Languages Out There

Today I came across an organisation called Languages Out There that runs an unusual style of language courses – you spend an hour or two studying, then go out on the street with your tutor to practice the language you’ve learnt. For example, you learn out food and drink, then go out for a meal and order in the local language. The idea is to give you plenty of opportunities to make practical use of the language you’re learning with local people.

This sounds like more fun than sitting in a classroom all day – maybe I’ll give it a try sometime next year. They currently offer courses in English, Spanish, Italian, German and Czech.

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12 Responses to Languages Out There

  1. Adam says:

    I took a look at the website and it looks interesting. But it’s a shame that all the Spanish courses are in Spain…when Mexico is only a 5 hour car trip from my house.

  2. Kelly says:

    Sounds like a very innovative and interesting way of learning a new language. Takes the focus of the boring stuff like grammar too!

    BTW, thanks for the link to my blog ‘Aspiring Polyglot’. It’s always great to know others are reading and are feeling the same way about languages. :) I’ve returned the favour and linked back to this blog.

    Bye for now!

  3. Jason says:

    Someone just sent me the link to this blog because you were discussing our course and website.

    Sorry we don;t have any courses in Mexico Adam, we are hoping to have some there soon and also in other Central and Southern American countries. We licence schools by providing them with a manual and lesson plans and support via the web/phone. Often we go there to train their teachers how to teach Out There.

  4. Jason says:

    Me again. A few things are making me lose sleep. The main one being that I am concerned about language learners’ perceptions of what we do. Someone I spoke to recently thought that people who travel to learn a language have pre-conceived ideas of what a language course is i.e. same old same old. Do you think this is true? The second thing, is that a lot of schools we talk to about what we do often jump to conclusions and say ‘we do that already’ or ‘that’s not a new idea’. It really bugs me that they seemingly cannot see beyond what they and virtually all other schools do, i.e. offer basically the same classroom bound, heavy mental-processing, and rules based programmes that are counter-intuitive to the way the brain accepts, stores and recalls information for practical purposes (which, after all, is what communication is for).

    I have been in touch with some clever people and read a lot of research (yes, educated myself!) in the fields of language acquisition and psycholinguistics\constructivism etc. and I am pretty sure that what we do has not been done before in this way. There is a lot more to it than people think and we are trying to continue to explore it.

    Have you heard of Stephen Krashen, the famous American linguistics academic, this is what he says in his introduction to his book ‘Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning’:

    “…adults have two independent systems for developing ability in second languages, subconscious language acquisition and conscious language learning, and that these systems are interrelated in a definite way: subconscious acquisition appears to be far more important.”

    “language acquisition requires meaningful interaction in the target language – natural communication – in which speakers are concerned not with the form of their utterances but with the messages they are conveying and understanding. Error correction and explicit teaching rules are not relevant to language acquisition (Brown and Hanlon, 1970; Brown, Cazden and Bellugi, 1973).”

    I guess what we do is enable learning acquisition, what the rest do is called language learning. Hence some of the results we get. Clients who won’t say boo to a goose on day one of a four week course being difficult to shut up when they leave! Really.

  5. Adam says:

    Jason – Your system *does* sound unique to me. I went through a very intensive program at Ulpan Akiva, a Hebrew language school where the classes where 8 hours a day, six days a week. I really enjoyed the program, and I learned a lot, but I don’t think their techniques were much different than what I’ve seen in university courses in America.

    I actually lived with my cousins, and I learned more Hebrew with them at home than I did in class….although my cousins were not teachers, so at home I got laughed for my mistakes, which caused me to become very self conscious. So I shut up most of the time, and as a result, my Hebrew is quite broken.

  6. Jason says:

    Adam – that’s the whole basis behind students travelling to take courses and staying in homestay accommodation. That’s where students get most of their real practice with the language. I wasn’t sure from your description if it was your cousins laughing at your mistakes or the people when you got home because you’d picked some dodgy stuff up from your cousins? If it was your cousins they weren’t being very sympathetic, were they?

