First Fluency an application of NLP patterning to 2nd language acquisition

March 10, 2013

An Article By John Grinder And Carmen Bostic St Clair

Each language is the repository of accumulated wisdom of its speakers (in the sense, that the speakers of each language have succeeded in surviving, reproducing and passing their specific way of imposing structure on the world, their language): each language is a way of approaching the world differently. People with bilingual skills report that their experiences of the world shift as they shift languages. Clearly, for those wishing to gain access to the richness of the various cultures of the world, the ability to use the language of the people of that culture is a primary strategy for gaining such access. If the language learner is to enjoy this amazing adventure, it is extremely important that they avoid translation ”“ that is, the learner thinks directly in the target language and explicitly does not formulate what they wish to say in their native language and then translate into the target language.

From the 24th to the 27th of August, John Grinder, Carmen Bostic St. Clair under the auspices of the NLP Academy of the UK (Michael Carroll) will offer a First Fluency course in the region of San Javier/La Torre, Spain for participants wishing to begin their acquisition of the Spanish language. The term First Fluency refers to the point in the acquisition of a non-native language when the language learner is able to use the language effectively enough that when addressing native/fluent speakers of this-being-acquired language, that the native/fluent speakers remain in the language to be acquired and do not revert to the native tongue of the learner. When I can speak and understand enough to continue in an exchange with a native/fluent speaker, in normal conversation socially, I have achieved First Fluency.

First Fluency is a reference point of crucial importance in acquiring a non-native language. It is clear that we, as humans, come equipped with the ability to achieve fluency in any natural human language. The most obvious example is, of course, our first or native language. Highly skilled and precisely trained linguists have spend decades attempting to explicit the structure of natural languages, and while fascinating patterning has been uncovered and coded, not one single language has thus far been adequately analyzed. This strongly suggests that language acquisition is not a learning task that is best accomplished by conscious strategies.

While the professional linguists have done their best but thus far have failed to complete the analysis of a single human language, every child with a testable IQ accomplishes this task effectively. This strongly suggests that each of us as member of the species have the requisite circuitry to accomplish the task of acquiring natural languages. We propose that these same natural circuits and the abilities they represent can be recruited for the acquisition of additional languages, and in association with the use of the First Fluency strategy. The importance of reaching First Fluency is simply that once native/fluent speakers accept you as a First Fluency competent speaker of their language, they will be willing to converse with you in Spanish. This activity, conversing with native/fluent speakers, will with time and practice automatically lead to fluency in the language in the same way that each of us as children achieved fluency in our native tongue ”“ the activation of the circuits that you used to acquire your native can deliver fluency in additional languages.

The primary obstacles typically encountered during the (actual or attempted) acquisition by people of non-native languages appear to be two in number:

1. The active interference of the largely unconsciously mastered 1st of native language

2. The state of the learner ”“ especially with respect to their reflexive self consciousness and the issue of how to usefully make mistakes

The First Fluency program designed initially by John Grinder and developed by him and Carmen Bostic St. Clair addresses these issues through the manipulation of the state of the language learner and the context in which the language acquisition occurs. The special importance of First Fluency resides in the leveraging of the same neurological circuitry used unconsciously and intuitively by all of us in the acquisition of our native languages for the acquisition of additional languages.

More specifically, the circuitry required by achieve fluency in a human language is a natural legacy of our species ”“ the issue we wish to address with respect to First Fluency is how to access these circuits in order to acquire additional languages as an adult, an already fluent speaker of a native language. The significant superiority, both in acquisition efficiency and in the resultant fluency, of pre-puberty young humans in acquiring languages has been an observation of long standing. It has been proposed that there are developmental shifts in the ability to learn languages that occurs at puberty ”“ however to date, there are no known studies that have verified this conjecture. The two primary proposals about how this might occur involve alleged change in the plasticity of the nervous system and the lateralization of language hemispherically. Both of these conjectures are borrowings from studies in the acquisition of the first language and to date, little in the way of evidence, has been forthcoming. Other investigators have pointed out that the context of acquisition is significantly different for children (pre-puberty) and adults (post-puberty). Children learn languages typically in natural settings whereas adults are subjected to formal educational contexts.

