Just Say It In English!

Many new teachers walk into a buzz saw when they faithfully stay in bounds like for twenty minutes during the CI, and then in one moment of folly, something comes up in the story like when mom says, “You can’t be a gorilla (in bounds) because we don’t have a gorilla suit! (out of bounds)”

The new teacher must know when he is about to go out of bounds and head it off at the pass. He doesn’t have to not say it, he should just say it in English, to get through it. I know, I know it’s all about  use of the L2. But if the idea needs to be conveyed to keep the flow of the story going, then just go ahead and say it in English – it just takes a second.

When you say it in English you thereby avoid the quicksand of trying to say it in the target language (they won’t understand it), thereby messing up the flow of the L2, which messes up creation of the “din” in their deeper minds, without which we cannot hope to have acquisition happen.



11 thoughts on “Just Say It In English!”

  1. …but if the idea needs to be conveyed to keep the flow of the story going, then just go ahead and say it in English…

    I had this happen just yesterday. We were working on a Halloween story (based loosely on Jim Tripp’s story). Our hero went to the beach in Fiji and talked to the Yeti. Then she went to Mt. Everest and talked to Godzilla. One of my more linear thinkers immediately objected that the yeti lives on Mt. Everest. I was confronted with a situation: go back and change the whole story? No time. Try to come up with a reason in German and deal with all the new vocabulary? No time, and too much new material. So I simply looked at the student and said, “Der Yeti ist ‘on vacation’.” Problem solved, and we could go on. There was a whirlwind of brain activity for a second or so as I weighed my options, but the class didn’t perceive all of that; they just got an answer and were satisfied. (BTW, Godzilla was also on vacation, which is why he was on Mt. Everest and not in Tokyo.) At some point I will deal with “on vacation”, but yesterday was not the day for that.

  2. …so I simply looked at the student and said, “Der Yeti ist ‘on vacation’….

    Right on. LOL. I wish I could have been there to see their faces when you said it…. They had to think (you gave them no choice) “Oh yeah… the Yeti is on vacation.” What is really great, appeals to me here, is that I probably would have given it to the “…whirlwind of brain activity for a second or so as I weighed my options…” and then, knowing myself, I would have confused myself and them and lost the flow of the CI. You used two words in English to diffuse the entire thing. Love this.

    1. There was a wrestling match between “Grammar Me” and “Comprehension Me”. “Grammar Me” really wanted to announce “Der Yeti ist im Urlaub”. Then “Comprehension Me” stepped in and said, “But they won’t understand that. Just give them the English and move on.” So I did. Point, Comprehensible Input. (Or as Carol Gaab would put it, I used “just enough” English to stay in the target language.)

      1. As a long-time wrestler, I imagine the “Grammar Me” to be the guy who overthinks the match and gets super nervous beforehand contemplating possible outcomes. The “Comprehension Me” I’m guessing would be more aware of his body, not because he studied technique books and drilled certain moves every day, but because he wrestles so much, logging hours all year round, and has what we call “mat awareness” because he’s had so much time on the mat. I’ll put my money on the latter.

        And if I can take this analogy one step further, all that wrestling that is happening, I think is best if it begins with a half-ass kind of rolling around, just getting the feel of moving from one side of your body to the next, under the weight of your opponent. Forget about the full-on real match wrestling, that’s immersion, and can wear down a guy or gal real fast. I think I’d be a better wrestling coach now after having studied the tenets of CI and TPRS and applying them to this arena. I think.

  3. It is really counterintuitive at first glance, but only from the outdated “immersion” mindset. But it makes so much sense to use English as a tool for helping keep us in the target language. It all goes back to whether or not it’s comprehensible, and student comprehension trumps TL as far as I’m concerned. Or we can stick to our TL guns and waste a bunch of time trying to translate “sugar Candy Mountain” into the TL. And once we do, our students won’t even understand it.

    1. …and once we do, our students won’t even understand it….

      So true. Teachers really do make this error all the time – we go off the tracks, losing time and confusing the students – and we don’t need to.

      They don’t need to “go there” with Sugar Candy Mountain. One of the true strengths of this method is that, when we use the word “Wal-Mart” in a story, the deeper mind (which is organizing everything and no, we don’t do that conscously if you are a grammar teacher reading this) gets a bit of a break and a chance to hang all the other comprehensible input on the word they know in English. It really helps the deeper mind to organize the rest of the sentence when it has a reference point in English.

  4. So any of you who used the Halloween story, in Spanish, didn’t say “Víspera de la festividad de Todos los Santos”?!

    I’m joking of course. The word “Halloween” allows all the high-frequency stuff to stick out in bold (wants to be, should, etc). And I suppose most people in the world have heard “Halloween” before, from movies and U.S. pop culture.

  5. LOL Jim. Great example. Same thing with Thanksgiving in French. Do you have a Thanksgiving story?

    My only problem with Halloween this week – and I have some film that will require a little subtitling but I’ll post it here as soon as I get that done – was we don’t say the H in French and so I kept choking over that letter H in the middle of the story.

    1. We don’t pronounce the H in Spanish either, but I just say it like we do in English anyway.

      I do have a Thanksgiving story, it’s called Nappy Nap. It’s in my book. Should I send it to you to post here? The structures are “pounds (lbs)”, “after eating”, and “takes a nap”. It’s pretty fun, and you can work up to it with learning some common thanksgiving foods.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Search

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to Our Mailing List

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.

Related Posts

CI and the Research (cont.)

Admins don’t actually read the research. They don’t have time. If or when they do read it, they do not really grasp it. How could

Research Question

I got a question: “Hi Ben, I am preparing some documents that support CI teaching to show my administrators. I looked through the blog and

We Have the Research

A teacher contacted me awhile back. She had been attacked about using CI from a team leader. I told her to get some research from

The Research

We don’t need any more research. In academia that would be a frivolous comment, but as a classroom teacher in languages I support it. Yes,



Subscribe to be a patron and get additional posts by Ben, along with live-streams, and monthly patron meetings!

Also each month, you will get a special coupon code to save 20% on any product once a month.

  • 20% coupon to anything in the store once a month
  • Access to monthly meetings with Ben
  • Access to exclusive Patreon posts by Ben
  • Access to livestreams by Ben