Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Introduction to Crosstalk

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Crosstalk is a technic developed at ALG World for their Thai language learning programme. They have a unique approach to language teaching that focuses on comprehensible input. The programme aims to develop an environment for adult language learning that's based on how children learn languages. This approach has gotten very good results, especially for pronunciation with many students getting native or near native accents.

This approach is only available in Bangkok but David Long, the director of Thai studies at ALG, believes 'crosstalk' is the technic that anyone can use, to learn a language. This is what ALG says about crosstalk.

This is my current understanding of crosstalk

Basically, crosstalk is a conversation between two or more people who have different native languages. They use their native language and no translation is used. Instead varies non-verbal communication technics are used, so that the conversation is comprehensible to the people involved.

The non-verbal technics that can be used are familiar to all of us. They including drawings, use of graphics and symbols, pictures and photographs, body language (the more exaggerated, the better), movement, acting out, talking about the environment around you, and the use of objects etc. They can be used on their own but are more powerful when used in combination with one or more other technic.

For example, if you’re talking about time, the use of a clock, some timetables (train etc) and a calendar would definitely help people, who are using different languages, to better understand each other.

If you used the non-smoking symbol, it's fairly easy to indicate that it’s bad for your body and smells through body language. You can also show how expensive it is by writing the price and an upward arrow etc. The good thing about this topic is that most people have an opinion about it.

Advantages of Crosstalk

• It allows you to have an engaging conversation with someone who speaks a different language to you.
• It exposes you to spoken language.
• You use your strengths and you get comprehensible input of the other language. This point is worth expanding on. If it’s me and I use Dutch, the focus will be on correcting my Dutch as it would be pretty rubbish at the moment. Whilst I can understand some Dutch, my active vocabulary is limited and I would struggle to form sentences. It would be slow and painful for me and the Dutch person. No real conversation would be achieved if I used Dutch but it could be achieved if I used my English (my strength).
• From my knowledge (not practice yet), I believe that crosstalk can happen anywhere. You can leave the classroom behind and instead, use the real world as your class. The class with crosstalk could be in the supermarket, shops, walks, gardens, parks, places of interest, farms, factories, homes and more. Because the focus of crosstalk is comprehensible input, if you talk about the environment around you, about things and people you can see, then that would be comprehensible input.

My crosstalk story so far.

I have a theoretical understanding of crosstalk and from this I believe it’s a powerful tool for language learning, especially getting comprehensible exposure to your target language.

My goal over the next month is to move this theoretical knowledge into practical knowledge so that I can improve my Dutch significantly. Also, having a practical understanding of how crosstalk works, I’ll be in a better position to help other language learners use this technic.

My limited use of crosstalk has been with encounters at shops, markets and restaurants. This is a very superficial use of crosstalk (works well in the Netherlands because almost everyone understands English). I’ve also got some input from strangers on the street.

If you’re interested in helping develop the use of and finding out more about crosstalk, then contact me on 0630 790 269 or

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