This holistic teaching method shocked linguists.
Total Physical Response (TPR) in a language teaching method from America. It was developed by James Asher, a professor of psychology at San José State University. The method is mainly known for its unconventional approach to teaching vocabulary.
Learning with TPR is all about physical movement and imitation. The greatest emphasis is put on phonetic understanding.
TPR is one of the so-called holistic language learning methods. It places the teacher in the focus of attention. He or she shows the meaning of words to the students through activity, for example by saying ‘jump’ and actually jumping. The students are supposed to mimic the words and actions of the teacher, which should let them remember vocabulary faster and more naturally.
The TPR method is based on three hypotheses:
humans learn naturally by listening,
language learning should involve the brain’s right hemisphere,
learning should be stress-free.
Due to it’s unconventional character, TPR is mostly recommended to teachers of the youngest groups. This method has many drawbacks, though.
Firstly, it limits creativity and may soon become boring. Paradoxically, it gets in the way of communicating and learning how to speak in the given language. Apart from that, the method is very demanding on the teacher, who has to devote too much energy engaging and motivating the students. In short, TPR limits the student to listening and mimicry.
TPR is a good method for acquiring the basics of a foreign language, but mainly for the youngest learners. Older children may become bored by it.
Depending on the student’s character, for some this type of learning may be close to play, while for others the imitation may be too infantile, and therefore tedious.