The Audio Method
“Hi I’m from London. Where are you from?”
“Hi, I’m from Llanvarpoffkweengyffgogerfkweendrobofxhaantysiliogogogoch.”
The place in the above conversation is a small, quiet town on the island of Anglesey, off the northwest coast of North Wales, famous for having the longest place name in Europe. It means,
“The Church of St. Mary in the Hollow of the White Hazel Trees near the Rapid Whirlpool by St. Tysilio’s of the Red Cave”
As language teachers, we rarely need to teach words, names or phrases this long, but we will use this “worst case scenario” as a fitting model to show how useful the Audio Method can be in learning any challenging vocabulary.
The Audio Method is one of the 30+ dynamic techniques we teach in our 5-day Language Instructor Course. After unpacking the whats, hows and whys of our 3-pronged approach to the Audio Method, we will come back to
Llanvarpoffkweengyffgogerfkweendrobofxhaantysiliogogogoch and show you how to learn this name and any other difficult vocabulary in minutes.
THE AUDITORY CORTEX
First, let’s give a short description of the hearing process in order to provide some context for this method. As explained at Journey Into The World Of Hearing (http://www.cochlea.org/en/hearing) and What Part of the Brain Controls Speech? (https://www.healthline.com/health/what-part-of-the-brain-controls-speech), “Sound is captured by the outer ear, amplified by the middle ear and transferred to the inner ear or cochlea, which transforms the sound vibration into a neural signal. If this neural signal involves language, the auditory nerve feeds this coded message (which contains all of the sound’s attributes: loud or soft, high or low, short or long, etc...) to the brain where different structures including Broca’s area, Arcuate asciculus and Wernicke’s area process and, if necessary, translate the language. With this in mind, we can see how the Audio Method targets the receptive skills of language acquisition.
Our research into the Audio Method took us to Mr. Paul Pimsleur. He had a Ph.D. in French from Columbia University and taught French phonetics. Paul was a scholar in the field of applied linguistics. We were attracted to his research because he focused on language acquisition process, especially how children learn. He developed the Pimsleur Language Learning system which is still popular today. The only drawback to the language system as they sell it, is the claim that this system is the only thing one needs to master a language. However, the reality is that a multi-method approach is the optimal way to quickly and effectively learn languages. We enthusiastically train our students how to effectively blend this method into the 30+ techniques of their Lexica toolbox. Today, the majority of language learning companies that offer audio recordings contain the same elements that Pimsleur pioneered. In our course, we show you how to make your own audio recordings to address the specific learning goals of your lessons. Let’s now unpack the three core elements of the Audio Method and see why it is so effective.
All audio-based language lessons should teach a core vocabulary. This means that the student learns phrases and words that are most commonly used in everyday speech. This is a good start, but the trouble is, unless these same phrases are used in a variety of settings, the brain may relegate the vocabulary as non-authentic. For this reason, the core vocabulary has to be inserted into a variety of settings and situations. This diverseness enhances the creation of dozens of new synaptic connections thus strengthening memory.
As stated on Wikipedia, “Hermann Ebbinghaus (24 January 1850 – 26 February 1909) was a German psychologist who pioneered the experimental study of memory, and is known for his discovery of the forgetting curve and the spacing effect. He was also the first person to describe the learning curve.” In his book How We Learn, memory expert Benedict Carey states: “Some amount of breakdown must occur for us to strengthen learning when we revisit learning material. Without a little forgetting, you get no benefit from further study. It is what allows memories to build, like an exercise muscle.”
When learning a language, spaced learning is the process of reviewing vocabulary in progressively longer intervals in order to “exercise” the memory muscles which in turn, embeds the language further into long-term memory. See this chart from Alexander Young. Notice how long the intervals between the reminders are and that retention stays about 90%.
Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, s.v. " Hermann Ebbinghaus," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermann_Ebbinghaus
BACKWARDS BUILD UP DRILL
This technique, also known as back-chaining, helps learners to learn, remember and pronounce difficult words or phrases. Take for example the challenge of learning “Llanvarpoffkweengyffgogerfkweendrobofxhaantysiliogogogoch”. To backchain, you first separate the name into manageable chunks or syllables like this, Llan-var-poff-kween-gyff-gogerf-kween-drobof-xhaan-tysilio-gogo-goch, then, starting from the end memorize the chain. Like this:
Of course, you should break it up into stages as well. Learn one segment until recalling it is easy, then move on to the next. This looks like a lot of work because it is!!! Still, by tackling difficult words in this way, you will noticeably reduce the amount of time it takes to learn difficult vocabulary, compared to starting from the beginning and working your way to the end. Back-chaining works because “it makes natural stress easier for the student. It is easier than front-chaining, which starts from the first syllable, because back-chaining requires that the student put the new element first where it is more difficult to forget.”
Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, s.v. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Back-chaining
DON’T BUY THE RECORDINGS!(unless you want to…)😃
One final note about using the Audio Method. Pimsleur language recordings are available on a subscription basis and there are those who claim that using this course helped them, however, we encourage you to make your own recordings. Doing this will both save you money and make the learning experience that much more authentic. The audio recorder on your phone works just fine. In this way, you can practise the vocabulary that you choose to learn. If you are worried about the correct pronunciation of the words, ask a native speaker to help you record the vocabulary. Making personal recordings of the material taught in the lesson is particularly useful for teachers since the recordings can then authentically reflect what is being taught in the moment.
Upcoming Virtual Courses (Held on Zoom)
For the October 24-28 Course Only
Use Coupon Code SIMPLIFYTRAVELTEACH for CA75$ off a single registration or if two sign up together, use coupon code STUDYBUDDY for CA$100 each registration.
Any previous graduate who would like a refresher course can take this one for a CA$100. Please contact us at email@example.com for the coupon code.