Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"Effortless," fluent English speaking--even without conversation?

Clip art: Clker
Clip art: Clker
Wow. Once in a while you stumble on a commercial English teaching website where the claims are almost breathtaking. Here is one. There is 2-minute video by the creator of the program that is worth watching, if only to see the model of "effortless" English that he uses in pitching his stuff in the form of the promise of 7 rules and related materials which you can get for about $97--and to contrast that with what McCarthy is saying, as reported in the previous blogpost. The contrast is striking, to put it mildly. The "effortless English" system, like so many approaches to speaking fluency (as opposed to other aspects of communicative competence), is based on the concept of individual practice in private, without reference to how fluency, as characterized by McCarthy, is developed in conversational interaction.

There was a time when that, the "public speaking" approach, was the industry standard. No longer. There are, indeed, aspects of the experience of speaking a new language which appear to be "effortless." Most, however, are related to the felt sense of using what is known, not learning what to use. It is, of couse, possible to train to "speak" fluently, colourfully and rapidly--and still be utterly incapable of communicating interpersonally with the rest of us out here. ( I'm sure you know a native speaker who fits that category.) The antidote: something like attending skills. At least for the time being, there is no good substitute for f2f, or something very close to it, for developing genuine fluency. Now that's not hard to understand, is it? 

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