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A Letter from Power-Glide

Differences! Sometimes They Are More Than Skin Deep!

A personal word from Hal Wallace, Manager, Public/Client Relations at Power-Glide

I have been thinking about something. We advertise widely. We talk with many people about our products on a daily basis. In every situation, we tell everyone we talk with that we are different...but there is rarely the space or time to describe clearly just what we mean when we say that. Today, I am going to attempt to do just that for you.

I must begin with just two paragraphs about our founder, Dr. Robert Blair, who earned his PhD in Linguistics at Indiana University before spending the next forty years as a college professor. During those years, aside from various linguistic projects for organizations such as the Peace Corps and the U.S. Military, Dr Blair nourished a certain fascination with just how languages are acquired, and how they are taught. He was particularly interested in innovative methods of language teaching.

In 1982, having compiled material from the published works of several people involved in language learning or language teaching, including his own, Dr. Blair produced a book called Innovative Approaches to Language Teaching. Later, drawing from his accumulated experience, he utilized ideas to one degree or another from several of those methods, with the thought of producing a totally new set of language materials...materials which would more closely resemble the way we learn naturally. The result of that work eventually became Power-Glide Foreign Language Courses. Having provided this short history, this document seeks to describe more definitively just what makes our courses tick. I hope it will help answer the question we are so often asked, "Just what is so different about Power-Glide?".

For starters, we use a strategy of massive comprehensible input. We believe traditional, linguistic-based methods, which are highly-structured and in a general sense place bite sized pieces of information in a line and ask us to memorize them, have failed in the short term to engage the majority of us, and have failed in the long term to teach us to communicate effectively. For verification, think about your own school experience. In contrast, our own recipe says if:

  1. we provide large amounts of comprehensible information;
  2. supply it from different directions (holistically) in an engaging, contextual way;
  3. and use several different sensory approaches, Then, a student will assimilate a significant portion of that information naturally, without extensive memorizing...making possible the acquisition of the language in a far deeper and more effective way than can traditional methods.
That is a long definition, but all our materials are developed to serve that general idea. To accomplish that goal, we utilize the following tools:

1. The Adventure Story platform.
Stories are engaging. Everyone loves stories. In this one, the student is the protagonist. Having been placed in a foreign culture, the student finds he or she must learn the language in order to solve a mystery. Since the story develops around real-life situations, the language is always learned in a meaningful context. Just as importantly, by being fun, the story platform provides a means of long-term focus as well as a lower stress level. We all know stress can inhibit performance. And we all know that little discipline is required for us to do things we enjoy.

2. Interesting and varied Exercises.
Right off the bat, day one, students discover they already know several words in the target language, because English has assimilated so many. Several more are added in context. At the same time, in one of the first exercises, students are listening to sentences being spoken, while, in their workbook, they are looking at those sentences just as they sound, allruntogether. Without the usual visual cues (the separation of words in text), a student is forced to listen more carefully! By practicing separating the words themselves, students soon learn to discriminate different sounds, a first step toward comprehension. From day one, they are encouraged to use what they know. Other types of exercises include: A. Ditties and jingles, B. Songs, C. Poems, D. Multiple choice frames, E. Written translation, (forward and reverse), F. Rapid oral translation, G. Words and patterns, H. Scatter Charts (utilizing a pool of about 30 words to construct sentences). I. Diglot weaves, (placing target words in an English storyline, in places where one can intuitively discover meaning, and at an increasing frequency.) J. Pictographs, K. Mini-dialogs, L. Creating mini-story plots, M. Reading stories in the target language, N. Error detection, O. Matching exercises, P. Multiple choice, Q. Comparison of correct and incorrect usage, R. Reading comprehension, S. Listen and Draw, (Draw what you hear), T. Humor, U. Numbers, V. Alphabet, W. Colors, X. Body parts, Y. Grammar, Z. Read and Act Out the called for action... and more!

Within the first 20 pages, they will have been introduced to parts of speech, such as articles, adjectives, and word order, but rather than having students do memorization exercises, we have them discover those rules by demonstrating them, showing both the right and wrong way to put them together, and by inviting them to do the same. During the same period, they will have been acquainted with the basic question words, Who, what, why, where, etc. and will have begun to learn through phonetic aids. A section on the target culture is introduced, including even a recipe. And students will have been exposed to an explanation of sounds associated with letters, i.e., the alphabet and diphthongs.

3. A Variety of Sensory Approaches
We believe we can help a wider variety of learners than linear courses can, by varying the type of input.

  • Aural
    Students hear the teacher on tape or CD. Many exercises help the student to begin to hear with discrimination, the first step toward comprehension. Students have the ability to repeat what they hear many times.
  • Visual
    The course is replete with visual images, including the written text of the spoken material, pictures, symbols, mnemonics, phonetic spellings, etc.
  • Kinesthetic
    Many exercises require a student to respond, by touching a correct answer in response to a question, by writing a translation, by creatively constructing sentences, or by completing an action.

4. A philosophy that says:

  1. The goal is meaningful conversation springing from creative thought in the target language rather than perfect recitation of the rules, or a perfect regurgitation of vocabulary.
  2. It is ok to make mistakes. We get better by practice, and by not being afraid.
  3. It is ok to use something before it is perfect. Your kids goofed often, and look at them now!
  4. It is ok to move on before fully understanding. Much information will come your way again. Sometimes you need a piece of the puzzle that will be supplied later.
  5. It is only not ok to fail to try. Language is a contact sport, not a mental exercise.
  6. Discovery is a joyful process. We know that if students are told every step to take, and are given every answer, we invite shallow learning and rob them of something essential. Instead, we invite them to think, and to discover many things for themselves.

In Summary
For whatever it is worth, this is who we are. We believe we provide the very best language materials existing, not because of electronic bells and whistles, but because of the unique synergy that is developed when we accumulate the above components and deliver them in an exciting and engaging way...a way which allows them to experience the joy of discovery, rather than the drudgery of memorization. And now, hopefully, when someone asks, you can say with confidence, "This is what makes Power-Glide truly different".