I want my own original teaching method. I want my name attached to a revolutionary pedagogic practice that turns language learning on its head. I want kids throwing their desks out of school windows, gleefully shouting, “We’ll do it the Gardner Way!” Or “Gardnering Goes Great!” Every time neurophysiologists discover something new about language centers in the brain, I want the BBC calling to ask for my thoughts on the subject.
But what will my method actually incorporate? I haven’t quite got that worked out yet, although I’m pretty sure that autonomy should be involved. And I really think that sociocultural factors should play an important role. And pencils—my method definitely needs to include pencils. I’ve wrestled with a few ideas for a sure-fire language learning methodology, but while these ideas look exciting on paper, I worry about whether they would actually work in real life. Let me share my most promising ones with you:
Eating your words language learning: This consists of writing L2 compositions in a stream-of-consciousness flow for 30 minutes at a time without pausing, then wadding up the paper and swallowing it. A variation on this method involves consuming not the paper, but rather the eraser residue that results from two hours of test taking.
Electroshock phonology: Electrodes placed on the ears assist the learner in achieving the proper tongue curls necessary to differentiate /r/ and /l/.
Raised by wolves method: This method seems well suited to learning the language of wolves, but would probably be less successful applied to human languages.
Total telekinetic response (TTR): With this method the learner “intakes” the material in his textbook from across the room. Unfortunately, in my preliminary tests learners have had trouble even opening the books telekinetically, let alone reading them.
Boke tsukkomi method: The learner intentionally makes funny linguistic mistakes in order to induce sharp but comic reproaches from her interlocutor. Linguistic patterns may or may not be learned this way, but at least everyone has a pretty good time.
Garden path method: Students put in groups parse sentences made trying to reason out, grammar, rank and type them. The instructor supplements with drills of repeat patterns manifest in learner structures grasp.
English through drinking games: Particular structures—say, for example, minimal pairs like liquor and kicker—are tested by being assigned to shot glasses, some filled with whiskey and others with water. The learner listens to a word and drinks from what he believes to be its appropriate glass. (Glasses are refilled as needed.) My studies show that listening comprehension improves remarkably in the first 20 minutes of the test, but then deteriorates quickly after one hour to levels worse than when testing started.
Innuendopedia: This method consists of using suggestive and off-color phrases to teach more mainstream language. I’ve had trouble finding a publisher for the textbook I wrote implementing this method.
Wash your mouth out with soap method: A variation on Innuendopedia. I took a clue for this method from my own parents, but found that it was more effective for unlearning particular vocabulary than for learning it.
Multiple personalities method: Through careful exposure to a combination of hallucinogenic aromas and psychedelic art films, the learner reaches a fugue state in which, personality-wise, she is capable of becoming a number of different people. At the right precise moment the teacher (or “language dealer”) suggests through small whispers, “You speak French very well.” After repeated subjection to the method the learner tends to shift among these multiple personalities at random, and very likely at least one of them will speak French.
“My theory doesn’t like you” method: Driven by ideology, the teacher relentlessly pushes a certain teaching regimen on students whether they appear to be benefiting from it or not. Any pedagogical failures are attributed to student anomalies and lack of funding, and not to the method itself.