Whatever the actual case ”“ plasticity, lateralization hemispherically or the learning context – may be, the First Fluency program has been tested in a number of cases and the results are most encouraging. We mention below several of the characteristics of the First Fluency program.

Here is a partial listing of some of the distinctive features of the First Fluency program:

1. The creating of and the sustaining of a specialized altered state of consciousness which the language learner activates and uses for the acquisition of the non-native language ”“ in the case of this program, Spanish. In its ideal form, this special altered state of consciousness contains all the experiences of the learner with respect to the language-to-be-acquired; this state is altered enough that the learner does not have normal access (ideally, none at all) to their native tongue while in this state. In addition to the linguistic components of the to-be-acquired language, Spanish, the state also contains the classic postures, gestures, movements and other physiological components that distinguish a native/fluent speaker/actor of Spanish from a native/fluent speaker/actor of English.

This special altered state is contain the NLP patterning ”“ several examples of which are listed below. In addition, it will be extremely important to present a positive set of responses to the exchange conversationally with the native/speakers ”“ however they respond. One particularly importance exchange is when the learner attempts to communicate something in Spanish and makes a “mistake”, possibly mispronouncing a word or using an inappropriate work and the native/fluent speaker “corrects” that “mistake”.

The work mistake is deliberately placed in quotes to signal to the reader/learner that just as the children do in their acquisition of language (1st or 2nd languages), the learner’s task in large part consists in generating mistakes so that the native/fluent speakers who the learner is in contact with can correct them (critical feedback). Mistakes are a natural and consistent part of the acquisition of natural languages ”“ without mistakes of these classes, learning a language is far more difficult.

Given all this, the response, both verbally, and especially non-verbally (physiologically) that the learner makes to corrections by native/fluent speakers is critical. If when the native/fluent speaker corrects the learner, the learner responds by looking embarrassed, sheepish, unsettled by the correction, it is unlikely that further corrections from this native/fluent speaker will be forthcoming. On the other hand, if the learner responds to the native/fluent speaker offering the correction (feedback) by maintaining a positive state of connectedness with him or her, makes eye contact, offers a congruent nod and gracias and then repeats the word until the native/fluent speaker acknowledges that the learner has understood and accepted the correction adequately, the native/fluent speaker will be eager to offer further corrections (feedback) and the acquisition of the language will be accelerated. If immediately after receiving the correction, the learner uses the word several times in the next phrases, the native/fluent speaker will be pleased and highly encouraged to continue with the conversation and continue to offer the correction required to bring the learner’s performance into alignment with the appropriate use of the language. Observe children and how they respond in correction and consider how to do something similar.

2. The manipulation of context to assimilate vocabulary ”“ the rule is simple:

No vocabulary lists ”“ all nouns and verbs are to be acquired in the context where the actual objects and/or actions being referred to are present.

For, example, in this course, arrangements will be made to identify local merchants who are willing to participate with us in the program. These businesses will display a symbol that is an invitation for the students in the course to shop in their establishment. These local merchants will be prepared to aid the students in their shopping. Here is the description of a typical exchange with such a merchant to acquire vocabulary.

A participant in the seminar spots the welcome symbol in the window of a butcher shop. She enters the shop displaying a matching symbol on her outer garment (so that the merchant and his or her employees recognize her as a participant in the language acquisition course). The usual social greetings occur

Buenos dias, senor Good day, sir

Muy buenos dias, senorita/senora
A very good day, miss/mam

?Puedo ayudarle en algo?
Can I help you with something?

Gracias, tengo que ver Thanks, I have to look

The participant spots a piece of lamb that she wants to buy, and catching the employee’s attention, gestures (with an authentic Spanish gesture towards the lamb on display and says

Me gustaria comprar ese I would like to buy that

Note that the student uses the variable, a pronoun to refer (with the gesture) to the piece of lamb (not knowing word for lamb in Spanish). The butcher pauses and guesses that the student is referring to the lamb, reaches over to indicate what he is referring to (the lamb) and says

?Le gustaria comprar el cordero? You would like to buy the lamb?