    But, this self-consciousess actually has name, it is called ‘lathophobic aphasia’. Normally locals who meet our students are a bit surprised to have some one speak to them in this way and for this purpose, and they are very accommodating and spend a few minutes with them before moving on their way. Hence, because they are not too familiar with our student they behave themselves and listen and help and sometimes even correct, especially pronunciation. If you listen to a beginner student, Kate, on our website using Spanish for the one of the first times in her life, you’ll hear her interview four or five people outside the Palacio Royal in the middle of Madrid. At the start she massacres the pronunciation but she adjusts with the help of the people she meets and by the end she is much better. Go to the Madrid location page and click on ‘Today’s sound’. At higher levels people really go for it and pick up masses of real current vocab that you won’t find in course books. Let me know if you go there and what you think?

  7. Juan Mendez says:

    This course sounds fantastic. I have learnt a great deal of expressions and vocabulary just from having a native girlfriend. I suppose this could be the next logical step. LanguageDating, for those looking for romance and to shape up their language skills!

  8. Adam says:

    Jason – It was my cousins and their friends that laughed at me, unintentionally of course. Not only for my mistakes, but for using “correct” words I learned in school instead of slang or popular terms. They said I spoke too formally. I couldn’t tell the difference.

    My worst experience was at dinner. I tried to tell my cousin that I didn’t like chicken breast. I had no idea that in Hebrew it was not called a chicken breast (but rather, חזה עוף, “chicken chest”), and my choice of words caused my cousin to spit out her drink and laugh herself right out of her chair. I guess it must’ve sounded to her like I had said “chicken mammaries”.

    I understand why they would laugh; sometimes a mistake from a lower level student at the school would make me chuckle. But I just clammed up after that, and I shouldn’t have.

  9. Jason says:

    Adam – Yeah, you’d get that maybe because the school was quite traditional or used dated materials to teach from in the classroom and I’m sure it was just very funny for your cousins and they weren’t poking fun at you.

    I heard of someone who went to Greece and felt bold and talked to a few people when they arrived only for the people to fall about laughing. Eventually the person confessed they were trying out their old ancient Greek from school but somehow thought it was ‘just Greek’!

    The thing about learning local and current language is that it makes you feel more ‘normal’ and less self-conscious than if you stick to the generic texts that publishers foist on the industry.

  10. Hi Jason

    Congratulations on the Fifth Bithday of Languages Out There, you are going from strength to strength. Is it really so long since we sat in the local discussing its inception!

  11. Jason says:

    Keith – long time no see! Thanks a lot. Well, it hasn’t been easy and there is still a lot to do. Hope to see you soon for a pint!

  12. Jason West says:

    This thread seems to have petered out but if anyone is still getting a feed I’d like to give you a bit of an update if you are still interested. LOT has entered a collaboration with The Guardian and Guardian Languages was lanched the other day. The website contains lesson plans for schools and teachers that can be photocopied and used at will. They contain interesting Guardian content and are real Out There lessons. Classes based in Engish speaking countries can, obviously, go outside and meet people for their real practice element, but we haven’t forgotten all of those schools in non-English speaking countries and there is a really funky bit of software you cab download from the website. It enables you to create a language profile for yourself and then meet and talk to other language learners (liek on Skype) for free, but you can also call people who want to help you to practise your language skills and pay them a sensible and inexpensive fee for their time automatically (entry level is 6.95 GBP per hour). You only have to be fluent or a native speaker (we call you to make sure you are) to eanr 80% of that fee. Calls are billed by the second, so you can just have a quick chat and don’t have to stay on for long and all calls are rated by the learner. If you get consistently good ratings and manage to buuld up a client base and want to move from giving practice to people to actually scheduling proper teaching sessions on the system there is a schedule/contact planner (CRM) and diary and you can ask us to increase your charge out rate. We hope that teachers around the world will start to use it and that we will have different levels of service, from simple fluent or native speaker having a focused chat to help someone practice to scheduled full on teaching, all at different charge out rates.

    Oh, and you can also make really cheap calls to landlines and mobiles, send video messages etc. etc. (I caled a mobile in China the other day for 2p a minute!).

    There are also lesson plans for self-study which cost 1GBP and like the teacher driven lesson plans are designed to give your practice focus and instigate useful conversations that involve you using the target language.

    Free samples of LOT lessons are available from the site when you have registered but we envisage and would love to see people using their own materials. It’s there, it works, please go and use it.

    Any questions/comments are very welcome.

    Jason