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I-Ling Vocabulary strategy: student feedback 1

This is a post from my day job blog – just in case anyone recognises it. This incident was of vital importance to the ILing Research network because it is the first – of what will be many – suggestions we have to deal with in our quest to introduce an ESL system for learning vocab as opposed to a random method.

In this case, we found the student’s objection to be psycological. At I-Ling we are very serious when it comes to dealing with different learning styles and we have encountered in a small group of students (1%) a learner who has a serious problem with lists of words. They simply don’t like such a regimented approach; it seems to their style… a death to spontaniety and a form of robotic learning.

We're not trying to turn you into a robot, we're trying to turn you into an advanced English speaker.

My response…

It is already a gargantuan task to get students to study and make progress because TIME IS LIMITED. The fact that time is limited means that we must think about every minute of class time and its relation to making clear, quantifiable progress on the road to the class target: moving from fluent to advanced.

As you know, vocabulary is the most important aspect in this path. Therefore, we must have a strategy for achieving vocabulary acquisition and in this case we believe the i-ling system is the best strategy. Why? Because if everytime we want to learn new vocab we have to read an article we introduce gross ineffeciencies into the system which will severely slow us down. Ineficiencies such as…

1. Words which are clearly not adaquate for the level…

If we do an article on volcanoes, for example, students will start jotting down words of a geological nature. The memory only has so much space and we want to prioritise the memorisation of useful words not obscure ones. All students are missing vitaly important words and it is these words that are our priority.

2. No clear strategy to memorise and assimilate the word…

The I-Ling system allows us to see the word, its translation, see it in context, put it in an English to English context, use it in conversation, listen to it and check it. This significantly raises the probability of deep assimlation. Jotting down the meaning of a word next to its occurence in an article is an example of superficial assimilation and an example of everything that our organisation is against.

3. Errors in translation and explanation…

With the vocab book we have a clear translation. With an article we have to hope the teacher knows the translation or can explain it clearly. If he can not, valuable classtime can be wasted on explaining words which may not be relevant to level.

4. No clear structure or progress…

With articles the vocabulary strategy is completely random and it is dificult to gauge progress. The current system offers a clear, quantifiable line of progress. We started the course at point x and now we are at point y. this motivates students, allows everyone to see where we’re going and creates a measurable system for the efficiency of the course.

Conclusion…

While we sympathise with your position that lists seem quite mechanical we hope that you now see that it is the best way of achieving our goal. It is quite simply – much more effecient. Also, bearing in mind that we then have a class conversation with each word, we believe this to be far more fun and less robotic than reading an article and jotting down words.

Furthermore, upon conversation it seems to me that the real problem is that you have a stronger vocabulary than the rest of the class and therefore you feel you are getting less out of the book than the rest. Perhaps we should consider putting you in a different class.

Thank-you

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