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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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My Fascination with the Silent Way


Not many people start an interesting initial encounter in Hungarian, then continue to take this relationship to another level in Chinese and end up writing a PhD about it. This is, however, the summary of my connection to Caleb Gattegno’s Silent Way.

While studying to become a teacher at Melbourne University, we were introduced to various teaching methodologies. As part of this, Andrew Weiler gave us lessons in Hungarian using the Silent Way, which is an innovative approach to language teaching. I was intrigued by the quiet concentration in the room, the tangible focus by even those who had no interest whatsoever in this unusual language. From that moment on I was hooked, not suspecting in the slightest where my fascination might lead.

It was a fortunate turn of events that resulted in me being able to learn Chinese the Silent Way for close to a year. From the first lesson onwards, I had the same experience as previously when I was learning Hungarian. There was mostly an exquisite, almost monastic calm concentration in our classroom while learning was taking place. It seemed in stark contrast to our teacher training at university that emphasised communicative language learning (CLL), which meant that whole sentences had to be practised by the students. In my opinion, CCL is still teacher focussed despite its emphasis on communication. The method does not empower students because they do not learn to construct sentences by themselves at the pace that suits...

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