Teaching French

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With the Help of the Feldenkrais Method

I had been fascinated with a comment of Moshe Feldenkrais, DSc (inter-alias professor at the Sorbonne, Paris). He said, there is a strong possibility that the brain can be stimulated by his method which he had developed for the purpose of neurological reeducation. It would even facilitate the learning of languages.

Now I had a limited experience in teaching French and German for adults and senior citizens in Texas. The purpose of the participants of this French conversation course was that they were planning to go on a vacation to Paris. Although I could not follow up after our French course on how well they did when speaking to the people in Paris, we all had lots of fun learning—and teaching—this new language for most of them.

I knew, to date, the Feldenkrais Method has been used as a source for neurological reeducation, enhancing the performance of physical movements by extending the stimulation of brain functions. Such stimulation, however, could be supportive for all learning fields. This would include learning a new language. With other words, while it is generally assumed that we humans use in average between 3 to 8 percent of our brain’s mental capacity, the invitation to the students was to learn to extend their capabilities.

I had experienced that most students with learning difficulties tend to suppose that they are incapable, that in some way it is their fault. I supposed on the other hand that people just had difficulties in fitting into a given system; that, in fact, it was a system failure rather than a personal failure.

I thought to take the following aspects into consideration. In the same manner as a baby learns his mother tongue, I invited the students to accept the opportunity to learn a foreign language. A baby learns to roll over, to crawl, and finally to walk before he learns to talk. Wanting to indoctrinate a baby to learn a language in an artificially constructed manner hinders his learning abilities. A baby will choose individually, admittedly by taking his parents as model examples [“Leitbilder”], of how he learns his language.

To enhance their optimal learning ability, I encouraged them to stimulate both the brain hemispheres accordingly. When we sang, danced, and participated in other agreeable movements we stimulated the right brain hemisphere. The left hemisphere was stimulated when we, obviously avoiding translations between the languages, played games using deductive and inductive analysis of language situations.

I had to take into consideration the fact that men and women use their brains differently, as this had generally been lacking in our educational institutions. In the function of the mechanics of a language, e.g., speech and grammar, women are more specialized, using primary the front lobe of the left brain hemisphere. Men will use both the front and back lobes, thus being more general in this function.

On the other hand, women will use the front and back lobes of both hemispheres for vocabulary and defining words, thus being more general, more defuse, more colorful in their use of language. Here, the men are more specific, more precise, more specialized, using the front and back lobes of the left brain hemisphere only.

These, and others, may be some reasons why students may have difficulties in learning a new language. I have listed these facts above as an example why some have difficulties with the learning system as such. It may have nothing to do with them! In reality, we have all already learnt a language, which in the beginning was unknown to us—our own mother tongue.

Thus I encouraged them to come and play, learning French in a new and intriguing manner. They were invited to learn like a baby by making as many hilarious mistakes as possible, as it is only through our mistakes and those of others that we learn.

Thus we had fun together, e.g., learning to laugh in French, and at the same time finding a new enhancement in the joie de vivre of all of us.


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