Ci & tprs


So, are you saying the student can do nothing all class and learn through osmosis? What if the student is disruptive and causes what would have otherwise been high quality teaching to be of low quality due to their actions? What if the student doesn't practice outside of class and isn't putting in the time required.
I've not discovered that I can blame the teacher entirely for some of my failed attempts to learn Chinese. Regardless of the quality of the teaching, if I didn't put in the time practicing Chinese, it wouldn't improve.


Yep, that is essentially what the TPRS guys say - albeit probably with the word acquire. This is why I've become quite excited about it. It's a potential goldmine if we can only work out a way to sell it in Taiwan.

Students do nothing but sit down and listen while the teacher does all the work. The Taiwanese will lap it up. Getting them to believe in it will be a whole different kettle of fish.


I am a total beginner in TPRS.
I can tell you this though.
The first song I ever do with my high school kids is Higher - by Creed.
They talk about dreams, what they want from life, why dreams don't come true and then we listen to the song. They get to talk in Chinese but they report back in English or they choose not to report back. We discuss the song and they talk about how they feel regarding dreams and if the song addresses that.
By the end of the lesson, they learn through osmosis. The worst ones have something to share. I am no expert in TPRS but I believe that it is possible. I am one of those teachers who feel that complaining about students only makes the teacher unhappy and achieves nothing.


What is the difference between complaining about a student and noticing where a student may have a problem in learning and trying talk to others about it for help? I know there is a difference, but somebody please help me find out what it is.


The student can do nothing all through class, and yes, he will learn (acquire language) through "osmosis". That's what acquisition is -- that mysterious thing that happens in the brain without any conscious effort, given the right conditions (meaningful input). Now, will that recalcitrant student acquire as quickly as a student who is paying active attention and cooperating? Probably not.

Discipline and classroom management have NOTHING to do with teaching methodology. Discipline must precede instruction of any kind.

However, with TPRS, we commonly do not give homework (it doesn't improve acquisition versus the effort required on the part of the teacher!) and the whole point is to provide sufficient comprehensible input during class so that acquisition takes place. Writing things out might help literacy (which is NOT language acquisition per se!) but not acquisition (and should, IMO, follow acquisition of a given item, not occur in tandem, because literacy follows acquisition, or should).

You absolutely can "blame" the teacher if you don't acquire Chinese. Anyone with normal brain function can acquire any language out there, given sufficient comprehensible input. Anyone. If that isn't happening in your class, your teacher isn't providing enough CI. Now, most traditional teachers don't even realize that they should be providing CI, because they don't believe that's how languages are "learned". They're busy providing you with rules, which require practice, and having you memorize vocabulary, which requires practice. And the results are often not optimal anyway. Acquisition just happens. We can bow and preen but in the end it's the brain doing the work. We just facilitate it.

Try a full-on CI language class once and see if you feel a difference. I'll be demoing the method teaching Hawaiian language at ROC ETA in November, so if you don't speak a lick of Hawaiian, it's a good chance to see how much you can acquire in how much time using CI. A couple of Forumosans have experienced a little of this, not really a full-on demo but a truncated one, and seemed to "pick things up" and retain them well after the mini demo. I'm also looking into setting up a Mandarin intensive (8-10 hours or so on a weekend) through CI for beginners in Oct/Nov while I'm over there, if there seems to be enough interest. At the end of 8-10 hours, you can really do things with the language.


Not quite. There are rules used in most TPRS classrooms, that go something like this:

  1. My job (teacher) is to provide you with language you can understand. If you do not understand everything, you MUST signal immediately. [They won't all do it, but we also do comprehension checks and 'teach to the eyes' to keep them honest about that.]

  2. Your job (student) is to listen and try to understand. See #1 above if you don't.

  3. You may use a maximum of 2 words of [native language] in cases when you don't know how to say something in the target language (for open-ended questions.)

