Michael Miller – A Huge Success!

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19 thoughts on “Michael Miller – A Huge Success!”

  1. It depends on the definition of “fluent”. You are probably thinking “native-speaker fluent”, which is what most people think of when they use the term. In this case it means that the students are comfortable enough with the language to use it with one another and with native speakers in an un-selfconscious manner. Think about small children. They certainly don’t have a 25,000-word vocabulary, and they make mistakes (“I goed to the store”), but they are fluent. I really like a quote from Blaine Ray that I have posted in my room as a reminder to myself (and not for my students so much):
    Fluency isn’t knowing a lot of words; it’s being able to use a few words so that they sound right to a native speaker.

    Think of “fluent” in terms of “flowing”.

  2. Nice point Robert. “ing” in English is “ant” in French so “fluent” is close to “fluant” or “flowing”. I like that. But Chris I agree that the choice of words could have been different. Although, I have been in Michael’s classroom, and it is nothing if not flowing in rivers of German from bell to bell. The din of German in that particular setting is definitely something that you walk out of the room with still going on in your head. Michael is a master at this, yet very humble and unassuming. In other words, a real hero, in my view.

  3. From the Online Etymological Dictionary:

    fluent (adj.)
    1580s, “flowing freely” (of water, also of speech), from Latin fluentem (nom. fluens) “lax, relaxed,” figuratively “flowing, fluent,” prp. of fluere “to flow, stream, run, melt,” from PIE *bhleugw-, extended form of *bhleu- “to swell, well up, overflow” (cf. Latin flumen “river;” Greek phluein “to boil over, bubble up,” phlein “to abound”), an extension of root *bhel- (2) “to blow, inflate, swell;” see bole. Used interchangeably with fluid in Elizabethan times. Related: Fluently.

  4. Obviously the journalist, who doesn’t seem to be a German speaker, was impressed by the ease and spontaneity of the children’s speech. So he described it as “fluent.” I agree with Robert and Blaine Ray. It’s not a question of number of vocabulary words learned, but the ease in which the language “flows”.

  5. I say Thank God that someone who teaches, AND using CI is getting positive press!!!! Ben is right, Michael is an outstanding educator and extremely humble. So happy to see him getting recognition!!

    with love,

  6. I understand that the definition of “fluent” is different for us in the TPRS community than for the rest of the world but to say that the students are “fluent” in less than six MONTHS is very poor wording by the writer of the article. I was going to share this article with my principal, who loves TPRS, but that sentence would be providing rope for my hanging because my kids certainly aren’t “fluent” in 6 months. It says that it’s a K-8 school, so was it a typo and meant to say six years? I’m just having a hard time grasping this. I know that our definition of fluent is different, but this article was written for members of that community, people who don’t have the same definition of fluent as we do. In fact, here’s a comment on the article: “Fluent in less than six months? Preposterous. I think “fluency” has been seriously downgraded if that is true. Most people understand the word to mean “able to speak a language freely”, not just the limited situational ability which these kids seem to have picked up. Still, good job on teaching them so well!”

    I just have a big issue saying that students are “fluent” in six months. If I were to make that claim, there would be some smartass who speaks Spanish that would try to start a conversation with my students and end up making me look like a liar. I mean, here in the PLC we bitch about having to administer a speaking part to level one students on a final exam. That’s after an entire school year of our classes. If we’re producing “fluent” students than shouldn’t we be welcoming a speaking portion on exams?

    And I’m not trying to be contrarian or even downgrade Michael’s success here, I extend my fullest congratulations and I do think he is awesome judging by the materials he has published. In fact, I think this is a victory for TPRS as his school is the only K-8 school to receive that designation. But still, poor wording

    1. I agree completely: poor wording in the article, because most people mean “near-native ability” when they say (or read) “fluent”. But then, this is a newspaper “human interest” article, and the reporter was sufficiently impressed to use the hyperbole. (Or at least I’m going to go with that interpretation.)

      Also, most of us here in the PLC have students who are outputting within the first semester; we are simply opposed to artificially forced output*.

      *I use the term “artificially forced output” to refer to what happens in schools in order to take the edge off the insatiable appetite for “data”. To me the good kind of “forced output” is when a learner is in an immersion situation and has a compelling reason to produce language that has already been acquired but which has been inhibited by lack of confidence or a high affective filter.

      1. The room felt fluent, let’s put it that way. Fluent, immediate, fun, active reactions by the kids to the German words flying around the room. It FEELS fluent in Michael’s room bc he was doing 99% use (a big leap above 90%) ten years ago. That’s what I see as having made the writer use that word.

        But that is a minor point. The big point here which I will turn into an article is Robert’s point that forced output is connected to the need for data. And not just numbers that can be measured but a kind of perverse need on the part of the teacher of early forced output in class to SEE something.

        They don’t respect Krashen’s findings. They want to pry the flower open before it’s ready to bloom. They don’t care. If they can get a smart kid to say something in the TL in class, well, then, they must be doing a good job. Heaven forbid they wait.

        When this kind of forced output is done with L1 small children, some end up as stutterers. When it is done in L2 classes and the kid is a teenager, those kids just quit after they get their two years.

        If some hot to trot teacher got in my face right now expecting me to output some Chinese, when all I have is about thirty hours from Linda and Annick over the years, I would shut down too.

  7. Poor wording yes.

    I would add that the writer may have actually believed it, though. Michael’s classes really are devoid of English – at least I never heard any English, as in zero, when I was there. So that is probably what created the illusion that the kids had full command of/were fluent in German.

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