Some Feedback on NLP

The question:

Maria OrdoƱez, Mexico
I’m an English teacher and language Program Director that is always looking for new ideas and ways of making students more involved. I recently read the article on Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and ELT. A local language institute is boasting that by using this method you can learn English in just 3 months and they are present in various areas of Mexico. I’m interested in talking to teachers who have used this method or techniques derived from it. Is it really as good as they claim? I’m a bit doubtful.

What’s your opinion?

Steve Darn, Turkey
As the author of the article you read, I believe that NLP has its place as a complement to a number of approaches to learning a language. It has some similarities with suggestopedia and community language learning. However, it is not a language learning methodology. The value of NLP lies in confidence building, raising self-awareness, inter- and intra- personal skills and mirroring successful and good practice. If you look at Mario Rinvolucri and Judith Baker’s book ‘Unlocking Self-expression Through NLP, you will see that the activities are designed to develop language and personal skills side by side. My advice would be to beware of any claims to teach language by an ‘NLP method’ and of teachers who claim to be NLP practitioners, since there are many short courses in NLP which are sometimes claimed to be ‘qualifications’.

Irena, Ukraine
In our country we also have “English Teaching” NLP courses but they don’t claim students are really taught English. Students are just adivised on how to study English and encouraged in their studying.
On this site lesson plan “Learning styles” is based on NLP approach and helps students to determine their styles of leaning. I used it at my lessons, though a teacher can define learning styles of the students in the course of time according to their achievements. Pupils with audio or visual preferences tend to show better results. As soon as I learnt that 2 of my students are kinesthetic I started using some “action” activities to learn grammar. While teaching sequence of tenses in indirect speech I put some cards (The Present Simple, the Past Simple, the Present Perfect, the Past Perfect, can, could, will, would) in 2 rows on the floor. One of the students read a sentence in direct speech (He said,”I have never been to Italy”) stepped on the appropriate card with this tense (the Present Perfect) then made a step backward and standing on the card (the Past Perfect) said the sentence in indirect speech (He said he had never been to Italy). In fact those 2 students in my class learnt the following “rule” of rendering direct speech into indirect”Can-could, will-would, step backward in tenses”.

Myles, Austria
It seems since there is no single governing body defining standards in the world of NLP, the term is open to dilution and distortion – therefore some so-called experts in the field do not necessarily represent the wider body of thought. And some experts disagree entirely with others. It may be a good idea to offer a specific method in order to create a cohesive style among teachers in a school, and to get your staff and pupils excited about the possibilities of learning. The excitement itself might do the trick, whether the method is the source of success or not. I think, considering our history in the transmission of knowledge throughout the ages, we have developed intuition for teaching an learning; any ‘revolutionary’ method that feels unnatural or gimmicky is most likely – to use evolutionary terms – to become extinct.

Tim Russell, Vietnam
Fight your way through the mass of new age hippy nonsense surrounding NLP and you find yourself with strategies (pacing, rapport, setting examples etc.) that good teachers should already be using as a matter of course and which were being used years before someone gave them a name and made money out of it!

Zeki Kaya, Turkey
I am an English teacher. When I graduated from university in 2002 , I thought that I knew the best way of teaching, but when I was trained about NLP, I saw that what I knew was half and it is now full with the help of NLP. Now I am also an English trainer. I am doing my best to convey the real message of the NLP and how we can benefit from NLP in teaching English as a foreign language. As we know, if the message channels of pupils are open enough, we can put the the information into their minds. As a result with the help of NLP, the students can learn effectively.

Tjang Kian Liong, Indonesia
I have been teaching English for more than twenty-five years, and I have found out that the biggest barrier towards learning communicative English is insufficient self-confidence. Students in my country study English for many years at school, but the lessons stress more on the English language rather than how to use it as a communication means. Students learn about the language and not learn how to use it. NLP deals with a very wide area of different purposes, from how to set your mind to what words one has to use in negotiation, and from how to imitate something from successful people to how to hypnotize a person to be more successful. On one hand, NLP can boost a student’s success in learning English, because when the student has a more positive attitude towards English, he can learn better and he can use it in a more appropriate way. However, if it is claimed that by using NLP, an English student can jump from his real beginner level to his advanced level within three months is quite impossible, I strongly believe. When the local language institute claims that by using this method one can learn English in just three months without mentioning how much English will the student learn, they are true to a certain extent, but we have to ask them what they mean by saying so. Anyway, I personally think that NLP is very good.

Mana Rahbari, Iran
I have been teaching English for 7 years. It could not be true. Maybe students can learn some sentences for their daily activity but fluent speaking is impossible in this short time.

William M. De Oliveira, UK
Although I am teaching English in London, I am Brazilian and I taught English in Brazil using this methodology . Over there, NLP is “used” a lot as the majority of the private schools believe that NLP actually works. Personally, I am not a fan of it based on the fact that nowadays the way of teaching English in Brazil is related to NLP (for business purpose) but a great number of students and “teachers” have no clues about what this is.

These comments published November/December 2006

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