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The Polis Method

Theoretical Principles

1) Total Immersion: Our classes are taught entirely in the target language: the only language spoken, written, or read is the one being taught. This principle marks the main difference from the traditional grammar translation methods and is both the cornerstone and wellspring of our methodology.

2) Dynamic Language Development: The order in which the learner internalizes various features of the target language respects the inner structure and dynamics of that same language. Research on first language acquisition that offers insights to that inner structure is taken into account in laying out the grammatical progression.

The Polis Method, however, recognizes the learner’s advancement much more holistically than on a strictly grammatical scale: particularly in the early stages, pragmatic communication skills are regularly prioritized over grammatical analysis. Students are not only able to comprehend more than they can produce, but they are also able to use language that they cannot analyze yet. We recognize the student’s continuous progression in language acquisition based on the Four Basic Language Skills (see graphic) and modes of discourse or literary genres (from dialogue to narration to argumentation to poetry).

Practical Principles

We have, with some modifications, been able to utilize a few techniques developed by various teachers and researchers since the 1970s. These techniques have proven to be particularly useful set-pieces for the practical implementation of our theoretical principles: TPR (Total Physical Response, J. Asher), TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling, B. Ray), and Story Building (G. Thomson). These are combined with other activities like chain drills for paradigm internalization and pair and group work for the development of conversational fluency. A number of pre- and post-reading strategies are also used to teach literary texts. Furthermore, Polis instructors are currently experimenting on a new tool, referred to as Living Sequential Expression (LSE), a technique that was first conceived and developed at Polis and which is inspired by the work of François Gouin (1831–1896). Through LSE, students will learn sequences of logically connected actions by performing and then reporting on them. A booklet containing the first set of these sequences together with explanatory illustrations is currently under development.