  4. Speak only [target language] in class, unless you are asked "What did I just say?" or "What does that mean?", which you answer in [native language]. Answer all other questions (chorally or individually) in the target language. There will be a lot of them. Some will seem incredibly obvious. Answer them anyway. :smiley:

  5. [my own personal classroom management stuff] Nothing on your desk. No pencil, no paper, nothing. [eliminates fidgeting; I pass out quarter-sheets of paper and golf sized pencils for quizzes.] Keep our class "Grandma-friendly" (no language or content that would shock my Grandma.) [Specify "your" Grandma because they'll claim their Grandmas are really out there...]


It's the paying attention that might be difficult to sell in Taiwan. Have you seen university classes? Lots of people not only just sit at the back and chat with their friends or do their homework, they actually think this is the normal thing to do in class. The profs don't seem to care.

Anyway, how many students would be ideal in a CI class? The buxibans cram as many as they can into one class, but I'm guessing 24 students wouldn't work well in a CI context.

And I know parents and students are afraid to try something different, because if it doesn't work, the students will have lost out on precious exam time, but it seems ridiculous to me that they think the way English is typically taught now is the best way. Surely even a little common sense would make you realize that a class with virtually no English, from teacher or students, is not going to be optimal.
So many commentators seem to think that the choice is between the traditional, test-driven way, and methods that actually lead to English proficiency. But I have taught using more modern methods, and the students' results - in both speaking ability and on tests - were better than the traditionsl classes. When I taught at a university in China, my class had the best results in the school on the Band 4 exam. The Chinese teachers and staff were astounded - not only was I viewed as little better than a clown, but my class was considered the worst one at the beginning of the year - just a bunch of peasants. But their good results on the test didn't surprise me - they actually had experience listening to a native speaker of English, which none of the other classes had, so of course their listening scores improved. It was the same in Korea. Two of my adult students actually told me, after several months of class, that they had not thought my methods would work, but after getting high scores on TOEIC, they believed me now.


Yes, I've not only seen university classes, I've taught them in Taiwan. And vocational school classes. All sorts of highly unmotivated students, where a day without drool on the desk indicated high engagement indeed. :aiyo:

TPRS/CI works fine with large groups. The key is that you have to have rules and enforce them. That often means using Fred Jones-style classroom management techniques --- cruising the room, using proximity to keep students engaged if necessary, controlling chat and so on. There is no reason it wouldn't work with the typical 50-student group in Taiwan. It would be good not to teach in a room that has fixed seating, particularly if it is those tables that are the entire row of desks in one piece (preventing the teacher from effectively getting around the room) but that again is management, and there are always ways.


I'm trying to think about how to sell it, not the technical detail. The punters won't want to hear about the detail.

"You don't have to do anything! You just sit there and you speak like a foreigner! No homework! It's so easy!" sounds to me like a very good sales pitch in Taiwan. No new method/approach is ever going to work if students won't use it. The only half-way effective English acquisition taking place in Taiwan right now is in the private sector, and even that's pretty bloody awful, so it's likely to be the private sector where TPRS is going to fly - if anywhere. I can't see the MOE suddenly changing from vocab. build and grammar-translation to TPRS. A not for profit educational establishment might try it, if you can find one. In short, it's going to have to be given the hard sell.

Even then, it's going to be difficult to sell to adults because it's so different to what they are used to and a lot of them really enjoy pair and group work. English lessons are their only chance to practise output and they expect to be spend a lot of time talking in English even if it's not very high quality.


The classroom management issue is big in Taiwan for adolescents (and for many people, adolescence seems to extend well through their 20s), as it is anywhere, of course (that's why they're adolescents). In many respects, my fourth grade students are much more civilised and mature than many of my junior high school students (especially a very large percentage of the ninth grade students whom I have been told by their elementary school teacher were quite disrespectful and unpleasant even back then). I don't have any fourth grade students who sleep in class, talk constantly even if I'm looking right at them waiting for them to stop, constantly touch each other (I have asked this so many times, but what is it with teenage boys in this country grabbing each other's genitals all the time?) or generally treat everyone else in the room, but especially me, with complete disrespect.

tom: Perhaps the best way to sell it is simply to produce students who out-perform others, even on the tests, in the long run. I seriously think though that if you want to get it off the ground, then in the first couple of years at least, you're going to have to largely forget about pitching it at/to the kinds of people who go to English classes, which means that you're probably going to have to forget about it making money in that time also, but in some sense, that could be incredibly liberating. In fact, I'd say you'd basically have to say you're going to do it for free or very cheaply, but very carefully screen your students, as well as be prepared to kick people out who insist on (subconsciously) trying to turn it into a normal English course.