The participant, alert to detect the vocabulary item (lamb) that she was lacking, hears cordero (and seeing the butcher indicate the piece of meat she was interested in, echoes the work to assimilate it, saying,

Si, senor, el cordero Yes, sir, the lamb

The transaction continues and the participant will learn to handle issues like the quantity and price,.. with respect to the commercial transaction. The point of the this example is to call to the attention of the language learner, to the question of how to acquire vocabulary. The overall strategy is simple enough ”“ the participant is to place him or herself in the context that contains the objects (nouns) and actions (verbs) of interest and to interact with the native/fluent speakers using variables (pronouns) with native gestures to get the native/fluent speakers to give them the vocabulary item that they are lacking, it is an excellent practice to use the new vocabulary item when in the presence of the object whose name the participant is learning a number of times immediately upon hearing to set it for later recall

The key difference is that with a vocabulary list,  the participant is being taught to translate from their native language into the target language whereas with the First Fluency method, the participant is learning to attach the vocabulary items in the target language directly to the objects or actions physically present to them.

3. Strategies that take advantage of the structure and patterning of the language-to-be-acquired and natural leverage points for acquisition. For example, in both American English and Spanish, the formal verb tense called the future tense is seldom used in conversational speech (although it may appear in formal speech contexts or in the written form of the language. More specifically, in American English, the formal future tense as in the expression,

I shall eat at this restaurant later this week

is conversationally rendered as

I’m going to eat at this restaurant later this week

Correspondingly, Spanish has a precise structural counterpart where the formal future expression

Comere en este restaurante mas tarde esta semana

is commonly rendered

Voy a comer en este restaurante mas tarde esta semana
Thus, the parallelism is obvious ”“ the consequence of this observation is significant. To achieve First Fluency, the future tense of the Spanish verb is NOT required ”“ once, the learner has achieved Fitst Fluency, s/he will learn the formal future tense through natural exchanges with native/fluent speaker of the language through the activation of the same natural legacy circuits that s/he is an heir to as a human being.
Note that given this parallelism, a dedicated language learner could simply master (memorize) the 5 common forms of the verb to go (ir) in Spanish and the 15 most commonly occurring verbs in their natural uninflected form and thereby acquire the ability to articulate hundreds of useful, relevant and perfectly understandable (to a native/fluent speaker of Spanish. Here are some samples phrases using this principle:

Spanish verbs (infinitive form)  Resultant sample phrases

comer (eat)      Vamos a comer ahi manana (we going to eat there tomorrow)

beber (drink)  Voy a beberlo aqui mas tarde (I going to drink here later)
comprar (buy) Este chavo va a comprarlos (this guy is going to buy them)

llevar (bring) Vas a llevarlo contigo   (you are going to bring it with you)
Escribir (write) Van a escribirnos pronto (they are going to write us soon)

4. The participants in this seminar will be provided with a cd with a series of phrases that they will be asked to memorize. There are several classes of such phrases, I mention two such classes:

A. fillers ”“ phases that the language learner uses to fill the awkward time during which the learner ins formulating something appropriate to say to the native/fluent speaker. For example, situation that every learner of a non-native second language finds him or herself in during the acquisition phase in which the native/fluent speaker has said something and the learner is in the process of decoding and formulating a response to it

Pues, dejeme pensar well let me think

No estoy seguro que entenfi I am not certain I understood

?Puede repetirlo que dijo? Can you repeat what you said?
B. clarification

?Que quiere decir? What do you mean?

Dame un ejemplo Give me an example

Indicame lo que quiere decir Show me what you mean

5. The consistent use of a set of NLP patterns: here are a couple from the set:

A. Mirroring competences ”“ by mirroring the native gestures, voice qualities, postures, pauses,..the learner will be able to create a relationship of rapport and with it, the illusion of understanding and participating in the conversational exchanges far beyond what their actual linguistic competences actually are . A significant amount of the perceptions of native/fluent speakers with respect to the linguistic competency of the learner comes from the activation of corresponding sets of neurological circuitry (specifically, the Mirror Neurons). If the native/fluent speakers are comfortable (faced with matching visual and auditory cues coming from the learner that correspond to their own ongoing experience), they will be far more likely to continue in a conversational exchange with the learner:  the key to acquiring the language.

