Learning a language is like learning a song.
do we remember a song? By listening of
course. But we listen intently. The song penetrates our subconscious memory
almost immediately and stays there almost forever in just the form that it
for most of us a foreign language is rather different from an ordinary
song. It is much longer and more
complex. The sounds do not enter easily
our subconscious memory automatically.
One has to create the emotional environment that allows the sounds to input
that memory. Casual listening is not enough. It is too shallow. It lacks the emotional pressures and
incentives that allow the sounds to penetrate the subconscious.
Deep Listening aims to provide just that all-important emotional environment. I have used this technique to teach myself
Russian, Japanese and now Spanish.
Before that I had to learn Chinese and French. I would like to pass on that experience to students of foreign languages,
English especially, in Japan.
The key to the Deep Listening materials I have developed with Eikyo is
that the student is encouraged to listen not just to try to understand
meaning but also to solve a puzzle. The students listen to a story in the text of
which certain words are replaced by blanks.
The students then have to try to fill in the blanks.
This filling in the blanks (anaume) technique has many benefits. It
encourages students to listen deeply, but in a way where their efforts are
easily rewarded. It enables teachers to
know quickly and accurately the extent of students’ listening abilities. And by writing out the missing words, the
memory process is reinforced.
the sentences with blanks should be played several times to help students not
only catch the missing words but also to begin to remember entire
sentences. That way the ‘song’ enters
the subconscious memory. This
memorization of sentence patterns is the key to learning any language.
these are not the only benefits. The
materials contain quizzes and exercises that help greatly to reinforce what the
students have already learned from the listening process. Teachers who allocate some or all of the anaume material as homework will
find that students come into the classroom well-prepared. In the process, both weaker and advanced
students are able to work at their own pace.
And the teachers can devote more of their time to explaining the grammar
and vocabulary in the text. Isseki Tasho.
honorary president, Tama University