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A Study Of How TPRS Can Be Used To Learn Another Language

Using TPRS in Acquisition of Foreign Language

TPR Storytelling (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) is a method of teaching foreign languages through reading and telling of stories in a classroom setting. The method was invented by a Spanish teacher by the name Blaine Ray, in Bakersfield, California, in 1990. The method of teaching foreign languages is for students who show disinterest in the exciting process of learning a language from a textbook. TPRS is a method that is more or less the same as the procedure involved when learning the first language. Students learn their second language the in the same manner babies learn their first language. By listening to the second language from a story teller, students acquire vocabularies that are helpful in leaning the second language. (Mason, 2005)

TPRS is the most effective way of acquiring a second language since its invention in the 1960s. According to the method, changing from commands to the third person singular allows teachers to tell stories and that makes the procedure a long-term memory technique. One of the effective physical elements that have been so powerful in the classical TPRS is asking students to participate in acting out the parts of the characters in the stories. TPRS combines several physical response methods and language acquisition strategies, thus allowing effective teaching of grammar, reading and writing along with vocabulary. (Enciso, 2011)

TPR storytelling is not complete without emphasis on reading. The whole procedure begins with an introduction of vocabulary and the complex structures that is then followed by reading. The acquisition method of foreign languages heavily relies on some hypotheses that are recommended in the reading program. The input hypothesis, acquisition hypothesis, the natural order hypothesis and the monitor hypothesis form the basis of TPR storytelling. In the method, a free voluntary reading program is recommended. Learners are encouraged not to entirely depend on the storytellers. Students ought to access books and a quiet, comfortable place to read. Additionally, the second language acquisition method involves reading to students, just as small children are read to while learning their first language for the first time.

The most significant element of the TPRS program is the awareness that the focus is on students and not on books or even the story. Maintaining a good relationship with students is regarded as the foundation of a TPRS program. The pace of giving instructions to students should be entirely based upon the assessment by the teacher of how strongly students have internalized the foreign language. Other important elements in the TPRS program are the quality and quantity of the unconditional love, positive feedback, and the appreciation provided by students to their teacher. (Mhathun 2008)


This literature review evaluates the effectiveness of Total Physical Response Storytelling (TPRS) compared to other approaches for acquiring and retaining new vocabulary in a foreign language. The subjects in the review are adult learners with limited literacy and the teachers who use storytelling in teaching foreign languages in the classroom setting.

Different scholarly articles are evaluated and reviewed to show the effect of TPRS and grammar translation approaches on the student vocabulary. The articles in this literature review are also a research on the assessment of students’ ability to acquire and retain foreign languages as compare to small children learning their first language.

In the review, additional research is needed on how to work effectively with adult students who need to learn foreign languages under challenging circumstances. The students have complicated lives and are struggling to survive in addition to studying on how to improve their language ability.

Background information

In applying the powerful concept of TPRS in classroom, here is what we know: Studies with Spanish, French, German, Japanese, and Russian demonstrate that TPR is brain compatible. It means that the method may imply short and long-term retention that is striking and statistically significant across studies. Retention with TPR is comparable to riding a bicycle. Upon elapsing of years since the years have elapsed, proficiency returns after a few warm up trials.

There is no age barrier in using the TPRS method of acquiring and retaining a foreign language. The method seems to work effectively for both children and adults. The only issue is that when the language training starts after puberty, the probability is almost certain that one will have at least some accent in speaking the second language, no matter how long one lives in a foreign country.

It is factual that TPR works for most languages including the sign language of the deaf and the language of mathematics. In the U.S.A math education is even more challenging than foreign languages. It is evident that math education is challenging since more time is spent on remedial mathematics than all other forms of math education combined. Traditional programs and foreign languages both share a common flaw; they play to half the brain and usually, it is the wrong half.

Studies show that even the adults play the game of learning another language on a level playing field. There is a widely-held belief that children have a linguistic advantage over the adults but studies contradict the opinion. Studies with the Spanish, Russian, and Japanese have it that adults consistently outperform children in acquiring skills of speaking and writing a new language. The only exception is noted when it comes to pronunciation. In a TPR class, it is the students who do the performance while the teacher is the director of the play. It is the same way that children acquire another language so quickly while living in a foreign nation. They are silent but respond to the directions from caretakers and other children hence they learn quickly.

