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Integration of the Self and Awareness (ISA) in Learning and Teaching

A case study of French adult students learning English the Silent Way

Patricia Benstein

The successful acquisition of a second or foreign language requires focus, motivation, and positive feedback. This case study of French adult students of English illustrates that Gattegno’s Silent Way is more than a teaching methodology. It is a science of education that integrates the self and awareness in the learning and teaching processes. This integration facilitates the personal evolution of Gattegno’s ‘pre-human’ to the ‘universal human’ who is permanently aware of his/her awareness. The resulting experience of ‘flow’ leads to a positive feedback loop that in turn contributes to the student’s enjoyment of acquiring a second language.

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14. Implications for Further Studies


The present small-scale case study aimed to investigate a different way of learning and teaching a foreign language. It showed that the Silent Way teachers used Gattegno’s model and his theory of learning as their theoretical foundation for their teaching. According to Gattegno, learning cannot take place unless the learners are aware of what they are doing. Based on this premise, the Silent Way teachers that participated in this study aimed at making their students aware of what they were doing while they were involved in learning the language. The teachers tried to avoid passing on knowledge or information about the language because the arbitrary nature of knowledge makes it easy to forget any learning based on it. They tried instead to connect the language the students were ready to learn to concrete situations in the here and now.

Starting most of the time from the sentences the students produced themselves, the teachers used different aspects or checklists of Gattegno’s model to determine why a student’s production may have been flawed. They then proceeded to give indications that there was a mistake and helped the students to work out for themselves what the correct version might be. The Silent Way teachers often used finger correction or the strategy of laying the sentence out with rods to indicate the place of the mistake. They then used words like “pronunciation” or “music” or “again” to encourage the student to try again. As soon as the student produced the...

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