I’ve used several of the Teach Yourself products in the past – Thai, Italian and Mandarin Chinese – but this Teach Yourself Danish is a little different because it boasts that it also teaches you to learn how to learn. It uses what it calls the ‘Discovery Method’ to do this, with bold claims on the book cover that you will “learn faster and remember more”. Actually, for me I found this to work!
The Discovery Method
The book describes this method as a “DIY approach to learning”. By this they mean that they encourage you to engage your mind and figure out language patterns for yourself before they explain it to you. The idea is that this method promotes language awareness, which is a core skill if you want to acquire a language. Because you are actively trying to figure out the language, when you understand a grammar point or other language aspect, it stays with you for a lot longer. By this point you’ve applied yourself and have a deeper personal understanding, so you’ll also be able to confidently apply these new skills a lot sooner than if you had learned it through mindless repetition. The book also rightly points out that this approach and skillset can be used after you finish this Danish book as you progress with the language and that you can even use the same approach to learning other languages too!
How it works in practise
The Discovery Method is implemented in a very simple way. After introducing some vocabulary or short phrases in Danish, you’ll listen/read a short dialogue. This process should be very familiar to language learners. With the Discovery Method, there is a short prompt before the dialogue that often asks you a question which is just outside of your skill and knowledge level. In order to answer the question, you have to look at the information you’ve been given so far, and then critically break it down in order to make an educated guess.
In the very first section of this course, it explains how to say your own name in Danish. There are a few short example dialogues of people greeting and introducing themselves to each other. Amongst the familiar sounds and Danish equivalent words of “hello” and “my name is” there’s a sneaky phrase which means “what’s your name?” thrown in for good measure. Before you listen to these conversations, there is a prompt: “Can you work out how to ask someone’s name in Danish?”
This may seem like an easy task, but it can be quite challenging in the early days of learning a completely new language when it all just sounds like strange noise! The book continues with this style of teaching, giving you component clues to new language elements but making you do the hard work to derive meaning from them. The grammar elements are explained in a similar way, which is extremely refreshing and even fun compared with more traditional grammar teaching approaches.
Once you’ve got a feel for how a new part of the language works, the book then clarifies this new specific language point and there are exercises to reinforce the learning. When I was doing the exercises, I really felt like it was stretching my skills to their limit! But afterwards, I felt a lot more confident that I had understood what was covered in the lesson.
If you’re interested in the formal pedagogical term for this style of learning it’s called “inductive teaching”.
Has anyone else come across language textbooks that use this style of teaching? I really hope it catches on because it makes language learning a lot more fun and interactive.