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Q Talk

Aprile 2010
Un sistema innovativo per insegnare le lingue basato su semplici schede con immagini. Ne parliamo con l’inventore, Maurice Hazan, che aggiunge un consiglio per tutti coloro che vogliono davvero imparare una nuova lingua. Evitare tutto ciò che è doppiato!

di Marina Carminati

File audio:

The Tribeca School of Languages in New York
The Tribeca School of Languages in New York
Maurice Hazan
Maurice Hazan

Speaker: Rachel Roberts (Standard British accent)

Maurice Hazan is the son of a German mother and an Egyptian father, but he grew up in France. This probably explains his love of languages. 20 years ago he began teaching French in the United States, but he has since opened the Tribeca Language School in New York, where pupils can also learn Spanish, Italian, German, Greek, Hebrew, Chinese and even Hindi. The minimum age for enrolling on a course at the school is just two years old.
Key to the teaching is a method which Hazan invented called “QTalk.” This revolves around the use of cue cards in the classroom. These are cards with drawings or words which are used to prompt pupils to talk. Hazan maintains that students can become “somewhat functional” in a new language after just one hour.
When Speak Up went to see Maurice Hazan, we asked him whether it was true that children had a natural advantage over adults when it came to learning a foreign language:

Maurice Hazan (French accent):

When you are a child, you have the ability to develop what is called “phonetic synapsis.” Phonetic synapsis is a function of your brain to create (sic) connections between neurons. In short, you can develop an authentic accent, which becomes more difficult as you get closer to your teen years. Also, children can integrate grammar, or what is known as “semantic memory,” without formal instruction. In other words, they can be exposed to a second language with no particular order, and if they are exposed to this situation, say, in an immersion context, then they have the unique ability to fragment this information, make sense of it and produce sentences that they’ve never heard before.  Noam Chomsky, who is the leading psychologist here right now in the States, is the first psychologist to have identified this and he calls this “the language module.” If children are exposed to a second language an hour a week, then they can get some exposure to this language, but they will not become genuinely fluent that way.
There is a big myth that adults are not able to learn a second language: adults who decide to learn a second language are therefore very motivated and they can exceed children’s performance in a one-hour-to-two-hour-lesson-a-week situation.


We then asked Maurice Hazan whether some adults were more gifted than others when it came to languages:

Maurice Hazan:

Yes, it’s true. Some people are more gifted than others. Some people have a propensity to learn a second language and others don’t. It’s all about your level of filtering, or your filter resistance to the outside world. The filter resistance is how you are able to embrace or reject the other world. Let’s imagine, if you can come from a family where there is clearly no interest in the world overseas, then your chances of becoming bilingual are limited. Also, if you interpret the world outside of yours as inferior, as do most Americans, then you will not be inclined to learn another culture, and the main component of a culture is its language. Dutch people, for instance, are remarkably inclined to learn many languages. It is due to many factors, but one of them, for instance, is the fact that television programmes are never dubbed, but they’re simply sub-titled. This causes the population to be exposed to other sounds very early (on). The programmes are not dubbed and simply sub-titled, not because they are (too) lazy  to do that, but because they feel that changing the audio on movies, or documentaries, produces a very inauthentic version of these programmes, just as if you were to have somebody sing in Dutch over a song of the Beatles: it would make no sense!



QTalk is based on a series of images (“QCards” – or “cue cards”) which represent all parts of speech – subjects, verbs, objects, conjunctions, times of day, adjectives and the most common vocabulary.
The QTalk philosophy is simple: “Speak immediately and have fun doing so in every class by using the ‘QCards.’”
These materials are used to teach vocabulary words individually and then placed side by side for instant communication in complete sentences. Different cards represent, for example, a series of verbs that allow children as young as two to recognize “action words.”
From simple sentence interpretation, the teacher can move onto scene interpretation, short stories and dialogue games, all increasing in complexity at a rapid pace, but without the “intimidation” of traditional language learning techniques.

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for enrolling on a course - per iscriversi a un corso.

cue cards - schede (cue è un termine teatrale che indica il segnale d’entrata di una battuta, e si pronuncia come Q, da cui il nome QTalk).

somewhat functional - in qualche modo operativo.

as you get closer to your teen years - man mano che ci si avvicina all’adolescenza.

make sense of it - elaborarle.

they can get some exposure to this language - possono avere un contatto con questa lingua.

they can exceed children’s performance - possono superare i risultati di un bambino.

gifted - dotati.

it’s all about your level of filtering - è tutta questione di quanto uno riesce ad assorbire (o a rifiutare).

overseas - all’estero.

Dutch people - gli olandesi.

remarkably inclined - notevolmente portati.

are never dubbed - non sono mai doppiati.

lazy - pigri.

it would make no sense - non avrebbe alcun significato.