Basically, recruit a bunch of people who don't have that much drive to learn English right now and possibly even think of themselves as "dumb" or "bad at school". Explain what you're going to do, how and why, and then go with them. Then do it, and make it relaxed, easy, etc. Basically, the complete antithesis of what these people remember school being about generally and what everyone else thinks school is about. Any hardcore buxibaner who, after the first or second lesson, still turns up with folders, pencils, electronic dictionaries, etc. is someone you probably need to kick out pretty soon. That's why I mentioned pineapple farmers. These guys don't have a stake in, or an opinion about, learning English for tests because there's not a career agenda there. So, if they were in your class it would probably be for the sake of ultimately being able to really communicate. Also, if initially, you did it for free or very cheaply, other than losing their time, they couldn't say you "owed" them anything and that they, in some sense, "owned" you. You could really dictate the terms of what happened in the classroom.

Then, a couple of years later, you shock the shit out of all these hardcore buxibaners when you present your pineapple farmers, your blue truck drivers and Taiwan's academic castoffs and show everyone else up. You make a giant cardboard cutout of A-Huang, the pineapple farmer who won some national competition, and every time some future student starts complaining about how unorthodox your method is, you point to the cutout of A-Huang and shut him up, quick smart.

The more I think about this, the keener I am to go and round up a bunch of the local pineapple farmers some time within the next year and do just this.


Well Guy, if I need any pineapples in the future I'll know who to ask :laughing: , because that's all they're going to be paying you.

Unfortunately, my lifestyle requires a bit more of a cash income than yours. Keep us in the loop on how it all pans out, though. I'm very interested in how things develop. I think I'll probably wait until TPRS etc is accepted as standard before I risk my livelihood on it.

When I think about it, communicative approaches have been generally accepted for about 30 years now and the MOE still don't even use them in public schools here. Are they really going to move to something brand new, even if the results prove them wrong? It's really difficult to change mind-sets in any culture and, at the risk of being a tad politically incorrect, Han culture is probably near the top of the list.


tom: Obviously, I'm not going to quit my paying job to do this, and obviously, I'd suggest you don't either. I do think that things will change here on a geological timescale, but perhaps you can use this culture to your advantage. If you consistently rub better results on tests in their faces, then they will lose face. Of course, they could just stick their heads further in the sand, or they could come around to your way of doing things.


I like Guy's assessment, but I'm imagining a pool of people who could benefit from English in their careers, know it, and yet have given up as active learners, rather than pineapple farmers. As one potential starting point, are there any good adult TPRS textbooks?


Tempo: Yes, the pineapple farmers is a bit of hyperbole. What you suggest is perhaps a little closer to the mark.

By textbook, do you mean that people would use in class? Isn't that the antithesis of TPRS? TPRS is basically tailored to each individual class on each particular day, in my understanding of it. Using a textbook would heavily restrict that and actually just be more of the usual.

Do you mean handbook? Like something with a theoretical explanation, step-by-step and example (and analysis) of stories? There are a few examples of those that have been given in this thread or others. Ben Slavic has some, and I ordered his DVDs (almost 8 hours' worth) last week. When I get them and watch them, I'll write a review.


No, there are actually quite a few TPRS textbooks. (Please, don't assume you've exhausted the TPRS universe without having been in it for any significant period of time.)

TPRS is tailored to each individual class on each day, but that doesn't preclude the use of a textbook. In fact, for most beginning teachers of TPRS, I'd recommend going with an established TPRS curriculum. It gives a lifeline to hang on to as you're learning to make the method work. If you read a lot of Ben Slavic, you might think that a textbook is death, but Ben Slavic is way out on one end of the TPRS continuum, and a lot of his viewpoints are based on his own reality as a tenured secondary teacher who doesn't have to worry a lot about proving he's doing one thing or another or showing he's doing it in some particular way.

