Question for the Group

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25 thoughts on “Question for the Group”

  1. The videos are professionally done. We in our group want to address how they can be changed to reflect the realities of what we know in our own experience to be true about CI, so that we may give Yvonne a possible direction for real results.
    The biggest question and one that everyone would like to know the answer to is how to get speech to happen online. My own thoughts are, and I am sure Yvonne has thought these points through as well since she has been reading here on the PLC for some time:
    1. the lessons must be simpler, easier to understand with transparent input being the goal.
    2. how to find subjects more interesting than the library and exams (i.e. how to personalize?)
    3. what internet medium could possibly be effective in bringing about eventual speech?
    4. how to get online students to understand that literally many hundreds if not thousands of hours must be given by Yvonne in various ways before they can begin to produce even the most basic speech patterns?
    In my view the key lies in point (4) above. Yvonne must get students who are in it for the long haul. Then she must provide a graded series of stories that follow what we have stated here for years, what we know to be the base powerhouse of CI, staying in bounds.
    The chant would be:
    No new sounds! Stay in bounds!
    That is, if the people viewing her videos already know the language from the previous videos, and she introduces only two (I think three is too many) new structures in each successive video, she can then strive for transparent sequential lessons that build.
    I don’t know if Carol’s Cuentame series is best, or what, if any of the materials we now have could help her so that she doesn’t have to produce new materials that build on each other from scratch, which is just way too difficult. (If producing good transparent and interesting materials were easy, we would have a lot more of them by now. I know that the Latin people are up to something in this area as well.)
    Then we need to ask about personalizing the lessons online. That’s a big one and I wonder if it is possible.
    Anyway, I hope the group throws in even snippets of ideas below so that Yvonne can maybe get a handle on the potential here. She certainly has the tech side down for starters. What she has done makes me want to learn Igbo. Now, how do we advise her based on what we know ourselves about how people acquire languages, and the first question is if it is even possible on the internet.

  2. Yvonne if it were me I would definitely make some YouTube videos based on Haiku Deck and Visual PQA as described here over the past six months. Both have categories and I think it is the way to go. Why?
    Simple images, one word or structure at a time, you stay in bounds, you speak very slowly, and it’s all input for the first 100 lessons or so. Each lesson has 10-20 slides and you follow the vPQA sequence being sure to include the red steps in the post on vPQA here yesterday. You don’t ask for output at all and you make sure that your students know that they won’t be asked for output, that all they have to do is listen.
    Their affective filter goes down when you do that and their anticipation of the time in the vague future (each student is different) when they can start speaking Igbo is something they start to look forward to without apprehension, knowing that all they have to do is listen and enjoy the sound of the lesson, without having to think at all about if they are doing it right, etc. and they know that they will start speaking unexpectedly without thinking on some day in the future.
    Follow the three steps of TPRS, but just spend huge amounts of time on establishing the meaning of two or three structures doing the vPQA from which you can knit together a story after a few of the vPQA Haiku Deck lessons that you have designed on YouTube. Make your online students listen to each HD lesson like 50 times each or something ridiculous. Go to HD to see some sample lessons we have made here so far to share for next year. The story that comes from the vPQA doesn’t have to be the big focus as it is in typical TPRS – most of the time can be spent on the vPQA. It doesn’t matter as long as there are plenty of reps. Then do a reading.
    All of those things, how to do them, are described here in the categories, etc. etc. This is my version of TPRS.

  3. Thank you Ben .
    Much appreciated.
    I am really looking forward to suggestions from everyone on getting speech to happen online.
    You are right at using the Haiku deck and Visual PQA.
    And I like the idea of “No new sounds! Stay in bounds!” . I’m chanting away as well.
    Since reading the Big CI Book , The first thing I need to keep reminding myself is to ‘SLOW DOWN’ 😀 .
    I’ve stuck a sheet of paper on my wall with the words ‘SLOW DOWN’ .Listening to myself again rattling away on the video now makes me cringe!
    There are free mobile apps that can be used to record speech – but getting the students to do it and pulling it all together is a challenge.
    So for now it is micro videos, and all input for the first 100 lessons .
    I will look into the Cuentame series – interesting topics and themes are seriously a challenge for me.
    How would you work around students being at different levels ? Especially since its self study. Just thinking that some might be impatient and want more advanced lessons based on their previous knowledge, while some will be ok with the pace.
    Thank you again .. 🙂

  4. Personally I feel that the slides should be there with your voice describing them.
    The thing about output is that in my opinion it takes thousands of hours of previous input for it to happen naturally. And people are all in different places. Somehow, and you and your clients might not like it but I have to speak my truth, the fact has to be accepted that they cannot think their way to output. There is no exercise they can do to form it up using the brain and thinking. It just can’t be done. So if that is the approach you are using it won’t work, and everybody needs to get the truth of the fact that output cannot be forced or thought about or practiced. It will occur naturally when enough input is there. We can’t force flowers to grow faster either, or to produce a bud before there is a stem for it to grow on. It’s like a doctor trying to lower the period of a pregnancy down to a few months. Can’t be done. So I see your job as making sure your people know that, and if they don’t like it, they can go somewhere else. My opinion.

