Or Voltaire in French? Or Twain in English?
Writing - Writing is perhaps the most complex of the communication skills and takes the most time to master. As with any other skill, it is improved through practice and a willingness to improve. Moving beyond the basics, there are many types of writing and many levels that can be attained with the PTM but normally in 1 or 2 year courses.
The Student - the seeker of TL and TL culture
For the student, the goal is to communicate fluidly in the TL via the receptive and productive macro skills. Can the student understand poetry in the TL? Can the student tell a joke in the TL? Can he letter write in the TL? These questions need conclusive answers.
The PTM student shall be of an adult age (18 and older). Motivation of the PTM student will vary greatly from self-improvement to work related. More importantly, the students will and desire are critical factors in determining success or failure of the course. Likewise, student awareness and accommodation to his new environment are integral components.
The Teacher - a cultural guide and ‘playmaker’
The roll of the teacher is two-fold in the PTM, one as a facilitator of the TL and another as a cultural sage, bringing deeper meaning to the language being learned. Continuous assessment will be done throughout the course by giving oral and written tests. These tests will gage proficiency, future goals and targets of the student. The PTM teacher must adhere to the following rules: no mother tongue allowed, restrict cell phone use, and restrict access to the internet (TL sites only). Grading is of particular importance as the teacher must be aware at all times of how the student is progressing in order to determine their appropriate strategy in tackling the syllabus.
LANGUAGE AND MUCH MORE - UNDERSTANDING THE VERNACULAR
Language is as much a part of our environment as
the physical, economic and political environment. PTM aims
at increasing the students' awareness of: (a) how language
functions, (b) some aspects of the TL that they will speak or
encounter in their daily lives (c) significant formal and thematic
features of TL literature
Expected Learning Outcome:
At the end to the course the student will be expected to have
acquired: (a) knowledge of some basic aspects of language in
general, (b) a broad view of the target language and literature of destination country,
(c) an understanding of the values and assumptions underlying
contemporary culture of destination country
(A) Language and Communication:
(i) Why TL matters
(ii) How TL functions:
(a) Speaker-listener and message
(b) The Big Fundamentals - Phonology, grammar, semantics, lexicon
(iii) Speech and Writing
(B) Language in Society(talking points):
(i) as it relates to class
(ii) as it relates to gender
(iii) as it relates to ethnicity
(iv) as it relates to identity
(C) Language Variation
(i) Language development
(ii) Language varieties across space: dialect, slang
II. Target Language Literature
Involves a study of significant themes and forms of destination literature through time
(A) The relation between language and literature
(B) Oral and written literature
III. Culture and Society in Destination Country
(A) Study of Culture
(i) The idea of culture,
(ii) the notion of popular culture,
(iii) perspectives on destination country culture and value systems
(B) Culture and the Media:
(i) newspapers and magazines
(ii) radio, cinema and television
(iv) globalization and the digital age - cause and effect
The order in which the syllabus is laid out can be modified, highly flexible in terms of content and order of study depending on length of course and level, motivation, will of student. Course length options: 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, 2 years
Daily course structure and content vary depending on the progression of the student. In general 4 hours (non-consecutive…2 hours in the morning and 2 in the evening) of “class” would be the norm with 1 hour each for: grammar, reading, listening (music, movies), and writing. The rest of the day would be for involving oneself into the everyday culture and happenings of the destination.
The Pros and Cons of PTM:
There is convincing rationale for the use of this method.
1. Total immersion
2. Provokes deep thought and study in TL
3. Provokes deep thought and study into the TL culture
4. Fastest way to learn TL, trial by fire
5. The opportunity to travel and more importantly to discover the significance of other lands
6. Rigorous structure - challenges the student at every level
As with all language teaching methodologies, there are drawbacks.
1. Very limited communication with friends and family
2. Learning curve is extremely steep at introductory level
3. Rigorous structure - not for everybody (mature adults only)
4. Associated costs: living, travel could be expensive
Travel is the spice of life. It is living life.
Although my blood is of Latinx origin, my native tongue is English. It was only through my travels that I acquired a second language, Spanish. Yes…I received the basics in my high school foreign language class but that just wasn’t enough. There was no contextual basis behind the teachings. I was not taught the language but rather about the language. What a huge difference!
For me, language learning and travel are intertwined, opening the door to apprehension of new cultures and their associated peoples. No better way to discover the world.
It wasn’t until after university that I truly learned Spanish. This happened for a few simple reasons - travel and the experience of living abroad. I was fortunate to develop the TL ‘on-site’ (work environ), putting the Spanish to use on a habitual basis no matter the consequences.
So how important was learning a second language? It enabled me, at the age of 25, to converse for the first time with my grandparents (mother’s side) in their native tongue. It raised our relationship to a different level and shed light on many things I did not know about them nor understood about them. What a huge difference!
Until then, I hadn’t realized the full importance of language.
What students need are the chance to use language the way it was intended, as a tool for communication, not as a complex set of rules to master. Although, one mustn’t forget the fundamentals. Goals must be established (to capture the personality of a language).
The personality of a language, like that of a man, is the sum of many things not always apparent to our senses. Maybe if we can understand those intangible experiences, we can better understand how to learn and live a language in its associated culture.
In the end, it’s all about the experience and grasping the essence of living the target language. I believe that is what constitutes success or failure with the PTM.