In a nutshell
Principles are mini-lessons that walk learners through guidelines, useful strategies, best practices, or hints that could increase their efficacy in learning languages.
Within the narrative
Language-Bug infection causes learners to develop “language learning superpowers”, which they cannot manage well at first. Principles train users to use these superpowers to learn languages.
Association with existing resources
There are a few TED Talks about language learning. For example:
- Benny Lewis: Rapid Language Hacking
- Young & Jaiswal: One Simple Method to Learn Any Language
- Benny Lewis: Hacking language learning
- Sid Efromovich: 5 techniques to speak any language
- Chris Lonsdale: *How to learn any language in six months
In each of these talks, the lecturers do not teach any actual content in a particular language (i.e.: vocabulary in Portuguese), but present their strategies to help language learners become better language learners.
Similarly, Principles within the LanguageBug app are sections that walk learners through practical strategies to learn languages without necessarily using the Portuguese language whatsoever.
- Scaffold learners to use the LanguageBug appropriately.
- Make language learners aware of their learning processes.
- Use informal language engage learners in metacognitive thinking.
- Question widely accepted assumptions in language learning.
Example: Speak Fast
What is it?
“Speak Fast” is one of the core principles of LanguageBug. This means that users will need to follow this guideline (that is, to actually produce speech in a fast-paced way) when performing the exercise practices.
Speak Fast may be an efficient strategy for a language learning practice for several reasons, such as:
- It is harder to speak faster, so learners need to fully focus.
- Real life or native speech is fast and compacted.
- Less time doing each exercise means doing more exercises.
Users will be introduced to the principle of Speak Fast through timed instructions combined with action prompts, following this script:
- Show user a simple sentence in English for a few seconds.
- Ask the user to read this sentence aloud.
- (User reads sentence aloud at a natural pace)
- Fast transition: ask the user to perform 3 again, but faster.
- Fast transition: reinforce that reading should be fast.
- Ask the user to keep reading sentences at the same fast pace.
- Show other sentences in English.
- Instruction: “Now, repeat after the audio.”
- Show/play a few more sentences in English.
- Transition to words and sentences in Portuguese.
- Instruction: “Keep that sweet spot!”
Creating an exhaustive list of good language learning principles is both impossible and undesired for many reasons, such as:
- there are unlimited learning strategies that could be effective,
- different strategies may work better/worse with different learners,
- new research and publications may challenge current assumptions,
As I develop my general understanding of how people learn languages, some of the present principles may become outdated or invalid. In other words, it is very likely that principles will be added, removed, and expanded over time.
Currently, there is not a scientific rationale with evidences to validate each of the following principles. Strategies that I have learned as a language teacher are the current LanguageBug principles, as it follows:
- Is it a method?
- No corrections!?
“A language learning mindset reflects the extent to which a person believes that language learning ability is dependent on some immutable, innate talent or is the result of controllable factors such as effort and conscious hard work.” (Mercer, 2012, p. 22)
There is little research integrating Growth Mindset with language learning (Noels; Lou, 2015). Despite that, it is clear that there are many benefits in having a Growth Mindset, that is, believing that anyone can develop skills and abilities over time.
According to Halvorson (2010), “psychologists refer to the desire to get better - to develop or enhance your skills and abilities - as a mastery goal.” (p. 61). When learners have a mastery goal, they take action when facing a challenge (p. 62).
One of the primary goals of Principles is help learners frame their practices within Growth Mindset or mastery goal. Noels & Lou (2015) show that fostering such attitude may be quite simple using electronically delivered messages (p. 49).
“At the simplest level, metacognition is thinking about the contents and processes of one’s mind” (Winne; Azevedo, 2014, p. 63).
Mercer & Ryan (2012) advocate for a Growth Mindset in language teaching and learning. The authors also state that
“although a growth mindset can encourage a learner to work consciously and actively towards improving their own abilities, this may only be effective if the individual also feels that they are equipped with the skills and know-how to do so. Thus, teaching practices, instructional techniques, and learners’ metacognitive strategy knowledge could be important dimensions that influence the actual effectiveness of a particular mindset” (p. 442).
Nesbitt (2013) also state that language learners should have “access to activities that help increase their strategic competence”. According to this author, this sort of metacognitive knowledge is both a need and a request of CALL users.
In a small-scale study, Bozorgian (2014) has found that “less-skilled learners benefit more from metacognitive instruction to develop listening comprehension” (p. 3) than more-skilled learners. The target audience of LanguageBug is Novice speakers, so that addressing metacognitive strategies within the app is even more appropriated.
Bransford, Brown & Cocking highlight that metacognitive knowledge is one of the distinctive characteristics of experts (Bransford; Brown; Cocking, 2000, p. 47). Therefore, metacognitive Principles may also contribute to learner’s long-term expertise building.