Published on Aug 5, 2013
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I always begin language lessons in a special frame of mind. I imagine I'm on some far off planet and am teaching English to aliens. I know nothing of the students' alien language, and they know nothing of mine. This means I can't directly translate English words into their language, or use their language to explain how things like grammar rules work. It also means I must make lessons as simple and intuitive as possible so students absorb things automatically.
No matter what world you live on, there are always basic rules of logic...
Logic comes in many flavors, but I'll cover three of the most important for helping your aliens learn new vocabulary as naturally as native speakers do.
The most elementary tool in your bag of logical tricks is contrast. Even without any previous knowledge or additional information, you can understand something by comparing and contrasting it with something else.
What we mean, or want others to understand, often isn't what gets transmitted. This happens frequently in everything from text messages to conversations in the same language between native speakers, so we have to be especially vigilant that we communicate, as best as possible, unmistakable messages.
As students build a foundation of basic knowledge, they can begin using context to evaluate more complex information.
When learners understand the context of an idea or message, and it's presented in a logical way, students will take care of the rest, and enjoy doing it.
The last form of logic we'll examine is analogy, a close cousin of basic comparison. If you can connect what you are trying to teach with something learners already understand, there's a better chance that information will be absorbed.
To use a simple analogy here, language learning can be like code breaking. Like the translation puzzle here, your goal should be to create a situation where students have everything they need to literally teach themselves.
Keep the following three things in mind as you teach:
1. What we consider to be simple and intuitive might not be to someone else.
2. A successful lesson should give students direct access to new information. Mental steps of translation and explanation should be limited or eliminated completely.
3. Education is the process of revealing a path to knowledge students can navigate by themselves.
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