In 1985, Dr. J. Marvin Brown began his version of Krashen’s ‘Natural Approach’. Things got off to a good start even though the program was being set up alongside the existing and well-established structural program at the AUA Language Center in Bangkok, Thailand.
The main distinction between the Krashen and Brown initially in their methods was found in what Brown added – the idea that ‘speaking’ in the early stages might damage the student’s ability.
By the time 20 terms had begun, the program had grown to 80 percent of the total enrollment. Students loved the flexibility and lack of pressure. The entertainment level was without parallel. “Just don’t ‘try’ to speak.” Most students wanted to speak from the start. The real miracles though, began with those who didn’t try! Speaking for those students began naturally at about 700 to 800 hours of class time while their understanding by that time was excellent. In an across the board comparison of students, there had never been any who came close to those of the ALG Program.
In 1996 it was time to expand from teaching Thai to Foreigners, to teaching English to Thais. (At AUA we had already successfully begun teaching Japanese but the program was ended before students got to the speaking stage. Teaching Japanese was perceived to be outside the bounds of AUA’s purpose.)
The Raakgaew School was begun and included the teaching of English to children as well as adults. Opposite to popular belief, it became apparent that with ALG, adults could learn just as quickly and nearly as well as children!
After over 20 years of operation, we have learned many things. We feel that there is much to be learned still. What is evident is that adults can (and many do) learn to speak a language in much the same way as a child. The only thing apparently needed is enough experiences! By maximizing the efficiency of understanding for each experience, the student actually grows the language experience by experience. Because of this, our students claim a depth of understanding, and quality of use that is difficult to find elsewhere.
David Long – June 2007