Wednesday, February 2, 2011

NLP and English Language Teaching

Language influences mental states – Sir Naeem

Introduction

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is an interpersonal communications model and an alternative approach to psychotherapy based on the subjective study of language, communication and personal change. It was co-founded by Richard Bandler and linguist John Grinder in the 1970s as a method of personal change and communications. The focus was pragmatic. Today, variants and applications of NLP are often found in seminars, workshops, books and audio programs in the form of exercises and principles intended to influence change in self and others. NLP aims to increase choice in the underlying representations so that the individual has more choice and flexibility in the world. So, Partridge (2003) states that "NLP may be best thought of as a system of psychology concerned with the self development of the human being" and "It is concerned with the function of belief rather than its nature. It is not concerned whether a belief is true or not, but whether it is empowering or disempowering".


How NLP came to be formed?

The name Neuro-Linguistic Programming was an attempt to describe in a succinct manner the scope of this extensive body of insights and skills:

1.      Neuro refers to how the mind and body interact
2.      Linguistic refers to the insights into a person’s thinking that can be obtained by careful attention to their use of language
3.      Programming refers, not to the activity of programming, but to the study of the thinking and behavioural patterns or ‘programmes’ which people use in their daily lives.

The name is a bit of a mouthful and is certainly not NLP's strongest asset. By trying to be too comprehensive it has ended up being somewhat off-putting, either because it sounds complicated or, worse, that it sounds sinister - and many people initially think the 'programming' part of the name suggests that NLP has something to do with 'being programmed'.

Functions of NLP

NLP claims to help people change by teaching them to program their brains. Neuro-Linguistic Programming(NLP) is defined as the study of the structure of subjective experience and what can be calculated from that and is predicated upon the belief that all behaviour has structure. Since the models that constitute NLP describe how the human brain functions, they are used in order to teach them. NLP is not a diagnostic tool. It can only be applied and can therefore only be taught experientially. Well trained Neuro-Linguistic Programmers will always teach by installation, not by teaching technique after technique. Techniques outdate themselves too quickly to base the field of NLP on a set of techniques. It is based upon the attitude, the models and the skills, which allow for constant generation of new techniques which are more effective and work faster.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming was specifically created in order to allow us to do magic by creating new ways of understanding how verbal and non-verbal communication affect the human brain. As such it presents us all with the opportunity to not only communicate better with others, but also learn how to gain more control over what we considered to be automatic functions of our own neurology.

NLP has something for everybody, the sick and the healthy, individual or corporation. In addition to being an agent for change for healthy individuals taught en masse, NLP is also used for individual psychotherapy for problems as diverse as phobias and schizophrenia. NLP also aims at transforming corporations, showing them how to achieve their maximum potential and achieve great success. NLP is an ever-growing collection of information, insights and mental techniques that can enable you to improve how you think, behave and feel - and assist others do the same. Becomingskilled in NLP will enable you to:

1.      do whatever you already do reasonably well, even better
2.      acquire skills and attitudes to do what you cannot do right now, but would like to be able to do
3.      think more clearly
4.      communicate more effectively with others
5.      manage your thoughts, moods and behaviours more effectively.

NLP Techniques and Procedures

In NLP World, the following sentence is repeatedly used: "Pretend it works, try it, and notice the results you get. If you don't get the result you want, try something else." This is what makes the fucndamental technique of NLP. There are many formal techniques employed by NLP Practitioners. The most important of these are the following: Anchoring, Swish and Reframing.

Anchoring Technique
The Anchoring Technique in NLP means the the process by which memory recall, state change or other responses become associated with some stimulus, in such a way that perception of the stimulus (the anchor) leads by reflex to the anchored response occurring. The stimulus may be quite neutral or even out of conscious awareness, and the response may be either positive or negative. Anchors are capable of being formed and reinforced by repeated stimuli, and thus cause a type of conditioning. NLP Anchors cab be deliberately set and triggered verbally, through touch, or other unique stimulus, to assist self or others access 'resourceful' or other target states. For example:
"Think of a time when you were really confident, when you were on the ball, when everything was going right for you. Really feel it, see yourself in that position again and double that feeling, imagine that you are there now and get deep into that experience using your imagination if necessary to enhance this feeling. As you experience that feeling, just before it 'peaks', gently clench your fist in a unique way E.G. Your thumb under your fingers(Physical anchor) and say a word like confident (Verbal anchor), as you imagine this image (Visual Anchor). Just before the feeling subsides release the anchors and 'break state' (i.e think and feel something else, get back into a 'normal' state). Important: Repeat a few times making sure you catch the PEAK of the experience. You will find that whenever you 'Fire' one of the anchors (i.e. say word, do gesture or see image) you will get that feeling back again of confidence. This can work with any emotion or feeling. I use one hand for 'up' emotions like energy and confidence, and other hand for 'down' feelings like relaxation and calm. Can be useful in interviews, relationships, public speaking etc.

