Jump for joy: Busy bodies and second language learning

This video demonstrates the Total Physical Response approach to second language learning and shows a parent and child at home using one of the recorded activities from ABC English & Me.

It all started with movement. When James Asher, a professor of psychology at San Jose State University in California, started asking why young children were dropping out of school, he found a link to second language acquisition:

“The most difficult learning task for both children and adults may be the attempt to acquire a second language in school. A number of studies have shown that few students – often less than 5% who start in a second language – continue to proficiency. This lack of success is striking when compared to the language achievement of most six-year-olds, who without schooling have mastered all the essential parts of the individual’s native language.”

Searching for a solution, Asher started looking at why some young learners developed a second language skill and why others didn’t. The link was movement. What he found is that children who could hear a movement word, and demonstrate comprehension of that movement word by doing it – such as jump, dance, or run – were better able to learn and retain the new information over a period of time.

He developed a method for second language learning centered on movement and wrote a book about it, Learning Another Language Through Actions: The Complete Teacher’s Guidebook.

Asher called this physical approach to teaching a second language: total physical response or TPR.

In study after study for 25 years, laboratory experiments and classroom observations have demonstrated results that were extremely positive. When the instructor skillfully uses the target language to direct the student’s behavior, understanding of the utterance is transparent, often in only one exposure. Also, the understanding is achieved without stress and then retained for weeks, months, and even years. Language-body communications is a fascinating and powerful principle of learning. It seems to be a universal principle that holds true for language including sign language for the deaf. It seems to hold true for an age group that has been studied from children to senior citizens.

This approach is an essential part of the ABC English & Me program. And we were so delighted to watch a parent and child share the joy of learning – and moving – at home.

It’s the kind of learning that makes you jump for joy.

Would you like to know more about the research-based approach of ABC English & Me? Click here for more information. We’d love to show you how it works.