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First class ESL speech – The hard facts about company classes

I’ll be giving this little speech for a first class on monday – new corporate client…

“Hi, welcome to XX language school. Before we start I want everyone to have something clear: these classes do not exist so that you can learn English. To frame the motive of these classes in those terms is to frame the class as some kind of complete language soloution – a path that takes you from zero… and leads you to fluency. This is not the case. Why? Because that’s impossible.

Let’s take a simple example: past simple irregular verbs. A recent study has shown just how long it takes to assimilate one – little known, forgotten, or new – past simple irregular. (And remember, the key word here is ‘assimilate’, not listen to, use a couple of times, but never able to incorporate it fluidly and without thinking into your speech.) Well, it turns out that for deep assimilation of a past simple form, you need to hear it, speak it and work with it for at least – at least – 12 minutes (in some cases more in some cases less, but on average 12 minutes).

So, the rest is simple mathematics… there are 90 irregular verbs which means 90 * 12 = 1080 minutes. Which is 18 hours just to get the past simple irregulars memorized. That’s 6 weeks of classes just to get one tiny aspect of a very big language.

Now anyone who doubts this can read similar figures in our research with respect to the entire route to fluency. The fact is that if all you have are these company classes, you will be here until 2020 before you’ve done enough hours to reach fluency – and even then, the sieve factor – the fact that you soon begin to forget what you learnt weeks, months and years previously – means you’ll never reach fluency.

So, I hope we all have this clear: It is impossible to learn English by attending these classes. Which all leads to the question… what are these classes for?”

And that’s where we’ll have to leave it folks. A pretty tight confidentiality agreement on the part of I-Ling forbids me from getting to the juicy part…

bye for now.


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