Facts and rules

Imagine you are playing with a three-year-old toddler, and you are holding her teddy bear.  She puts her hand out and grasps it, but you don’t release it.

“Let go of my teddy!” she says, but you don’t.  You are teasing her, so you hang on to it.

“Pleeease, let my teddy goooo!”.

Wait a minute.  What did she say?  Who taught this little person, who can’t read or write, that the compound verbal phrase ‘let go’ is separable? This is an aspect of grammar that adults learning English will struggle to grasp.  Separable verbs don’t exist in many other languages, and it is a very difficult thing to explain and to remember, yet here is a three-year-old who can switch between the separated and the contiguous construction of that compound verb without any difficulty.

Of course, nobody taught her the rules of verbal construction.  She doesn’t even know that she knows those rules, even though she obviously does and can apply them without conscious thought.  Her process of learning language has been one of being surrounded by language used by fluent speakers; of initial incomprehension; of a gradual understanding of concepts, words, phrases, sentences; of her own attempts at making comprehensible sounds; practising, being understood, being misunderstood, being corrected; and more practise.

The skill and understanding that she is acquiring is holistic, not analytic. It is being honed through practical use, not theoretical study.  Her grasp of grammar is intuitive, and a result of a growing familiarity with what works and what doesn’t, what is understood by others and what isn’t.  Her vocabulary, her pronunciation, her linguistic facility, the complexity of her language constructions are all improving together, simply through her practical daily use of language.  By the time she gets to school and is able to start learning about the reading and writing symbol system, she will be a fluent and sophisticated user of the aural symbol system of spoken language.

She, and all the other children like her, are not unique in this learning ability.  Even as adults, we ALL have this ability to learn complex skills holistically, through repetitive practise, given the opportunity and good examples to follow.  It isn’t a capability that only tiny children have that disappears as soon as they get to school.

Being able to speak a language fluently is not dependent on a prior ability to read it or write it.  It is dependent on frequency of spoken use, on guided repetitive practise, and on ready access to a wide variety of audible examples of speech.  YES has been built to provide that sort of practical learning environment, so that it is possible to learn to speak English in a way as close as possible to the way you learned your first language.  We don’t teach English grammar because you don’t need to study grammar to be able to learn and use a language for effective spoken communication.

As Glenn Doman, the Founder of the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential, and the author of ‘Teach Your Baby to Read’ and ‘Teach Your Baby Math’ frequently said:

“Give children the facts, and they’ll figure out the rules.”

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