Studies at the University of Texas and other institutions indicate that the dropout rate of second language students in a traditional program can be as high as 95 percent. The studies also have it that the stunning attrition can be reversed when TPRS is a central feature of the language program. TPRS builds confidence in students hence enabling the students to experience quick understanding of a foreign language.

Most importantly, TPRS is aptitude free. When TPR is applied by a skilled and talented teacher, academic aptitude becomes a negligible factor. Most people get surprised when disadvantaged children who experience difficulty in class at the traditional school enjoy success in a TPR class. The students can then feel the exhilaration of being competitive with the all “A” students. TPRS is therefore an important method of helping students acquire a foreign language since it facilitates instant understanding of the target language, regardless of the academic aptitude. It also enhances stress-free, high speed long-term retention amongst the students.


Many students experience difficulty in remembering vocabulary and grammatical rules well for future retrieval. Despite teachers’ efforts to make the students remember the vocabulary and grammar, the students have not often been very successful at that. Due to the challenge of students failing to remember vocabulary and grammar, some strategies have been used over time to help solve the problem. For instance, in English classes, teachers sometimes used world maps to increase the students’ vocabulary. These efforts have not been successful in working towards better understanding of vocabulary amongst the students.

Over time, learning institutions have gravitated towards the role of stories in teaching and learning foreign languages. There are many benefits that stories come with when imparting instruction and learning. For example, stories facilitate the acquisition and retention of vocabulary. (Mason, 2005)

The use of stories is important in enabling teachers to explain relevant vocabulary over a short period of time. This essay reviews the importance of communication skills among immigrants who are normally employed in low-skilled jobs that do not require high levels of communication. The most effective method of acquiring a foreign language is also discussed. The use of TPRS as a method of gaining and retaining vocabulary and grammar of a foreign language is elaborated in this paper.

It is very crucial to teach a foreign language to adults who entirely depend on the language for their economic gains. Total Physical Response Storytelling (TPRS) works well with students who apparently do not have a strong academic background. This paper shows how possible it is for students who lack good academic background to compete competently in a TPR class with students who have experienced a proper academic background. (Enciso, 2011) The study in this paper shows the effectiveness of TPRS in acquiring and retaining new vocabulary.

Annotated Bibliography “Using TPRS in Acquisition of Foreign Language”

Mason, B. (2005). Vocabulary acquisition through storytelling. TexTESOL III Newsletter, 3-5.

In this article, Mason states that vocabulary acquisition is possible from listening to stories but at the same time, listening to stories in an insufficient and an inefficient source of vocabulary. Mason informs us further that listening to stories require direct instruction as well. In the article, a study carried out by Beniko Mason attempts to confirm that listening to stories leads to the acquisition of vocabulary and also determines the efficiency of the vocabulary acquisition. In the study, two experiments are carried out; the first experiment being story-telling versus list-learning. In the first experiment that had sixty participants, all the students took part in both treatments.

The storytelling treatment involved a pretest on thirty words. The participant then listened to a story of thirty words. While the teacher told the story, the students pointed at the word they thought were used in the story. In the first treatment the participants retook the vocabulary test but presented in a different order. The second treatment involved the students being urged to work together

Experiment two was storytelling plus skill-building versus story-telling alone. In the experiment, the subjects were first year female Japanese female students at a junior college in Osaka. The students were not much exposed aural input in English. For the first group, the 20 target words were written on the board, the participants took a translation test, and the students listened to the story and then took a post-test on the same list of words. The other group involved the use of oral questions that used the target words. The participants also took a translation test and read the written version of the story. The story only group took the translation test twice, but the story-plus group did the whole procedure three times. Weeks later, the groups were given an unexpected follow-up test.

Mason notes down his results for the study and presents the mean scores for the two groups as similar. He uses a descriptive statistics on vocabulary test where the final gain for the two groups as a result of the vocabulary test is noted. Another table showing the efficiency of both the two groups is also drawn by Mason.