  5. Another thing you should consider is to bring judicious questioning to the slides. Somehow on each slide, since you are not physically present with the students, you not only need to put the vPQA sentences on the slide but somehow add on there your questions. The CI process is one of repeated questioning, with single word answers. That will be what brings the gains, if you can figure out how to do the questioning on the slides. I think it can be done. I see no other possibilities and the group isn’t throwing a lot of ideas out on this either. So vPQA as described here plus some way to get questions going (perhaps on a slide inserted between the regular vPQA slides?) might work. If you can make this happen with your tech background, you may want to copyright it fast, bc I really think online learning is possible with what we know and practice on our PLC here. Lots of potential if we can work out the bugs together and test it. Perhaps one of our less busy members wants to learn some Igbo to serve in a testing capacity for what you develop!

  6. Hi Yvonne, I think your goals are really wonderful.
    Is the drive to have students speaking coming more from you, or more from students who give you that feedback? If the latter, you might coach them about speech. Inform them that your videos will have a lot of questions followed by a pause. They should think or say their answer – using as much Igbo as comes to mind immediately: a nod of the head, a single word, a short phrase. As their time hearing and understanding Igbo lengthens, they may find longer phrases jumping to mind for their answers. Rehearsing and thinking about their speech does not cause them to be fluent speakers, so they can take the pressure off themselves and just enjoy what they’re hearing, answering each question naturally, without trying to make the language come out by thinking too much about their answers. They want to be listening with the intent to understand.
    I’ve found it worth the time to explain some of this to students who came from previous language classes where they had a lot of rehearsal of speech (not even necessarily comprehending what they said!), and where they had a teacher pounce on any mistakes students made speaking. So many teachers think that rehearsing accurate vocalizations leads people to fluency.
    Another teacher’s online videos for ideas/comparison: a Spanish teacher has created simple stories using minimal words. He posted to the moreTPRS listserv quite a while ago. He has a channel on YouTube with a series of story-based cartoon-like videos:

  7. This is soooo big and sooo important. The Igbo family is a big one that stretches around the world, but there are many other languages in the same situtation. As the world becomes one big global community people no longer live and work where they were born and grew up. Yet families want to maintain their identity and preserve their language. That it is so difficult proves how inadequate the most frequently used methods are.
    And Yvonne poses a question that I have given a lot of thought to. When you are teaching in a school, students, if they have any faith and trust in your ability, will play the game and not try to produce before they feel confident and ready. When you are working with adults, particularly adults who are paying for lessons, they want quick results. They want to speak and they won’t feel successful until they can speak. We need a way to explain acquisition to them that non-specialists can grasp.

  8. Trying to be practical here. Imagine a slide picture. Your voice describes it as the words appear on the screen. Then you appear in front of the image with two children who are sitting, looking at the picture. You ask a question and wait. Viewers can try to imagine the answer if they feel ready. You repeat the question and one of the children answers the question. Then you repeat the quesiton again and the other child answers the question slightly differently. Same answer as far as meaning goes but different words. So that viewers understand that the answer they imagined is not necessarily wrong. It may just be different. This would allow viewers to output if they wanted to, but would ensure they were hearing good quality input that furnishes them with a model. Those who are very motivated could replay the video and answer again, having had the benefice of hearing the children’s answers. I think it’s important for them to hear two or even three answers so they are weaned from the idea of one “right” answer.

