Fluency Workshop: Day 4

Posted on July 26, 2012


I flew in to Fresno Sunday evening and caught a cab to Fresno Pacific University, where the training was being held. I had missed dinner and the orientation, but my fellow students assured me I hadn’t missed anything important. I got my room (on campus) and unpacked my bag, going to sleep pretty soon after. (I paid extra so I got a room to myself; now, seeing how much time I spend all day around others, I’m very glad I did – privacy is wonderful!)

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were all structured the same: get up, eat breakfast, and start the morning workshop at 8:30. Usually, we start with group TPR (total physical response – where the instructors tell you to do something, and you do it to show your comprehension without having to speak) then go on to something else. Lunch is at 12:30, and involves guided Greek discussion over the meal. The workshops start back at 1:15. Usually, the afternoon involves us splitting into groups and rotating between rooms (with each room having a couple of instructors). We end at 4:45.

The most common teaching technique is by story. One instructor reads out a (very short) story, one sentence at a time. The other instructor will demonstrate it, either by acting it out physically, or by using toys and props (Barbie dolls, stuffed animals, etc.). After each sentence, the instructors will go around the circle of students asking questions to ensure comprehension.

Example: “The boy was hungry.”

Who was hungry?

Was the boy or the girl hungry?

Was the boy full?


In English, of course, this sounds incredibly simplistic and boring, but when one has only a tenuous grasp of the language, this repetition cements correct grammar into the mind, building automaticity and confidence.

My biggest obstacle is the analytical side of my mind. I keep trying to “figure it out,” which interferes with the process of natural acquisition. I have to consciously stop trying to visualize the words I’m hearing and translating them into English.

It’s hard to judge my progress. I can definitely tell I’m improving, but so is everyone around me. It’s kind of strange to learn something formally without being graded on it, but I just keep telling myself to relax and enjoy the process; I’m not in a race with anyone.

This morning is a break time; the workshops won’t start today until after lunch. This gives me a much-needed break to sleep in and get caught up on email and blogging.

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