This week I started a new attempt: "English from zero take 2". This time the potential learners are Nina, a friend and colleague of my wife's, and her German partner, Anton. Nina comes from Kazakhstan, trained as an Astrophysicist, she is now a teacher of and teacher trainer in German as a second language. Anton is a retired business man and has a few words of English. Nina claims she does not know a single word. They are both between 50 and 60ish.
In the first week I got them counting, days of the week, months of the year etc. and saying after me and then delivering the lines of a simple monologue and a short dialogue for them to repeat as they drove home:
Anton: What do you think of Dennis's study, Nina?
Nina: What do you think, Anton?
Anton: No comment.
And now for the pedagogy....
I think of myself as liberal, but late in the day it strikes me that when it comes to teaching I'm so convinced of certain things that I am positively dictatorial.
In a one-to-two situation where the learners want to learn enough English to cope on a forthcoming visit to the Seychelles, I've set my sights on giving them practice in speaking English - and understanding it - in likely situations - asking the way, taking taxis, ordering meals, talking to Reception at the hotel, and so on.
Half an hour in to Hour 1, I was still holding on to a simple script I'd written for them when Nina said: "Actually. I'm a visual learner. I need to have the text so that I can see whether it is one word or five."
Well, I believe so strongly that, ultimately,she will make better progress if she suffers at first without the text, that I note I'm a bit unwilling to budge.
What would you do?
Watch this space - or visit the new blog, when I have set it up.
PS I'm in a situation where it would be perverse not to use German, our common language, though the amount of German will decrease as their English increases. I don't translate, but I give a quick gloss in German to ensure they understand what they are saying, and then switch off the German channel. I make a point of not giving the German for contextually obvious instructions - Now you, Nina. No, not you, Anton. Repeat after me. Again etc. etc.