Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Language School

I had gone to a unique language school to interview them for the new Frommer's book, because the new edition has a section for this. I was impressed with the technique, which is innovative, but expensive. If it were not so pricey, I would have considered taking Hungarian lessons there, but it is out of reach. However, non-traditional methods for teaching languages to adults is one of my professional areas, so I was curious about the methodology and pedagogy used to create the program and told the school owner. 

She did not feel qualified to answer my questions, but since my interest was to possibly publish a professional article in a professional language journal, she offered to connect me with the founder of the system. All of us met this last Friday. Unfortunately, he did not speak English, so we had to depend on the school owner to translate everything. When I asked how he came to create this program, he stated that he had heard from a friend that the average person here in Hungary spends 750,000 to 1 million Huf to pass an intermediate language exam. This gave him the business idea to create an accelerated method.

Fine, well and good, but I needed to know his research background for the development. After all, I was not planning an article for an in-flight magazine, but a professional journal. He said he had heard of Lozanov and his methods as well as Jose Silva's Mind Control research. Did he study with either of them or study using their methods? No! He just spoke to people who knew OF them. I asked if he had any teaching background. No, only business. 

Were any educators involved for resources for the pedagogical or methodological portions of his program? No! Do they do any testing after X number of lessons to assess what the student has learned? No, they repeat a lesson if the student did not get it the first time. Do they do any research and data collection on the effectiveness of the program? Yes, they have received e-mails from former students telling them how pleased they are with their new language skills. One student had to go to another country for work and was able to speak and understand things at a business meeting. Do they have any hard data? No, e-mails only from students. I also asked how he arrived at what vocabulary was to be used with each lesson and what the foundation was for building from one lesson to the other. From the response, I gather it was all by chance.

He kept repeating that students had to have a strong motivation for learning and to be stress-free during the lessons. I asked how they measured motivation. They ask the student. Personally, I would think the cost would be a motivation in itself, but not something that would appeal to a professional journal article. At the end of 26 lessons, they state the student will have a 1200 word vocabulary. True or not, this is not enough to pass an intermediate exam for writing and oral skills.

Finally, after an hour and a half of asking questions, I came out with as little substantial information as I had when I went in. When he asked if I would write the article, I honestly, but politely explained why it would not be possible without research and data to support it. Strangely, he has not used his own method for learning English.

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