Swish Technique
In Anchoring Technique you create a stimulus, in Swish Technique, you destroy a negative stimulus. Swish is a process of disrupting a pattern of thought from one that leads to an unwanted behavior to one that leads to a desired behavior. This involves visualizing a 'cue' that is part of the unwanted behavior, such as a smoker's hand with a cigarette moving towards the face, and then 'switching' to a visualization of the desired outcome, such as a healthy looking person, energetic and fit. Sounds may also be imagined or recalled to enhance the exercise. Thus, in Swish, you can visualize a certain outcome of a situation and try to avoid it.

Reframing Technique
In reframing, you can shift your focus. In NLP, reframing is the process whereby an element of communication is presented so as to shift an individual's perception of the meanings or "frames" attributed to words, phrases and events. By changing the way the event is perceived "responses and behaviors will also change. Reframing with language allows you to see the world in a different way and this changes the meaning. Reframing is the basis of jokes, myths, legends, fairy tales and most creative ways of thinking.”

The Types of Learners

As a linguist by trade, I will try to explain linguistically. If you listen to what people are saying, you’ll discover exactly how they’re processing their thoughts.  Some of us think best in pictures (visual), some of us in sounds (auditory), and some of us like to process our thoughts through our bodies (kinaesthetic: remembering that the kinema showed moving pictures makes this easy).  Visual people think very fast - they need to keep up with their pictures; while, at the other extreme, kinaesthetic people may take longer to give you an answer.  Have you ever asked a question of a teenager deep in his or her feelings, and got no response? Next time, wait a bit and you’ll get an answer: it takes time to process thoughts through every muscle. Different people have different modes in different situations.

People in visual mode will say things like: 
Look!  If you see what I mean.  From my point of view.  Let’s get this into perspective.  Watch it!  Picture this.  Look here!  I can’t see the point.  See you soon.   They’re thinking in pictures, and imagining that you are doing the same.  They’re probably also talking very fast.
People in auditory mode will use phrases like:  
Listen! A little bird told me.  Music to my ears.  That rings a bell.  I hear what you’re saying.  A harmonious discussion.  That sounds about right.  A word in your ear.  Speak soon.  Sounds are their medium, and they think they are yours too.
People in kinaesthetic mode will probably talk more slowly, and they’ll say things like:
How do you feel about that? I can’t grasp what he’s saying.  I’m comfortable with that.  My feeling is.  It was heart-warming/moving/touching.  Hold on!  He/she doesn’t turn me on.  The language of feelings needs to stir something in you.
Tastes and smells also come into language:  
food for thought, a bitter pill to swallow; digesting a proposition, sugaring the pill, a bitter argument; and smells, in particular, demonstrate a deeper level of consciousness: I smell a rat.  Follow your nose.   It stinks! She was rather sniffy about it. 

Of course, we all switch from mode to mode; but most of us prefer one mode of processing over others.  For example, if you want to sell a car to a visual person, you’ll need to focus on the overall effect of the design:do they like the colour?  Do they like the visual layout of the dashboard.  If the person is auditory;  you’ll focus on sound of the engine (for a sports car lover), the quality of the stereo, the quiet inside the car, etc.  And, for the kinaesthetic person: the comfort, the accessiblity of the functions, the feel of the steering wheel, and so on.

The same applies to teaching/learning:  for example, people in kinaesthetic mode may not understand an explanation that paints a picture.  People in auditory mode may appear to be staring out of the window all through your lesson, when what they are actually doing is paying you the courtesy of turning their best ear towards you.  People who look up in the air when you ask them a question are searching for a picture in their mind’s eye.  People who look down towards the hand they write with are checking out new information with their feelings.  People who fidget in class are just trying to get the information into their muscles. Thus, NLP can help a language teacher understand the modes of their students and apply teaching strategies accordingly.

NLP in Language Teaching – Conclusion

There are three basic principles in NLP which you can use to apply to reading and writing skills in English. For example, to be successful in life you only need to remember three things:

  1. Firstly, know what you want; have a clear idea of your goal in each situation.
  2. Secondly, be alert and keep your senses open so as to know what you are getting.
  3. Thirdly, be flexible enough to change your behaviour until you get what you want.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) begins with an interest in people; it's about how we do things. NLP used in Language Teaching tells us about how we, ourselves and our students, think and learn. It does this by enabling us to explore the structure of our own subjective experience: how we construct our view of the world. Used in Language Teaching, NLP empowers us to submerge into the inner, virtual-world image each of us creates as a way of understanding the outside world.

An example of NLP is the example of a history teacher I know. He is currently spending a lot of his free time learning to program a Roman house in virtual reality. His aim is to be able to take his students for a virtual walk round the house so that they can explore it in 3D. In a similar way NLP techniques enable us to demonstrate to students their own inner learning processes. This brings them much closer to learning to manage their own rich internal software: their images, sounds and feelings. Bit-by-bit they will come to understand and even learn how to control the way they think. In short they will learn how to learn. This is surely our goal as educators. So the above principles can be used in Teaching English. If NLP is combined with ELT, better results can be produced. 

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