Language acquisition is a personal process: The Burlington Course is highly individualized and self-paced. From the very beginning, the software is designed with the capability to familiarize itself with a specific speech pattern, which the user provides. Practice in pronunciation and intonation is totally personalized and – in addition to the speech pattern – takes into account the gender, the age group and the mother tongue of a student. Online practice is geared to particular needs. This point of that such and such course is self-paced and individualized is one that is most often made in the presentations of various courses. However, the presenters make this point only from a convenience point of view. I think we should bear in mind that it is also a fundamental pedagogical principle.
Language is best acquired first through listening and speaking: The BurlingtonEnglish® Courses, through the use of a specialized microphone, maintain the development of speech as their primary goal and mode of instruction. A language is a living entity, and as such, is best acquired and improved through active use. Each situation is presented through the spoken word with an opportunity for the user to immediately begin using the language in a private lesson online. A virtual personal trainer works with the user, providing specific models and practice exercises and guidance. I think that many of our potential customers are interested in the product because it has a concentration on the spoken language. What may be important to stress here is how speaking in any event, is the best way to learn a language. Many people who do home study concentrate on reading because that is what most online courses are based on. In the BurlingtonEnglish® Courses, the portal is speaking and that makes it a sound choice pedagogically.
Learning to speak, first and foremost involves practice: There is no substitute for the simple need for practice. This idea can be further defined. The best practice is done in shorter intervals spaced out throughout any given time interval. Coming into a class, for example, is not always so useful because you can’t keep talking for two hours. Neither is it efficient to do so. The ability for the user to practice at his/her own pace, take a break, come back, practice etc. is a real advantage of the BurlingtonEnglish® Courses. Another key element that is often heard in the presentations is about how convenient it is to be able to practice at home and at the office etc. 24 hours a day 7 days a week. I would also like to stress here the idea of what constitutes a good practice.
What constitutes good practice in speaking: Good practice needs to have volume which BurlingtonEnglish® has – loads and loads of material, and the flexibility to practice in different settings. Good practice needs to practice what is needed – the microphone takes care of being quite specific about this and the self-paced aspect allows students to practice what they really need Good practice should happen frequently and in spaced sessions – here the program really fits the bill. It allows students to practice a lot to make those sessions of a reasonable length.
Learning to speak involves both fluency and accuracy (1): When we talk about learning to speak, we use the term fluency (the flow of language) and accuracy (how correct the language is). In the BurlingtonEnglish® Courses, we really practice accuracy because of the nature of an online course which limits our ability to listen and correct free and open speech. But the point to be made is that accuracy and fluency are not two separate skills and abilities. One is affected by the other. The use of dialogues imprints correct language in the user and leads to fluency when natural speech is called for.
Learning to speak involves both fluency and accuracy (2): While potential users may want to learn to speak freely and think that choosing a private one-to-one lesson will provide them with this, they are a bit mistaken. A private lesson, while giving the student a good opportunity to practice fluency, is often difficult because the practice session is too long and too intensive. It is also unlikely that the student will be taking private lessons with enough frequency to make them effective. In addition it is often difficult to come up with enough interesting speaking activities when you are dealing with a one-on-one situation.
Learning to speak involves both fluency and accuracy (3): Attending a class solves the problem of diverse speech, but the correction factor goes way down as the teacher can only concentrate on listening to and correcting a limited number of students at any given time. In addition, again, it is also doubtful that students will attend with enough frequency to see real progress. The approach of the BurlingtonEnglish® Courses is basically audio-lingual. Learning set dialogues is an excellent way to develop both fluency and accuracy. The ability to have frequent and spaced sessions is essential. Correction must be ongoing and personal. In this field, there are trade-offs. I think the Burlington Method® offers the best opportunity to maximize the language learning experience. In the end of the day, the BurlingtonEnglish® Courses have blended solutions in which self-learning can be complemented by classroom or on-on-one lessons which concentrate on speaking, writing, grammar, human feedback or a mixture of those, depending on particular needs of an individual or an institution.
Competence in a language is closely tied to confidence: Learners need to learn in a clear sequential manner never exceeding their ability to incorporate new language. The steps need to be tailored to the learner and never be either too slow or too fast. Confidence is the precursor to competence and can only be built on in this individualized manner. Speaking in a private online lesson, with immediate and explicit feedback, builds the confidence necessary to use the language to its fullest.
Motivation is an important part of learning a new language: The Burlington Method® is used in different courses, each with a specific purpose. Learners choose from a menu of needs, such as Business English, Doctors English, Hi- Tech English, Teachers’ English, Everyday English or even Travel English. This specificity of purpose increases motivation, which enhances the progress. Users learn language through context – and through a context, which suits their needs (even if we are talking about Everyday English). Lessons focus on specific themes and situations.