WTF? – 3

We were talking about the limitations brought by the new practitioners of TPRS/CI who have over the past twenty years led the TPRS/CI movement into a new marketplace which I call the “CI Marketplace”, where the purity of the research and the elegant simplicity of the Communication standard have been left in tattered shreds of paper on the marketplace floor.

We find this CI marketplace everywhere these days. Laura Avila, a knight in shining armor of all that is true in our profession, told me some months ago that she is tired of being targeted by CI email sales campaigns.

In the new marketplace the research and standards don’t really count, whereas money and influence do. No “WTF” on that one – it’s a natural human thing to be greedy. No blame. But it’s cost a lot of careers in the past two decades, so there is that.

Because of COVID, both types of teachers – textbook traditionalists and the new CI faux experts – are like boxers who, having been dealt vicious viral blows to their heads, fall to the mat and get counted out. They leave the ring, defeated, but need the salary and medical/retirement benefits, so they keep on teaching online and will probably do so in the fall, but yippily.

The hope of finding the real joy that can be found in this most unique profession (when CI is properly done) has been all but lost, a victim of COVID and the ineffectiveness that the traditional textbook and faux TPRS/CI techniques mentioned in the last post here have wracked on our profession.

In short, language teachers are in almost complete disarray right now, and they are not too happy with the prospects for the fall when, without a physical classroom in which to dominate and exercise their traditional power over children, their weak underbelly in terms of instruction that engages kids in the real way, has been covidly exposed.

The same online things that happened to language teachers this spring will happen in the fall unless the teachers muster up the courage to change.

Sadly, few will change and find their way back to language instruction that aligns with the research. But some will absorb the COVID blow and come back in the fall to win the online match and when it happens, the physical classroom game.

How? The few will unite with the other few who finally are able to throw off the yoke that we used to call school, and make the research and the Communication standard sing in their classrooms.

Where are those teachers. Many are readers here. There is also our little group of online teachers in our Zoom group. The few. No blame. Who can be so brave as to chuck everything and start anew? Few.

So to answer my question posed in the last post, I suggest here a possible trajectory for the next ten years leading up to 2030 for the foreign language profession – it will probably continue to go south.

Of course, this will allow the textbook companies to breathe a big sigh of relief, knowing that what counts to them most (not the research) has been spared a little while longer, profits will be down but not gone, and the TPRS threat of twenty years ago will have been met and put down.

Eventually, however, we will see the the complete collapse of traditional textbook and traditional TPRS instruction, and we will one day teach in alignment with the research and the Communication standard.

But not this decade, unfortunately. There is too much smoke being blown by language teachers right now. Give it a while longer. I personally believe that only God decides when things change. We just have to go continue to go to work each day. That’s all we have to do, with trust in our hearts that these crazy-ass days will one day give us a way to mount a more sane response to the challenges of teaching a foreign language than what we are doing now.




3 thoughts on “WTF? – 3”

  1. Hello Ben. I return to the TPRS world and the learning of MVSKOKE from a long hiatus of retiring and. caretaking. I am now teaching a few adult learners who like myself are trying to revitalize themselves and their language acquistion skills during Covid times.

    I love adult learners. They are motivated learners. It might offer language teachers a new funding stream online. I don’t know. I don’t zoom as my students are a doctor and her sister we practice safe social distancing.

    Just glad to see you online still and looking forward to your thoughts.

    Kate Taluga in Dogtown, Florida

  2. I totally agree with what you say about adult learners. They are 100% better. You don’t have to grade them, or hold them in check in class. And now with COVID, the idea of managing kids online is a pipe dream. The futility in the profession with online language instruction is palpable in all teachers, even the great ones like Grant Boulanger and Corinne Bourne. COVID could very well spell the end of language education altogether.

    I heard that in our district here in Colorado they want only 1/3 of students in a school building on any given day. That means 2/3 of the time it’s gonna be online. Teachers cannot do that.

    However, I am working intensely with a small group of teachers online with Zoom to explore all this. There is success. I will send you the book, my most recent of seven written since I saw you last, that I think (has shown me in our Zoom group) can solve the problem of providing AUDITORY input – since it precedes reading, no small detail that.

    But Kate since we last spoke most CI teachers (we don’t even use the term TPRS anymore) have turned our work into a kind of devolved version of what Blaine was doing and what we were all excitedly talking like little kids at summer camp about a decade ago. The sense of connectedness we had then is gone.

    You will recognize Circling w Balls as an activity, now under the new name of Card Talk. Look carefully at pp. 8-35 for what that has evolved into. I highly recommend that you use that strategy with your Myskoke students.

    What from Jacob in OK?

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