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Acknowledging failure in our schools

Language teaching in our schools is a generalized failure when we take the price-performance ratio into account. How can we explain this?

After trying out a lot of language learning methods in various countries, it is worth emphasizing three main findings:

  • For a beginner, starting to learn a new language is a long and heavy process. Frustration and giving-up often occur. How much does the linguistic training course costs for a beginner in terms of money and time, at school or in professional life? And what are the results?
  • After 6 or 7 years spend studying a foreign language in a secondary school, the pupil is generally not able to understand a native speaker or to make himself understood using simple clauses. His knowledge is essentially a reflexive and a passive one. His inefficiency is obvious.
  • A logical and universal observation: bilingualism and multilingualism are not reserved to a limited elite: 50% of the world’s population is bilingual, particularly in poor countries and among a lot of illiterate people. Every single human brain is genetically prepared to bilingualism.

Without reducing the issues faced by language teachers, we have to admit that we do not get to the roots of the problem of a second language acquisition. Failure is not inevitable and there are new ways worth investigating.

From these findings, research has been carried out while keeping two main goals in mind:

  • speed up and make the access to a second language for beginners easier, demystify the "foreign" language
  • for the ones already having a good passive knowledge of the language, speed up and make the practical use of this knowledge lighter

Research carried out

After 5 years of research on bilingualism and multilingualism, Balingua concludes the following: instead of presenting a language as an amount of elements usually isolated in traditional language teaching (phonetics, grammatical rules, vocabulary, …), Balingua presents the language as a synthesis of components in which syntax is a keystone. In 2004, the very first version of a language course in Lithuanian appears. The first unit, of more or less 3 hours, is tested on lots of complete beginners. The first results are surprising:

  • After 3 hours of active exposition to the language, the learners say they can mentally "perceive" or "feel" the Lithuanian language. At the end of the first unit, they are able to create their sentences in Lithuanian.

Encouraged by these results, Balingua broadened the method to a lot of other languages.

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