Using a textbook does not restrict TPRS if it is used instead of clung to frantically. It makes it easier for beginners to a) select appropriate structures and items in a logical order; b) have something to fall back on when the class is less than optimally responsive (which might be a big issue in many Taiwanese situations) and c) allows for some basis for the beginner to seek help either from fellow learners or from more experienced TPRS people. Another aspect of TPRS training is helping teachers to do TPRS in situations where they are required to use a non-TPRS-friendly textbook. In that case, the textbook used is not a TPRS one, but there is still a textbook being used. That's harder for a beginner (indeed for most people -- writing curriculum is a separate skill from teaching it) but can be done, although probably not as easily nor effectively as using a TPRS-friendly textbook.

All these ins and outs are why people get training. The problem is that most reasonably comprehensive TPRS training workshops are multi-day, often 3 days. For a new-to-TPRS teacher, if anyone has the time, traveling to the US to go to the NTPRS convention in July would be a good idea, since that will be four days of intensive skills-based training. The workshop itself isn't very expensive -- I think it's on the order of NT$12000 or so for four days -- but of course the airfare and hotel are another matter!


Re: pricing.

I think if you were assuming (probably rightly) that you would have a low rate of adoption/acceptance for TPRS techniques among students, I wouldn't price it low, I'd price it high. Make it something that's completely outside the pale. Get the special ed kids, the obasan mamas, and all the people who have money to burn but no test scores to back up their bucks, and make them fluent.

Several reasons for this: you can always lower prices but it's hard to raise them later; you can always offer "scholarships" at any time you choose; people like getting a discount anyway, if you go that route; there will be a low perceived value if you underprice teaching using this method vs. any other; and many times, people just "like" to pay more for something that's different.

The key to getting anyone to adopt TPRS (teacher or student) is the demo. You have to have a half-hour or so demo that people can succeed at. If they can't re-tell the story at the end of the demo, they won't buy in. If they can, they will often become converts. If you look at all the successful TPRS presenters, they either have a super-smooth demo in their back pocket, or they hire a demonstrator to work with them and deliver that (often in cases where their own languages are commonly taught, so folks would already know them.)

If you can bring people into a room and teach them (very, very) basic language and have them be fluent with it at the end of your demo, they will appreciate what the method can do.

On that note, I'd also advise using some sort of a feedback recording with TPRS students at first. Have them listen to a passage in English and record their own reaction to its difficulty in their own words (Chinese is fine) in writing or speech. Put that away. Do TPRS with them for six months, and then play the same recording for them (it should contain curriculum items you've been doing with them!) and get their reaction again. Let them compare their reactions before and after.

Progress with TPRS can be so incremental that learners often don't realize they've made any. They're used to measuring progress with how many rules they know or how many words they've "learned". TPRS is more holistic, like all language acquisition, so it's useful to have some benchmarks that students can see when the whole "but we're not learning anything" thing comes up (and it will).


Very interesting about the pricing.

Thanks for clearing that up about textbooks. I misunderstood what TPRS was then. So, can you recommend a textbook? Also, by textbook, do you mean a book the students and teacher use?


Going to the US to learn this - very well priced.
Being in Taiwan for the birth of the my second.- not in the ballpark
Will be there next year.


Language acquisition within the family always trumps language acquisition outside of it!


I couldn't agree with you more here.
I have a book in front of me on the subject of teaching English. The second chapter is called "How To Be a Good Learner." It talks to students about the importance of student motivation in learning a language. Students must have a willingness to listen, a willingness to experiment, a willingness to ask questions, a willingness to think about how to learn, and a willingness to accept correction. These are things the student needs to have and if they don't have them, they must be open to the teacher trying to elicit them out of them. Without these things, it is going to be an uphill battle.
I have been taught that a good teacher allows the student to be the center of the class. The teacher is essentially the coach on the side and the student is out on the court practicing during the week and shooting the hoops during the game.