In Juni 2018 I went to Leipzig to find out more about "Learning a Language with the Birkenbihl-Method". And I was even granted a certificate by the Ministery of Education of Saxony, which was handed over by Daniela Böhm as a representative of TwinEvents, the organizer of the event, who organize Seminars about brain-friendly learning to continue Vera F. Birkenbihl's work after her death in 2011.
The course was led by Jacqueline Pentrack, who has been trained in the Birkenbihl Methods herself. She is even specialized in Englisch-Training as a Refresh . On this day however, there were not so many participants wanting to enhance their English skills, but teachers in search for new ideas for their classes.
Birkenbihl Methods in our Language Courses
For more than 20 years I have been inspired by certain techniques devised by Vera F. Birkenbihl and started to integrate dekoding and recreating very early into my own learning materials. Then I discovered the power of color: coloured lines and letters can make the structures of grammar visible. Since starting to cooperate with ISONO International GmbH hearing (passive) and listening in combination with reading have been integrated into our courses. And that ist just the start!
In Leipzig a small group of people experienced how to pass on knowledge via mindmaps and to fortify it with various activities. Not only children like to play an learn through playing. Adults, too, can learn easier through play as it is more fun. This day of learning and the intensive and active experience of more aspects of the Birkenbihl-Method inspired me to make some important changes to our courses:
Important changes in the process of learning:
The language courses in cooperation with ISONO International GmbH make it possible to learn the basics of a new language very fast and easyly. So the language courses are structured in a way, to learn this new language almost the same way as you learnt to understand and speak your mother tongue. However, it is even faster as we already have an experience of life to build on. The new language is integrated as a parallel way to express yourself into your network of knowledge. So we believe that it is possible to start speaking a new language after 49 days. And through a 2-day intensive course it is possible to reach a level of general every-day communication.
Learning a Language with ISONO
- Hearing the language with the ISONO-device: We start a 3-week phase (21 days) of absolutely passive learning via the transducers and the skin. Using the device twice a day for an hour is enough.
- Reading the translation of the audio in your native language: From the 4th week onward the learner starts to actively work with the text of the audio. He or she will receive material containing this translation. So now they can start listening to the audio via the headset.
- Listening: From the 5th week onward the learner studies the text chapter by chapter in reading the transliteration while listening to the audio. They might have to stop the audio after each sentence if it is still to fast. That is why we suggest to listen from the mobile or computer. In this phase they pick up the vocabulary in context.
- Activation of the subconciously learnt language: After 7 weeks, ideally on day 48 and 49 it is time to start speaking in the new language. There are many possibilies to do so. For example they can activate this knowledge by themselves in any language course, conversations with a tandem partner, watching videos on youtube, listening to music, chatting with friends who are native speakers in their language. In doing so, they will gradually become more and more proficient.
If they don't have much time, they could also book a 2-day intensive course with a native speaker called the Activation Course.
There are even more Birkenbihl techniques for brain-friendly learning that have found their way into our systematic material for the Activation Course.
I was specifically impressed to see that Jacqueline Pentrack had structured her course using Birkenbihl Methods. Her notes were all organized in the form von mindmaps of a special kind. You might have heard of Tony Buzan's tool called Mindmap which is used especially as tool for brainstorming. Jens Voigt of the Akademie für Lernmethoden has developped his own rules for that tool to adapt it to the learning environment. I adopted this simple strategy to depict knowledge systematically in a way, easy to understand and developped the first mindmaps on spanish and english grammar. After first experimenting with digital mindmaps I switched to drawing and illustrating them by hand. The mindmaps for English and Spanish are only used in the Activation Courses, but the first Mindmaps for Japanese can be found in the Webshop (produced for native speakers of German).
What do we focus on?
When we will be able to have our Activation Courses in person again, we will also be able to use games to enhance language learning. Then the learners will actualle be able to grasp grammar and vocabulary. I am even looking into how to have these games digitalized.
The biggest difference between our courses and language courses at school or at university ist, that our focus is on learning to be able to communicate rather than studying to pass an exam. We are not interested in finding out what we don't know (yet), but only in the progress, any learner is making (sometimes in baby steps). After all, we couldn't speak perfect and complicated sentences in our mother tongue as soon as we started speaking. However, from our first words onward we practiced on a daily basis, and with such an approach we can also master any other language if we really want to. That is why after the Activation Course the motto is KEEP PRACTICING.
How to Continue?
There are a number of ways to keep practicing, such as the possibilies listed with the option of activating oneself. The best way would be to spend a couple of weeks in the country where that new language is spoken right after the intensive activation course. The first few days might be a challenge, but each day will get better and provide more and more positive experiences in communication with the native speakers.
About three years ago I discovered by chance just how good my Spanish was, which I had not been using actively for more than 30 years. Visiting with a family from Bolivia I could understand more and more every day, even though I didn't speak much Spanish myself. And a few months later there were some participants from Valencia in Spain at my Aikido course. This time I did have to speak Spanish as some of them didn't speak much English. It was a very interesting and inspiring experience.
Now Gateway to Language Learning also offers weekly calls after the Activation Course. This is important especially in these unusual times, where travelling no longer is that easy. If you are interested in our courses, please contact me.