My ‘TL’ Story (Part 1): Why I Didn’t Use The Target Language

From 2004 to 2012 I found it very difficult to stay in the target language.  In the classroom I was creative, strict, and entertaining.  However, my target language use was limited to 5%-25% of class time. (see video example)

Any TL (target language) I did use was generally…

  • …during a beginning of the class routine.
  • …isolated phrases throughout the lesson.
  • …lyrics to a song.

Most of my directions to the class were always given in English.  I would feel guilty about not using more of the TL.  I knew my supervisors would expect it.  I assumed my colleagues would disapprove of me if they saw how little I used the target language.  When I knew a formal observation was approaching I’d try to use more of the TL so the students wouldn’t be so ‘thrown off’ if I started only speaking in the TL when my supervisor was in the room.

Why didn’t I use the target language during at least 90% of my instructional time?

  • I was afraid of the students misbehaving.
  • I was afraid of students giving up and calling out, “I don’t understand a word of what you’re saying.”
  • I felt like I could cover material faster if I spoke mostly in English.  (And there was a lot of material to cover)
  • Whenever I asked another teacher “how do you effectively manage behavior AND stay in the target language?,” I felt like I never got a satisfying answer.
  • etc

How about you?  Why do you find it challenging to use the TL in the foreign language classroom?  Leave comments below.

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com@HolaSrHoward

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 1): Why I Didn’t Use The Target Language

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 2): Negative Affects Of L1 Use

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 3): Inspiration To Start Teaching In The Target Language

My ‘TL’ Story (Part 4): SUCCESS – Transition To 90+% Was Easier Than I Thought

 

Comprehensible Input: Use Fewer Words

One of the biggest threats to students understanding what is happening in the foreign language setting is teachers who use too many words.  Wanting to sound impressive in the target language, some teachers use complicated sentences spoken at very fast rates.  Although this may sound pretty to proficient speakers, it sounds like a jumble of chaos to language learners.

80% of the comprehensible input battle will be won if you drastically reduce the amount of words that you use during instruction.

Instead of using lots of words in the target language:

  1. Focus on using words associated with your performance objective(s) for that day.  …and use those words and phrases repeatedly.
  2. Train yourself and your class to feel comfortable with silence.  Only fill silence with words in the target language that are meaningful or that help students take steps towards mastering the day’s perfomance objectives.
  3. Try to reduce the amount of words for a direction you give.  For example, instead of saying in the target language “I want you to walk on this side of the hallway” say “This side.” or “This side please.”  Another example:  Instead of saying in the target language, “I want the boys to sit on this side of the rug and the girls to sit on this side of the rug,” say “Boys here and girls here”
  4. Try to incorporate words you use often into routines.  This allows students to hear important target vocabulary repeatedly and in a context that is anticipated, safe and comfortable.

See what others are saying about Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language.

Señor Howard

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com/blog – @HolaSrHoward

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd

Your voice is valuable! Share your target language teaching experiences!

Leave comments below or add to the conversation on twitter by using #TL90plus (for staying in the target language” comments) and/or #langchat (for general language teaching comments).

Comprehensible Input: Only Short Deciphering Periods

ACTFL recommends that foreign language teachers should stay in the target language at least 90% of the time.  I recommend this as well…

…but I don’t recommend that instructional leaders expect students to attempt to figure out what’s being said for the entire class period.

Most students can’t sustain on-task behavior, in an immersion setting, for extended amounts of time.  Being in a situation and not understanding the spoken language is stressful and tiring.  Only highly motivated language learners can sustain any effort to interpert their foreign surroundings for extended amounts of time.  So it’s important to…

…have ‘deciphering periods’ that last only 3-5 minutes.

What do I mean by deciphering periods?  It’s the time a student is bravely trying to figure out what is happening when they’re being exposed to new content.  After a student has invested energy into figuring out or decifering target vocabulary, follow up with a low-stress activity.  Low-stress activities can include:

  • Watching engaging video clips in the TL. (examples)
  • Participating in review activities or tasks that have been epxlained and mastered in the past.
  • Doing some kind of seat work, individually, where student success is anticipated.

