Low English proficiency in many countries (South Korea #32, China #38, and Japan #55 out of 100 countries) is a severe problem that cannot be resolved technologically. We need to be fearless in challenging the conventional system of learning English that brings billions of dollars in profit to some companies. However, most learners fail and cannot communicate in English.
Problems Of Conscious Learning
The word “learning” is overused and should be clarified according to the latest knowledge of how the brain works. When we consciously acquire new information, this is learning. Conscious learning of English is exemplified by appalling forgetting curves, cross-translation, and the inability to think in English. So, the current learning pedagogy causes low English proficiency and explains why so many adults struggle to acquire English skills, and about 95% of them regularly fail.
Language is not information to be remembered or learned. It is a skill to be trained subconsciously. Native speakers speak subconsciously, (i.e., automatically on autopilot). When non-native speakers develop English skills subconsciously, they speak subconsciously too, similar to native speakers.
Definition Of Learning
Most learners and educators believe that learning a foreign language means learning vocabulary lists, grammar, and other language components separately. Here is a different approach to learning.
The language of thoughts consists of symbols and feelings which are wired to the words of our native language. Thus, the illusion is created that we think in the native language. Each individual accumulates their database of symbols and feelings, irrespective of how many languages they speak. To learn a foreign language means that we need to wire our symbols and feelings in which we think to the respective words of a second language. This wiring is done automatically (subconsciously) when we stop our ingrained habit of thinking in the native language and repeatedly practice the comprehensible text in a second language.
Our Mind Uses Two Systems For Thinking
In his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, published by Penguin Books in 2011, Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman described that our mind uses two systems for thinking. Daniel writes that we think slowly and fast depending on which system of the mind we use.
System One operates automatically and super fast, with no sense of conscious control. System Two is slow because it is under demanding conscious control. For example, conscious learning is used to acquire knowledge of many subjects in school or college. This type of learning belongs to System Two, whereas speech in the native language belongs to System One since it is performed subconsciously.
Therefore, non-native speakers acquiring ESL need to develop it using System One to speak automatically, similar to native speakers. Unfortunately, the traditional methods of conscious learning belong to System Two. In contrast, the subconscious training of language skills that belong to System One resolves all the issues of conscious learning described above.
Conscious Recall Is Very Slow
In conscious learning, adult learners receive information about various components of the English language from a teacher, a book, a video, an app, or an online course, and try to memorize it. They think that if they can remember this information, they will be able to communicate in English. This is wishful thinking since our brain has an appalling forgetting curve that protects our brain from overloading and makes remembering impossible. Even if a learner can remember the language information by applying special tools, for example, spaced repetition, it will be helpful in reading and writing. Still, learners cannot use it for communication. A conscious recall is a prolonged process and does not allow learners to produce two or more words per second that are needed to support natural conversation.
Rule Of Thumb When Conscious And When Subconscious
Research shows that our brain has an active mechanism for forgetting to protect the brain from overloading. In other words, our ability to consciously remember is limited, whereas our ability to subconsciously train new skills is unlimited. The subconscious does not forget anything. It looks for patterns in stored information and creates a skill of using these patterns automatically with minimal conscious control.
Linguistic literature does not have a definition for subconscious training. I offer a pragmatic definition based on how many actions a learner performs during learning or training.
- In conscious learning, a learner performs one or two actions only. For example, you are reading and listening, or watching and listening, or speaking.
- In subconscious training, a learner performs three or more actions simultaneously. For example, simultaneously reading, listening, and speaking or listening, speaking, and typing.
Eliminating Problems Of Conscious Learning
Performing three actions simultaneously is mandatory for subconscious training because it automatically stops the ingrained habit of thinking in the native language. Cross-translation in the head also stops and conscious control is not working. Thus, our mind activates the superfast System One that eliminates all problems of conscious learning.
The boundary between conscious and subconscious activity is not clearly defined. Learning how to drive a car is a good example when the activity starts as a conscious effort and quickly turns into a subconscious activity when the brain has acquired enough experience to find patterns in the activity and perform them automatically with minimal conscious input. First, a learner wouldn’t hold a conversation while driving, as they focus on the different moves involved. That’s because they are still consciously controlling all driving actions. However, later, when a person accumulates enough experience, their driving happens automatically, without thinking about it. A person driving could even start using their Bluetooth earphone and talking to their friends while driving. Similarly, when a learner starts using a mobile app for subconscious training, they will be doing all drills consciously for a short time. However, very soon, their brain will find patterns in repetitive actions and acquire the skill of performing those actions on autopilot.
Teachers Cannot Create The Environment For Subconscious Training
Here is the problem: Teachers cannot create an environment for subconscious training. It can be provided only by a mobile app since it requires reading a comprehensible text, listening to a recording made by a native speaker, and speaking simultaneously. A mobile app incorporates all elements which are needed to train all English skills simultaneously. It provides multiple texts, recordings by native speakers, and contains tools for recording learners’ pronunciation. Teachers cannot create such an environment for subconscious training. Teachers act as coaches, guiding their learners in their self-training. The mobile app allows all learners to practice English concurrently, thus increasing multiple times the total time spent experiencing and practicing English skills.
Creating Your Lessons
The mobile application allows learners or teachers to create unlimited, new lessons according to professional needs or interests. The new lessons could be copied from the internet or typed manually. A text-to-speech program creates soundtracks of the new lessons and learners can apply simultaneous repetition while reading, listening, and speaking. For instance, this feature helps prepare for interviews or acquire new professional skills.
Every lesson contains 3 different types of texts:
- Pre-recorded lessons on various topics and drills
- Lessons created by a learner/teacher
- An uplifting poem recorded by a native speaker
Support In The Native Language
The mobile app provides support in the native language that is extremely important for the self-training function. As a rule, teachers cannot offer support in the native language. This support is provided by the Google Translate function built into the app. The new lessons are usually copied and pasted into the application from the internet and reflect the learners’ vocational needs or personal interests. Google Translate will help learners correctly visualize the context in the native language and then work with the text exclusively in English.
Flow Speech Testing
This type of testing can be incorporated into an English-learning app that helps learners develop the habit of automatic speech and thinking in English. Regular testing strengthens students’ motivation since they observe that their ability to speak has automatically become a habit.
A new type of speech testing described here will accurately evaluate English skills. It will eliminate the stress associated with standardized testing since it is also an English-learning app component.
Flow speech testing requires students to produce a few sentences on any event that they recall from their experience, according to the word displayed randomly on the screen. The learner continues testing for at least twenty words before starting to work on the next lesson. This testing could also be performed based on a dictionary of 2200 most frequently used words in conversational English. When this type of testing is performed before the course, it will p