    1. I admire your work, Yvonne. You hold the key to the house of Igbo culture in your teaching. It is such a massive undertaking, especially because of the misunderstandings people have regarding learning a foreign language.
      I wholeheartedly agree that we have to stop deceiving our students. We are not out for the purpose selling a product and cashing in. We want our students to learn the L2. The online students need to understand this.
      With that said, video recording yourself teaching TPRS in front of some students, as Judy mentions, is what I keep thinking of as a possibility here. However, instead of having 2 students who you train to give canned answers, perhaps it would be better to video tape a genuine class of real learners. Try to have the online students get to know the classroom students. After video recording the class, edit the video to make pauses at the moments when teacher asked the classroom students a question so that the online students can provide an answer (I think the online student would have assess themselves here), then the online student can match their answer with an answer provided by the a classroom student.
      Learning a FL is such a relational endeavor. I don’t know if the language can be isolated from the person in terms of learning. Who has learned a language from someone that they didn’t have a loving, or at least caring, relationship with? I think we all learn the language in tandem with wanting to build a relationship with someone, be it a lover, friend, teacher, or family member.
      I imagine your students, Yvonne, are motivated, so they don’t need for you to check their comprehension as much as we who work in public schools do. Your students will check themselves on their own comprehension. So, if you can somehow invite them in on a classroom experience, perhaps that is the best way.
      I was thinking of doing this with some of my students who have learning disabilities and don’t function well in class sizes of 30+: video record the class and let them view and respond on their own time. But, my learning disabled students know their peers well and therefore, I was thinking, would be interested in the conversations that they would be viewing via video. Yours won’t know their peers well, unless you can make that happen.
      I don’t know… if this CI stuff makes sense to your students, then maybe they can find someone in their community that speaks Igbo and train them to do some Reading and Discussing of beginning level books (do these exist in Igbo?… might this be an area of focus for you, Yvonne? translating “Brandon Wants A Dog” to Igbo?) with them. They can Read & Discuss (see sidebar for more on that strategy) together on their sofa. But, they still need some familiarity, or an acquired competence, of high frequency vocabulary that would best be taught to them by an experienced, accomplished teacher before they can start reading and discussing these beginning level books with someone.
      I bet Carol Gaab ( would love to work with someone interested in translating her books to Igbo!
      I wish you so much luck, Yvonne! This reminds me of the Sauk teacher (I forget her name!) who is working so hard on bringing Sauk back to life. Ben, you’ve worked with Native American Languages teachers, right? Does any of that experience inform your response to Yvonne here?

      1. Sean we have a Sauk category here but since that time three years ago or more, I have lost touch with them. They were in such a critical position with only three elders (in their late 70’s at the time) left who were fluent that Jacob, their state of Oklahoma salaried program director, completely got this work and embraced it in a way I have never seen with some younger (80% fluent) teachers who brought much to the table*.
        What I value in your comment, Sean, all of which is pertinent and perhaps the best advice yet given, is the third paragraph of videotaping the class. This is better than using a more direct instructional taped format as we have suggested in other comments to Yvonne.
        Why? It is because of what you correctly pointed out as the relational aspect of our work, the creation of invisible bonds between real people in one physical space. This is what makes CI exciting – the human element of happy interaction which alone gives meaning, vibrancy and life to the spoken language.
        What you said above, Sean, has given me new insight into the idea that language is really just a symptom of happiness, if I may be allowed such a phrase. Indeed, do we learn when we are not happy and interested? This is Yvonne’s challenge and widens her current field of inquiry from how to make the internet work to teach Igbo to how to teach in the manner of the great TPRS/CI teachers like Blaine Ray, many of whom can be viewed on video by clicking the Video hard link above, present company excepted.
        Yvonne I vote with Sean on this. Film a class for a few years. The same kids. Develop your CI skills, film the classes for a year at least, label each class Lesson 1, etc. and let the learners observe from the side, almost as if they are in the classroom with the details in terms of tech use addressed by Sean.
        This option seems more real to me, and much simpler for you from a tech perspective. Start with the videos found here, not just on the hard link but in the Videos category here. You have our full support.
        *I am easily moved to tears by this TPRS work, it’s inherent power and capacity to bring dignity to human beings, but never so much as in being taught Sauk in Oklahoma one afternoon years ago. It was as if the sounds were being brought back from ancient wisps of sound, long since forgotten, wiped out by the invaders, but still there on the most minute level of sound. It was the most profound language learning experience of my life, and a lot of it had to do with the absolute dignity of the sounds of the language, spoken by true Sauk people.

      2. Another advantage of filming live classes and using those for online instruction is it gives Yvonne the live feedback on comprehension, pacing, etc. that you get with students physically present.
        I think that Fluency Fast classes are filmed in this way and offered online for future students.

