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Last updateFri, 12 Oct 2018 11am

Language learning the ‘Silent Way’ – without talking!

My wife, Susy Ibarra, has been a Spanish teacher for most of her life.

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“I have taught in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the United States,” she says, “always using El Método Silencioso (The Silent Way), which I appreciate more with every passing year.”

Ibarra, who lives in Zapopan, says The Silent Way is an approach developed by Egyptian-born mathematician and educator Caleb Gattegno (1911-1988), author of some 120 books, many offering innovative approaches to teaching elementary-school subjects such as reading, math and foreign languages.

Several years ago, the University of Guadalajara invited Ibarra to demonstrate the system she used for teaching Spanish pronunciation to beginners. “When I arrived,” she says, “they took me into a classroom filled mainly with people from the United States and Canada. Many of them had been studying Spanish there for two years but after chatting with them for a few minutes, I discovered that almost all of them had the classic poor pronunciation of Spanish typically attributed to Norteamericanos in the movies.

She continues: “I then put up a chart created by Dr. Gattegno which shows all the sounds and spelling of Spanish arranged in color-coded columns. Without speaking, I indicated sounds that English speakers might have problems with, like the pure “a” in Spanish.

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