Sublingual Repetitions

Sublingual Output is a term I made up because I don’t know the proper research term. It’s when the kids seem to be repeating stuff you say to themselves but you can barely see their lips move. the term conveys the idea and that’s all I care about.

Anyway, in those trainings, when you are doing it right (think of Kekeha’s instruction in our recent Saturday classes), in the videos I often see his students producing, unawares (that’s the key!), sublingual repetitions of what the instructor is saying.  What are these sublingual repetitions?

Sublingual repetitions are very subtle movements of the mouth that likely originate in the part of the brain inside the ears. They are evidence of neural activity being moved from inside the ears to the mouth. The students seem unaware that they are doing it.

This is the beginning of speech output, so please for the love of God and all that is sacred stop testing your language students on speaking too early bc it messes everything up. Why?

It is because when you make them speak you are making what is a beautiful natural unconscious process into a conscious and therefore labored one. You are taking the process of language education away from the deeper mind where it belongs and re-locating it into the conscious mind where it has no business being and on top of that, when you grade the student you make them self-conscious as well.

To say this again: When you look around at your various students, noticing that some of them are unconsciously responding to the instruction with those almost invisible movements of the mouth and lips in repetition of things the instructor says, just leave them alone.

If you’ve used CI before you’ve probably seen it. It’s a grand thing!

Sometimes the students eyes get involved with a kind of mirthful sparkle but I won’t go into that here. But when their eyes get involved you know that you are teaching slowly and at the right pace and with the right amount of lightheartedness and unexpected – never planned – humor, which is a key ingredient in all CI instruction.

Giving your students permission, without their really knowing it via your properly paced and interesting instruction, leads quickly to them making the sounds of the language themselves and once that snowballs you can’t believe how fast the output starts to happen as long as you keep the CI flowing in class and as long as there was no forcing of output early on.

If you make them speak before this process happens naturally, you are a fool.

Remember when you see your students doing this, to just go on as if nothing is happening because – as stated above – that would make the student conscious of what they are doing at such a deep unconscious level in the brain and they would stop.

You want those  those axons and dendrites to be very active in the deeper part of the brain up there. Later that night in sleep, all the input will begin to turn into real acquisition in the unconscious acquisition process that I’ve described here before and in books.

Isn’t it a fine thing that – as our students are hearing and understanding and enjoying making up mental images out of the sound that you are providing for them (that is what we do, we turn sound into images and meaning for our students) – that they are enjoying it so much that they feel that they have permission to speak the sounds to themselves, without anyone noticing?

CAUTION: You may notice that certain students sometimes repeat the words aloud. This is something you must stop, but in a kind way, because admonition from a teacher about the way they are learning can destroy a language learner in a moment, even if doesn’t seem like a big deal to you.

So just tell the student who is repeating what you are saying in class by reading it off the board behind you that is not helping them because the way we learn speech output is ONLY AFTER HEARING MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF INPUT – FAR MORE THAN THEY’LL EVER HEAR IN LEVEL FOUR LET ALONG LEVEL ONE – AND NOT BY REPEATING WORDS CONSCIOUSLY FROM THE LESSON EARLY ON IN THE COURSE OF STUDY.

When they start reading aloud, tell your students that since it is not sublingual but audible, it involves thinking. And if you have done your job in the first weeks of the year they already know that people don’t acquire languages by thinking about them, how they are built, but rather by focusing on their meaning.

So when you hear a student reading the text aloud off the board in the neat L1/L2 vertical slots that we’ve talked about and demo’d in the videos, tell them not to do it. You don’t want your students reading aloud off the board in the Phase 1 of the StarChart.

When the student reads it aloud from the board, it’s all conscious mental activity and therefore useless blather in terms of acquisition.

(It also disturbs the other students in their sublingual activity, but don’t tell them that because it embarrasses the student and therefore doesn’t help them. I might add that another quantum leap we are taking in this change to finally realizing that the only way people can learn a language is through comprehensible input, is that we must vastly increase the levels of kindness we show our kids in class. As a general rule, we haven’t done that in the past, but we can hardly be blamed for it, given how we were teaching*, but I won’t go into it here because the topic of using kindness in the language classroom would require a whole book and one written to the heart and not the mind. (My purpose in writing these books is, at its base, simply to give us ways to learn how to teach in a way that brings kindness to our students and, right behind that, inclusion of all our students into the language classroom.) Just be kind. Stop the “teacher” thing. It’s so 20th c….)

*It is very hard to create compelling messages when the hidden agenda is the relative clause. Stephen Krashen





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