  9. Fast food. Fast healing from illness via silver bullet drugs. Fast cars. Why not fast speech? It worked for Rosetta Stone. But it is false advertising. We must respect the fact that speech happens slowly and cannot involve monitoring the process with the conscious mind. The process must be turned over to the vastly complex but infinitely capable deeper mind and the parsing role of sleep in that process, and I would counsel those like Yvonne who are willing to use their talents to help others learn a language to do so with the constant and clear and authoritative reminder to their students that speech output is not something that happens quickly, but only after tons of input. It is the moral responsibility of the instructor to make it clear. Has the field of teaching reached such a low point that our expertise on things like speech output is something that, if people don’t like it, they can ignore and try to go buy it somewhere else? Either we know about this work we do or we don’t. So many don’t, so many lack any real knowledge of SLA acquisition theory, that they simply should not be in the field, with their shaming worksheets and constant focus on thinking, when thinking has nothing to do with it.

    1. I’m laughing at the Rosetta Stone reference. I’m trying to use Memrise to learn Latvian. Given that I’m in a Russian-speaking town in Latvia, it’s not like I hear it a lot. I hear only the polite phrases. I read a lot of incomprehensible Latvian on signs, and the fact that it’s often repeated (on every store front: Darba Laiks: 7-6) doesn’t really help me. I should have figured out that meant “work hours” sooner, and the uncertainty finally drove me to look it up.
      I evidently have the highest score of anyone who’s worked her way through Latvian instruction on the site, and I can communicate only three words: Good day, thank you, and you’re welcome. Guess why…I’ve heard them, after reading them and getting answers right probably two hundred times or more each. I understand why that has taken me so long, but most people wouldn’t.

  10. Yvonne, et al.,
    I will be teaching distance learning classes of kids in real time (with a day of independent work), so the tires of CI Online are really beginning to hit the pavement for me (is that a VanPatten quote?).
    I think the key to teaching online is reading. Once you have your face-to-face CI time with them, they should be reading. This post is hot off the press, describing how to create automatic personalized stories with some Google resources ( The short of it; use autoCrat.

    1. Hi Lance, I will really want to follow up on how to do these. Thanks for sharing your instructions! I haven’t heard of this feature in Google+.
      I tutor online sometimes and this kind of student-generated comprehensible reading would be a really lovely addition, esp. if it can handle Chinese characters.

  11. Wow!
    Thank you so much ! My mind is well and truly buzzing now .
    Ben – You are so right about taking time to explain that learning a language cannot be put in the category of ‘Instant ‘ . And I will be using the example of trying to reduce the time for pregnancy.
    Judy you are so right . Two or 3 answers will give them a wider scope. In Igbo language , school means uloakwukwo ( ulo – house and akwukwo – book. So the house for books is the literal meaning ) . My daughter knows it as such . However, it can be shortened to ‘akwukwo’ sometimes, but the real meaning of akwukwo is book. My sister in law asked my daughter once if she is going to akwukwo. My daughter was confused because she couldn’t understand why her Aunt would be asking her if she is going to book. That’s one of the intricacies of language. both are right but its the context that matters.
    I do get people saying that they are travelling to Nigeria in a week and that they want to start speaking Igbo in 7 days. It is difficult to explain that it takes time.
    Rosetta stone is definitely selling a false dream – That’s why I get so uncomfortable that I haven’t yet found a solution for getting them to participate online. But the reading does help – especially if it is graded.
    Thanks Chill 🙂
    Lance, I am so excited about autocrat. I just used the form to create a personalized story. I will try it on my Igbo students.
    More suggestions and comments are very welcome . This is so helpful to me – Thank You!

  12. Yes Yvonne I think that you will find reading a great friend in this work.
    Also, Diane’s idea of allowing your online students output during pauses is certainly one that I don’t disagree with. There is a delicate balance in this work in terms of the psychology of the student. As long as early efforts at output are unforced, we are in good agreement in terms of student speech output in the early months of study.
    Anyone reading, please keep this thread alive whenever you can. Don’t forget it. Yvonne’s work at finding an online design for language instruction is no small thing. We are so well equipped in our group here to come up with new ideas, because of the wealth of experience shared. If Yvonne with her technical knowledge and our varied input into the thread can together create a viable model for online language learning that is strong and effective, making the best out of a difficult situation, then our common desire to help knit the broken planet back together via happy experiences with language will take a big step forward. Yvonne please email me with any little question as you develop this model, so that I can take it to the group immediately, and so move together forward to one day perfect using the internet to teach languages, according to His will.

    1. Reading is definitely the way to go. Part of what I plan to do is to have bi-lingual and Igbo only storybooks, once I get my act together.I am also in the process of finishing off an illustrated Igbo-English children’s dictionary which some people have been clamouring for. I hope to also turn it into an app eventually.
      I will be very very happy to share any technical knowledge I have on elearning authoring and digital media.
      I would really love to see a strong and effective model for online learning for languages, and I know that I will keep coming back to this thread , because I always learn something new each time I read the comments again.

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