What is guided imitation? What programs use this term? Why is it important in Spanish learning? This review will answer these questions.
Guided imitation is described as the process that we use to acquire language as we grow up with it. Basically, we learn to speak by listening to others speaking, and we practice speaking in such a way that we use what we imitate and then expand upon it to be able to speak even more. We use language in the context of daily conversation, changing our vocabulary and sentences to meet the needs of the daily spoken interactions in our lives. The goal of guided imitation is to recreate an environment where we learn a new language while being guided into using vocabulary in new, ever changing contexts so that we eventually become fluent.
What Programs Use Guided Imitation?
The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) originally developed this concept that has been used to train people in languages over the last 30 years. The FSI is the Federal Government’s primary training institution for the United States foreign affairs community. As such, American diplomats and other professionals train in languages before they work abroad.
As a model for language learning the FSI has influenced other language learning programs to use guided imitation. One company, Loquella, advertises that it uses a program based on the FSI guided learning system, but that it has replaced workbooks and audio tapes with online language learning and downloadable MP3 player lessons. Their stated advantage for these departures from the government system is that the program is portable, and can be started and stopped at will.
The traditional emphasis on Spanish language and pronunciation drills exists to some degree in all online Spanish language learning programs. These tools are valuable for material retention and honing skills. But, the degree to which these are used varies from one online program to the next, and often, they are given new names to describe what is essentially a similar concept. The basics still remain the basics, and that is the way it is. But, what has improved over the years, is the technological advances that make Spanish learning like this fun and interesting. As our world becomes more and more visual, visual learning styles have been improved with colorful, engaging interactive software that softens the blow of the necessity for all of the traditional repetition and review that invariably needs to take place when learning a new language.
So, do look for signs of guided imitation in many of the Spanish learning programs you see online today. The process may have a different name, but you will still find that the process is pretty much the same. It is a valuable part of any Spanish learning program, regardless of what it is called.