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Accelerated language learning

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Overview Edit

Accelerated Language Learning developed out of the work and theories of Georgi Lozanov`s suggestopedia. The term now associated to many methods in education that work to accelerate learning. The term "accelerated learning" is a very broad term and encompasses many different techniques, methodologies and approaches to teaching and learning. Some methods which would generally be considered to fall under the title of accelerated learning would be: mind maps, Brain Gym(R) or Edu-Kinesthetics, concert texts, reading to music, multiple intelligences theory, various memory techniques, the use of music to influence the emotional and mental state of learners, state setting in a broader sense, the use of songs to aid learning, pattern spotting, the implementation of chunking, suggestopedia, Neuro-linguistic programming, the use of drama, suspension of disbelief etc.

Applications Edit

In terms of the teaching and learning of foreign languages specifically, accelerated learning can really come into its own. It has been and is being put to good use by language teachers across the world. An accelerated learning language lesson could vary from the traditional language lesson in a number of ways:

(1) The learning environment may be seen as being of prime importance - a great deal of attention will be focused on the use of colour, the temperature in the room(s), the positioning of furniture, background music, smells, textures and so on. Also, posters and displays may have been carefully selected with the aim of helping students to absorb vocabulary and ideas subconsciously. Posters containing vocabulary for a unit which may not be introduced for a few weeks may be present in order to gradually familiarize students with the vocabulary in advance.

(2) State setting may be important - this is done partly through the learning environment (see number 1), but also through the use of body language by the teacher, the type of music used throughout the lesson - this might change depending on the mood/atmosphere the teacher wishes to create at any given time, the tone of voice employed at any given time by the teacher, the use of colour in presentational materials and so on. The emphasis is likely to be on making the student feel comfortable, relaxed and free from anxiety and stress.

(3) Mnemonics may be frequently used to help students retain and recall lists of vocabulary. Instead of relying on vocabulary lists, flash cards and repetition drills, the accelerated learning language teacher will often employ these creative techniques when first introducing a new topic. Students may be encouraged to use their imaginations to link items of vocabulary to parts of their body or to locations in the classroom (Loci). This injects a sense of fun and usually promotes a more relaxed and free-flowing learning environment.

(4) Over-stimulation: whereas in many language classrooms, the teacher is wary of throwing too much at the student at once, the accelerated learning language teacher may bombard the student with material knowing that the human brain can often assimilate around 80% more information than we assume. Using longer texts, dramatisations and the like (often carefully supported with the English meaning along one side) allows students of varying levels of ability to take what is useful for them at that stage of their learning. This approach also allows for more opportunities to expose students to the rhythm and pronunciation of the new language.

(5) Pattern spotting and learning in broad strokes: often accelerated learning language teachers will introduce broad concepts to their students, enabling them to learn a great deal in a short amount of time. For example, if a beginner learning Spanish is told that thousands of nouns which end in 'tion' in English can easily be changed to Spanish by changing the 'tion' ending to 'ción', the student immediately has access to thousands of words and can gain confidence by producing these words independent of the teacher or learning resources.

(6) Theory of multiple intelligences application: MI Theory (proposed by Howard Gardener) asserts that there are 8 types of intelligence: interpersonal, intrapersonal, logical-mathematical, verbal-linguistic, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical-rhythmic and naturalist. In the traditional classroom environment, the verbal-linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences are often over represented. Accelerated learning attempts to redress this imbalance by including activities which allow for the activation of the other intelligences such as: games which involve movement, use of colour on worksheets/mind maps etc, use of songs, raps and music, manipulation of objects (word cards, realia etc.) and so on.

(7) The use of Chunking (psychology): chunking lessons into shorter periods takes full advantage of the attention cycle of the human brain. We are most likely to retain information presented at the beginning and end of a session; therefore if a lesson is divided into smaller chunks, we are creating more beginnings and endings and so increasing the amount of information retained.

(8) Objective setting: this practice is very wide-spread in education now and is also a vital aspect of any accelerated learning lesson. The student must understand clearly what he/she is going to learn in any particular lesson and how this is going to happen. There is then a predefined goal to work towards and a higher sense of achievement at the end of the lesson (particularly if the lesson objectives are listed on the board and can be ticked off as the lesson proceeds). What's In It For Me (W.I.I.F.M) is a key phrase to remind teachers that students want to know how what they are going to learn is relevant to them and their day-to-day experiences.

There are so many more aspects to the use of accelerated learning in the modern foreign languages classroom, but I have outlined just a few as an introduction and overview to the topic.

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