The Georgia FL Tenets as published in 2009 were in a kind of slide show or power point format. Here is one of the first panels from that Georgia document about what they want their foreign language teachers to be doing in Georgia classrooms:
AVOID using translation as a tool for clarifying meaning.
This is so counter to everything that we know about TPRS. A limited amount of VISUAL (not verbal) translation, used in the right moments of instruction in L2, is totally necessary for the students to stay on board with the lesson, to not be left in the dust in a cloud of L2.
We depend on HIGH INTEREST LEVELS for our students to stay in engaged in our TPRS lessons. That’s how we do it. It is most cavalier indeed to speak to someone in a language that they do not understand, and expect them to learn it.
Doing what is described above is a sure formula for boredom (due to disengaged students who just don’t understand what is going on, as the teacher goes all over the place in L2, explaining all manner of things during the largely incomprehensible and meaningless lesson), and the teacher looks like something of a fool speaking to a kid in a way that they don’t understand. Would you do this with someone on the street?
It might work if you have a ten hour class, and if your students were paying for the class, but not in reality, and not with kids, whose purpose in your class is not to get the best bang for their investment dollar, but to be noticed and to learn how to grow up.
Why? Because, when we stay uniquely 100% in the target language, we would have to digress from the content of our story lesson in L2 to explain – in L2! – what each and every new term is. That is absurd. It could take up to five minutes or more to explain each new term, which would then necessitate a plethora of explanations of even more new terms in an exponential spiral, during which whatever interest had been built up in the content of the lesson would have been lost.
You might be able to pull off staying entirely in L2 with really young kids, and you might impress a clueless administrator or two in the process, but, in fact, those little kids would be processing little of what you were saying. You would be exposed if you tried it above 7th grade or so, because the kids at that age would not tolerate being spoken to in a language they don’t understand.
Visual translation, about 3-5% of a TPRS story lesson, vastly speeds up L2 acquisition. Visual and on the board translation of L2 into L1 works. We know it works and we have the happy students and their parents, not to mention the test scores, to prove it. But what about verbal translation during a TPRS class?
It’s simple. We don’t do it. So if you are one of those people who think that “they speak English” in TPRS you really need to educate yourself on this point. Yes, we use a bit of English to speed things up when we establish meaning about the three target phrases at the beginning of a TPRS class, because it works, but only for the first 2 minutes of the class, for the most part.
What a thought – we teach in a way that our students understand us. That is why it is called comprehensible input. If 100% immersion methods worked, we could all just dispense with language teaching, start looking for other jobs, and tell the kids to go home and watch a bunch of DVDs in the target language and become fluent. It doesn’t work that way.
In TPRS classes, students spend the class period being almost fully aware of what is being said in L2, and we are constantly monitoring what they are getting. It really is a beautiful thing to teach an entire class in L2, except for those first two minutes and the visual pausing and pointing from L2 to L1 on the board from time to time.
It is more than a beautiful thing. It is the only way of teaching a language that, in my own experience, actually works. So to advise an entire state full of language teachers to “avoid using L1 as a tool for clarifying meaning” is not going to work for me, and for a lot of others who do TPRS, not to mention the students.
So far I am 0 and 1 as far as agreeing with Georgia.