As some of you may know, there is a huge difference between learning English and acquiring English. Learning English is what many over-thirty-year-olds did while in Elementary and Middle School. The teacher said “recite the verb to be” and the student answered “do, did, done, hacer”... and voalá!
That meant that the student had learned English. Another common example that often comes to me when a parent wants to show off his/her child’s learning process regarding English is asking the boy or girl “Hey, show us how you speak English”, and the child responds with a “My name is Marie, I live in Mexico and I am 12 years old”, which is a typical phrase that shows an amazing memorization skill.
Acquiring English, on the other hand, is a process that can only take place when a student is unaware of grammatical rules, and can learn subcounsciously, which can also mean, “without noticing that he/she is learning”.
Friends, family members, and mostly parents often ask me why have I chosen to work at Lomas Hill, “What has made such school click with the teaching methodology that you believe in?. The answer is simple, as of my experience,
Lomas Hill is one of the few schools in Mexico that naturally reinforces students to acquire English instead of learning English. It is amazing to watch students “understanding messages” from teachers who use drawings, mimics, slow-motion, or whichever strategy comes to their mind in order to send a message that can be understood by students, without speaking Spanish.
We also use games, because for us, games are seen as drills wrapped up in fun packages. Students do not notice how much they learn while they play, sing, dance, discuss and have fun!
As parents, the main expectation when it comes to English is for a child to speak. Well, I must say, and base my saying on literature, that speaking is NOT the beginning of language acquisition, but actually, one of the last steps. Speaking is the result of having the previous comprehensible input. Self-expression begins as something spontaneous, and natural, and harshly correcting a child when at a young age is not always the best guidance.
Eventually, students begin correcting themselves, because speaking with correct grammar becomes natural.
The phrase that I use the most and that completely represents Lomas Hill’s English Acquisition Model is: