What is the Speakening Method of Language Learning?

As I have explained before, the word “speakening” is a combination of the words “speaking” and “listening.” It describes the technique of silently and simultaneously repeating what a speaker is saying to you, thus: speaking while listening. This technique makes the native speaker’s fluent speech clear to the student. It is not, however, the only feature of the Speakening Method of Language Learning.

In fact, while the technique of speakening as described above is the answer to the ultimate problem of understanding native speakers of your new language, it is not the most important feature of the Speakening Method. The Speakening Method of Language Learning is a way of practicing that every successful language learner uses to some degree or other. I use it to the exclusion of all other methods.

With all the complicated, pretty language learning software out there, why do I restrict myself to only one practice method? The answer is simple: it is the shortest route from beginner to fluent speaker that I have yet discovered. If I find a shorter one, I will share it with you. Games, graphics, exercises, and tests take you further from, not closer to the goal of a serious language learner: to learn a new language. We are not looking to be entertained, amused, or amazed by technological detours down dead ends that delay the gratification of achieving our goal.

So what is this magical practice method? It doesn’t require any software, let alone expensive software. It doesn’t even require a computer or a mobile device. Blasphemy in the 21st century! In fact, once you understand the pronunciation of the language, all you need is enough printed material to continue increasing your vocabulary and knowledge of the structure of the language, that is, its grammar.

The practice method I extol is this:

1. Divide a sentence into phrases of no longer than 2-3 words.

(It may be necessary to occasionally practice 4-5 word phrases, but they can usually be broken down to 2-3 word phrases.)

2. Read the first phrase aloud until you can say it smoothly, not necessarily rapidly.

3. Repeat the phrase without looking at the text.

4. Repeat it silently, without looking, as rapidly as possible.

5. Repeat it one more time while looking at the text, smoothly, not necessarily rapidly.

6. Move on to the subsequent phrases in the same manner until the end of the sentence.

You can use this method with any text, even the news.

That’s it. There is no need to put the whole sentence together. The brain knows what to do with the information you’ve already given it. It’s what the brain does. Trust it.

I have spent my entire adult life honing my language learning skills so that I can learn new languages as quickly as possible. What’s the rush? First, it’s fun to speak newly acquired languages with native speakers. Not only do they appreciate the effort, many actually light up when they hear you say something in a language they never thought you could know. Next, we all have other things we both have to do and enjoy doing. I, for one, love to play the piano and guitar, write songs, dance salsa, and play chess, among other things. All these things require practice. Practice takes time. If I can get the same result in less time, it would be madness to do it any other way.

One other thing: The Speakening Method of Language Learning requires practice. Practice is just another word for repetition. Don’t let anyone tell you that repetition is of no value. Whoever believes that has never mastered any skill. Ask the greatest athletes, musicians, spiritual masters, language learners, you name it, what they did to achieve such spectacular results and they will tell you: practice, i.e. repetition. “What should you practice?” is the next question. Any good beginner’s book in your language of choice will suffice, provided you understand the pronunciation. After that, any text will do. At speakening.com, English language learners practice all the sentence patterns commonly used in English with the guidance of a native English speaker, i.e. me.

So learn the Speakening Method and practice your new language this way. You won’t be sorry. Quite the contrary; you’ll be amazed. If your language of choice is English, please feel free to join us at speakening.com. You can take your time practicing your new technique because the first ten lessons are free. By the time you’re finished working through the free lessons, we’re sure you will see the value of the method and will want to join the Speakening community of English language learners.

by John DePonte

More is Less: The Common Core Standards

The Common Core Standards Initiative is in full swing in the United States and the outcry from students, parents, and teachers is deafening. Adoption of the standards is not mandatory. However, while some states have indeed rejected the initiative, this means that they will not be eligible for federal Race to the Top funding, a significant consideration. The No Child Left Behind Act was forced on our schools in the same way. It is important to point out that education, as specified in the U.S. Constitution, is within the purview of the state governments, not the federal government. By bribing educational autonomy away from the states, the federal government denies our families a significant amount of freedom in choosing how their children should be educated.

The Common Core Standards were devised by politicians and business people without any input from those who know the needs of the students: their parents and teachers. The curriculum, which remains a mystery, will be determined by assessments developed by and for the federal government. The standards were unleashed without provision of resources, teacher training, or field-testing. In fact, the 2013 NYSESLAT (New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test) was changed mid-year to accommodate the new standards. This means that English Language Learners had no materials with which to prepare for the exam and their teachers had no resources with which to help them.

Because the standards have been initiated without a curriculum that takes into consideration the needs of the students, elementary school children are working deep into the night on homework they simply cannot understand because it is not developmentally appropriate for their age. They are developing a real fear of the classroom because it has become a forum for failure. High school students who were already having difficulty are now losing all interest in secondary education. English language learners, whose challenges have never been properly appreciated, will fall even further behind their American-born peers, resulting in an even higher dropout rate. Teachers who realize the futility of what they are being mandated to do to their students are leaving the profession.

The Common Core Standards Initiative is motivated by a reasonable idea: students at the same grade level should be learning the same material throughout the country. In addition, this material should be appropriate for ultimately preparing the students for college and the workplace. However, the development and implementation of the standards have ignored one minor detail: the needs of the students. Demanding that all students learn the same thing in the same way in the same timeframe ignores everything we know about how human beings learn, and it ignores English language learners altogether. Our students are already struggling, failing, and dropping out. Arbitrarily increasing and homogenizing their workload is, to be euphemistic, counter-intuitive. Making it incomprehensible is incomprehensible. At least some thought should be given to how our students can learn what they need to know while still being able to enjoy growing up in America.

by John DePonte