Pattern the flow of your class time with plenty of SHORT ‘deciphering periods broken up by low-stress, non-threatening activities.

See what others are saying about Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language.

Señor Howard

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com/blog – @HolaSrHoward

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd

Your voice is valuable! Share your target language teaching experiences!

Leave comments below or add to the conversation on twitter by using #TL90plus (for staying in the target language” comments) and/or #langchat (for general language teaching comments).

Comprehensible Input: Behavior Management is HUGE

Foreign language teachers spend a lot of time and energy preparing visuals, props and handouts so that their input with be comprehensible or understandable to their students.  But just remember…

…any effort to make input comprehensible IS WASTED if students aren’t completely engaged and paying attention.

This is such an important point that you can almost say “A comprehensible-input-issue is a classroom management issue”.  A foreign language instructor that wants to stay in the target language must have an excellent plan for behavior management.

If the students aren’t watching you and/or the point of instruction, none (or very little) of the input will be comprehensible.

Language learners (depending on their proficiency level) can’t rely on their sense of hearing to help them understand what’s being communicated.  Teachers need to use any number of strategies to help the spoken language be understood not through the students sense of hearing but through their sense of sight, or touch or through creating predictable situations where a limited amount of target vocabulary can be explored, experienced, experimented with…etc.  Consequently if input is to be comprehensible a student needs to be watching and engaged during all instructional activities.

A foreign language teacher should invest just as much energy into effective classroom management strategies as she/he does into strategies for making input comprehensible.

See what others are saying about Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language.

Señor Howard

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com/blog – @HolaSrHoward

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd

Share your target language teaching experiences!

Leave comments below or add to the conversation on twitter by using #TL90plus (for staying in the target language” comments) and/or #langchat (for general language teaching comments).

Comprehensible Input: Explained In Simple Terms

Although it’s not a complete definition, comprehensible input is easy to understand if you think of it this way:

…it’s what you do to avoid your students having the thought “I don’t understand what my teacher is saying.”

(Sr. Howard’s revised definition 10-27-16: “L2 input becomes comprehensible when a student finds meaning in the L2 (linguistic) input apart from the aid/crutch of extralinguistic cues.”)

Language teachers, that stay in the target language, must avoid students thinking, “I DON’T GET THIS,” at all costs.  If a student makes the conclusion that he/she can’t understand, there’s very little time before the student loses interest.  Not only will a student lose interest but their belief that they can succeed in the foreign language classroom is threatened.

To all foreign language teachers embracing an immersion model of instruction:

Do everything you can to make the students believe that they can understand at least 80% of what is happening in the classroom.

See what others are saying about Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language.

Señor Howard

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com/blog – @HolaSrHoward

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd

Share your target language teaching experiences!

Leave comments below or add to the conversation on twitter by using #TL90plus (for staying in the target language” comments) and/or #langchat (for general language teaching comments).

Staying In the Target Language: Not Easy

A blog sharing effective and practical strategies for staying in the target language during foreign language instruction.  ACTFL recommends that foreign language teachers should use the target language at least 90% of the time. (see ACTFL Position Statement)

But it’s not easy to stay in the target language.

  • How do you redirect off-task behavior when students don’t understand what you’re saying?
  • How do give directions effectively?
  • What do you do to keep students engaged during instructional time?
  • Isn’t it faster to just teach them what the words mean in English?
  • Why spend 15 minutes struggling through a charades-type-instruction when the students can understand the meaning of the same 5 words in 15 seconds of English instruction?
  • etc.

What else makes it difficult to stay in the target language?  Leave comments an questions below.

Follow this blog to receive weekly posts sharing effective and practical strategies for staying in the target language.

See what others are saying about Tuesday’s Tips For Staying In The Target Language.

Señor Howard

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com/blog – @HolaSrHoward

Caleb Howard – www.SoMuchHope.com – @calhwrd

Share your target language teaching experiences!

Leave comments below or add to the conversation on twitter by using #TL90plus (for staying in the target language” comments) and/or #langchat (for general language teaching comments).