There was no difference in the story method and the list-learning method used in the first study. In the second story, there was also no difference in the in the efficiency in vocabulary learning between the two activities carried out. Mason indicates that the findings are consistent with the results of previous studies, an indication that listening to stories results in vocabulary development. Mason also compares the results with the comprehension hypothesis which states that language development is the result of the comprehension of messages. The goal of the study was on vocabulary development. Mason notes that the whole idea of storytelling as an effective way acquiring a foreign language is encouragement. The author of this article thus proves that stories are far more pleasant and effective than the traditional instruction. He further explains that students can gain other aspects of language from stories, as well as knowledge. In addition, Mason argues that storytelling and listening to foreign language results leads to the acquisition of vocabularies, and endeavors to demonstrate to determine the importance of the acquisition to the learners. Almost the same research has been done before and Mason’s work is just a confirmation of the previous findings. In a nutshell there is consistency in his research. In particular the finding look to be consistent with Comprehension Hypothesis that argues that of student learning a new language comes from comprehension messages. The article is a good reader for beginners in learning second language.

Maire Mhic Mhathun.(2008). Supporting Children’s Participation in Second-Language Stories in an Irish-Language Preschool. Early Years: An International Research Journal, 28(3), 299-309

This paper is a consideration of how children learning a second language were supported as active participants during the storytelling sessions in an Irish-language immersion preschool in Dublin. Mhathun note that early educators view children as active participants in their own learning. The author of this article also considers how children learning a second language were supported as active participants during storytelling sessions in Dublin. We are informed that stories were chosen as the focus of enquiry since they are regarded as productive language enriching activities. In the article, a case study method of enquiry was adopted for the research project, focusing on three and four year old children in Dublin. This paper therefore proves that active participation enhances the learning of a second language among the children.

The writer of the article kept the detailed observation notes of the story sessions and that allowed recording of a further thirty minutes time of interaction between the practitioners and children. In the study, there were also incidental talk and less formal interaction during the lunch-break. The cognitive and the social aspects of the language learning process are recognized in the paper since the resulting transcripts were analyzed from an interaction perspective. The analyses of such aspects of learning a foreign language are of use when determining the significance of input, the language addressed to the learner, and the modifications made by competent speakers.

In the article, the practitioners provided support for the children who were learning the second language through the method of storytelling, development of language, development of a narrative and the method of organization of storytelling sessions. The methods used to support children learning their second language provide opportunities for children’s second language learning as well as facilitating children’s participation and initiatives.

The methods of collecting data and their significance are outlined in the article as the views of the staff and the parents regarding the various support methods were required. The writer of the article has shown his statistical knowledge by outlining the methods which includes; use of interviews and administering of questionnaires. The formal staff interviews were significant in obtaining first hand information regarding the performance of children at the learning places. Parents too were advantaged to speak out their ideas on the performance of their children. Direct formal interviews used by the writer also provided the parents with the opportunity to give out their views on how the acquisition of the second language could be enhanced for better results.

The parent questionnaire administered to parents was a way of making sure that they monitor the progress of their children when they are at home. The writer has utilized this method of obtaining data to have an idea on the level of ownership of Irish books by parents at home. Research in the study shows that the number of information books was not pleasing implying how books are not effective in acquiring a foreign language. The two methods of collecting data are utilized by the writer of the article to prove how acquiring a foreign language through storytelling is effective. The two methods of collecting data represented the efficiency of the learning methods used in the study.

The information in the study illustrates the dilemmas that the immersion practitioners face in the early childhood settings. We get informed of how the children’s interests and initiatives can be facilitated when they are at the beginning stages of second language acquisition, and when an adult is the main source of input. The study carried out also enables us to get deeper understanding of the process of second language acquisition as well as the early childhood pedagogy.

This article also shows how the learning of a second language by the children was appreciated. There were observations and Audio?recordings made during the story sessions for a period of six months. The staffs were also questioned and parents filled the questionnaires. The study conducted indicated that the practitioners gave the children support. Difficult decisions had to be made concerning the breadth and type of learning experiences offered when concentrating on the primarily second?language learning.

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