We are pleased to bring you a series of blog posts and an opportunity to learn from educator and linguistic scientist, Helen Doron. Helen has been teaching English to children for 30 years. She is the founder and CEO of the Helen Doron Educational Group and created a unique methodology for teaching English, as well as maths, fitness through a foreign language, and kindergarten courses with original and revolutionary learning materials.
This week’s question:
How can a once a week, 45-minute lesson turn a child into an English speaker—what is the secret?
Well, one 45-minute lesson isn’t magically going to turn a child into an English speaker. Even twice weekly lessons alone won’t guarantee that a child becomes an English speaker. The secret to successfully learning a second language is based on a proven methodology that includes daily, background home hearing.
What is background hearing?
Background hearing is a way to take in auditory language which supports foreign language learning. With this method, a child hears audio materials in English as background sound while playing, eating, or going to sleep. This is a passive form of absorbing language, in which the child’s attention is peripherally on the background audio track. Because of this repeated hearing without the need to focus, this methodology is similar to natural mother-tongue language acquisition. It is understood amongst language researchers that peripheral language acquisition goes into long term memory and creates hard-wired mastery of language in the brain.
The Helen Doron method of background hearing
30 years of teaching have shown me that the use of repeated background hearing at home is an essential tool for helping a child learn English. Vocabulary, grammar, songs are all taught through repeated background hearing. Background hearing does not require concentration or understanding of the language. It does require twice daily, every day, hearing the specially developed learning materials.
Helen Doron materials are filled with songs, more than 500 in English, alone. Most are original and created especially for our English programmes. At the beginning the child doesn’t understand what he or she is hearing, but the songs are playing in the background while the child is eating, playing, washing, or getting ready for bed. This means of the brain is getting repeated stimulation; specific neural pathways for learning English are being created by processing the sound and the meaning of the language. Learning this way means that the children really absorb what they are hearing so that when they come to the lesson they know the sounds, they know the songs, they sing along, even if they don’t yet know what all the words mean.
It is important that the parent understands that the child attention will naturally wander because with background hearing, the child is not meant to focus on what he is hearing on the CD or downloaded audio track. This is why the process is called background hearing and not background listening.
For students ages 2 to 9, at-home learning materials include video content which accompanies the stories and songs. These videos reinforce the language because there is a visual component accompanying the audio track. For parents that prefer the children wait to watch videos at home until they are older, our programs offer home hearing materials without video as well.
Learning Made Fun
Successful language learning can’t be accomplished through background hearing alone; a talented teacher that can coordinate classroom learning materials with background home hearing materials creates the ideal environment for learning. Every Helen Doron teacher completes a rigorous training and receives teaching tools developed by pedagogic experts with thousands of resources and games for each learning set. These materials have been taught, tested and proven successful for teaching English. All lessons are taught in English so when the child goes home, he understands some of the CD which he listened to in class and will now listen to at home, twice a day.
The child then returns next week to the lesson and learns a bit more and this repeated process of home hearing – attending class – returning home and hearing again continues for about 2 months until all the content is fully understood. Then the classroom course advances to the next CD or downloaded audio track as new content is introduced.
Home hearing does not require the child to focus or study—being forced is no fun! With home background hearing, learning is spontaneous. At times the child might sing along and at other times he may not. He is hearing and taking in the information without noticing. Background hearing is the secret to successfully learning English; it reinforces the once a week 45 minute class and the child learns beautifully.