Neurolinguistic Approach to Second Language Learning

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The Neurolinguistic Approach (NLA) to second language learning is a new way to teach and acquire a second language for the purposes of communication, in a regular classroom setting. It is a methodical literacy-based approach to learning a second language and all strands of the French as a Second Language curriculum are targeted (listening, speaking, reading and writing).

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The Neurolinguistic Approach is based on recent research in neurolinguistics that has provided a better understanding of how we learn to speak a second language. Developed by Joan Netten, C.M., PhD, of the Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) Faculty of Education and Claude Germain, PhD of the Université du Québec à Montréal Department of Language Teaching, the NLA was created in response to data which indicated that existing second language teaching strategies were largely ineffective.

Lyne Gratton and Sharon O’Brien, French Second Language Curriculum Consultants with the Board, presented the benefits of this approach for second language learning, and its implementation within the CDSBEO.

“One of the fundamental principles of the NLA is the teacher modelling of, and the use and reuse of simple, full sentences and language structures by the students in authentic situations,” began Gratton.

“For example, for many of us, French class involved verb conjugations, practice sheets, and dictation. Teachers are not excluding these practices in the Neurolinguistic Approach, but are rather blending them with the modelling of full, simple sentences. The students then learn to use, and reuse these full sentences and language structures in a variety of authentic situations.”

“The strategies used in this approach are beneficial to help students learn French – they are not learning about French, instead they are learning French, in French.”

According to this approach, it is not necessary to know grammar rules and understand the structures of a language in order to be able to speak that language.

“In the past, French vocabulary was taught in isolation and not used in full sentences and meaningful situations,” noted O’Brien.

“In the past, we would learn to conjugate verbs in a variety of tenses, but not necessarily use them in a meaningful situation. Grammar and language conventions are important, and they are still taught, but they are taught in the context of the sentence that the teacher has modelled for the students.”

With a book chosen, and a writing task mapped out, a NLA trained teacher will model the structures orally for the students, and the students will use and reuse them with the teacher, and with their peers. The students will also read and write about what has been discussed.

Currently, over 60 per cent of all CDSBEO FSL teachers have been trained in the Neurolinguistic Approach, and the goal of the FSL Curriculum Department is that all CDSBEO second language teachers will be trained in this approach.