B. Questioning competencies ”“ there will be times when the learner has no clue about the maning of either a particular word or even the entire phrase that the native/fluent speaker has presented.

The two most relevant questions typically for the learner in acquiring the language are the specifier questions ”“ one for nouns and one for verbs
If the word used by the native/fluent speaker is a noun, use the noun specifier: for example, the native/flent speaker says:

?Quieres tomar una bebida? Want to drink a beverage (usually, a soft drink)?

Suppose that the learner already recognizes the work (verb) tomar (take, eat, drink ”“ depending on context) but has no idea what the work bebida means and therefore is uncertain how to response as the learner doesn’t understand what is being offered (una bebida). As in the original meta-model, take the word in question (the learner will recognize that as the word is preceded by the article una ”“ a or an ”“ the word is a noun, The learner simply extracts the word in question in places it in the question

Oh, gracias, ?cual bebida? Oh, thanks, which (or what) bebida?

The native/fluent speaker will likely respond by a offering a menu ”“ coke, limonada, pepsi,.. from which, the learner can choose
Now suppose that the native/fluent speaker of Spanish says

?Te ofresco una bebida?

Let’s say that the learner recognizes the noun (una bebida ”“ a beverage) but not the verb (ofreces ”“ offer). The learner simply extracts the unknown verb (ofreces ”“ offer) and places it in the specifier question ?_____, como especificamente? yielding ?ofreces, como especificamente? The native/fluent speaker will likely respond to this somewhat strange question by demonstrating or simply carry out the action of bringing the learner a beverage or s/he will respond with the 1st question above – ?Quieres tomar una bebida?

The intention behind the use of these specifier questions is to allow the conversation to continue ”“ the key element in the acquisition of Spanish (or any other second language). -Note that at the same time, the learner is acquiring vocabulary in context.

C. State choices: as already mentioned, the key to language acquisition is the state of the learner (and how it influences the interaction between the learner and the native/fluent speakers of Spanish). Thus, those people wishing to participate in this language acquisition program are advised to review and verify their ability to generate, select and maintain the states of utility ”“ in particular, the know-nothing state and a set of high performance states marked by high acuity (for mirroring, for example) and reproduction of native looking and sounding postures, gestures , pauses, voice qualities ”“ the set of states typically achieved through the use of a New Code game. Thus, we recommend that the participant verify through direct testing that the states issuing from New Code games and activities.

We also recognize and accept the possibility that some of the participants may required assistance in achieving these special states and will offer such support as a part of the program. We urge the participants to review and have activated the skill sets we have mentioned in this description so that they can proceed directly to the acquisition of Spanish rather than using the time in the course to prepare their states and skill sets.

Those people wishing to participate will receive a CD with key phrases and other material in Spanish to give them a running start so that they can transition directly into the structured exercises of the course as quickly as possible.

John Grinder Carmen Bostic St. Clair

Bonny Doon, California, February, 2013

About The Author

John Grinder and Carmen Bostic St Clair have been working with the NLP Academy for a number of years. Together along with Michael Carroll of the NLP Academy they have designed a brand new seminar called first fluency Spanish and created the ITA. All details can be found on the NLP academy website.

Latest insights from our experts

Blog Derren Brown, placebo, pills and psychology April 22, 2024
Videos The Impeccable Inception – the birth of NLP March 29, 2024
Videos The Impeccable Inception – the birth of NLP March 29, 2024
Videos The Impeccable Inception – the birth of NLP March 29, 2024
Videos The Impeccable Inception – the birth of NLP March 29, 2024
Videos The Impeccable Inception – the birth of NLP March 29, 2024
Videos The Impeccable Inception – the birth of NLP March 29, 2024
Videos The Impeccable Inception – the birth of NLP March 29, 2024
Videos The Impeccable Inception – the birth of NLP March 29, 2024