Why We Use TPR

Why We Use TPR at our school





At  our school. we use TPR a LOT.  You will see it used in pretty much every younger class. That’s because it works. The connection between vocalizing while using big motor muscles to pantomime the command just works. An example: I saw a student, about four years old, exit a class saying “esc-ca-la-tor,  esc-ca-la-tor,  esc-ca-la-tor ” while pumping his legs up and down. Now, simply teaching that term without TPR would have taken much longer.

TPR was developed by Dr. James Asher during the 1960s. It is used world-wide.

TPR is based on the premise that human beings are biologically programmed to learn languages, and that this programming works essentially the same for adults learning a foreign languages as it does for children learning their native language. Asher claims that just as young children hear large amounts of linguistic input before they begin speaking, adolescent and adult language learners also benefit from a “silent period” to internalize the patterns and sounds of the language, and that they will eventually begin to produce utterances spontaneously. He emphasizes that students should not be forced to speak before they are ready.

Asher also claims that one-third to one-half of the linguistic input that young children hear is in the form of commands (e.g., “Don’t make a fist when I’m trying to put on your coat!”). Children respond to these commands physically, activating the right hemisphere of the brain, which is associated with motor movement. The right brain is thus able to internalize the new linguistic elements immediately, without a time-consuming analysis by the left brain, which is normally associated with language use. According to Asher, “most of the grammatical structure of the target language and hundreds of vocabulary items can be learned through the skillful use of the imperative by the instructor” (1977, p. 2-4).

Asher emphasizes that because TPR taps into natural language learning processes, the stress associated with mental analysis of the target language is reduced, and learning becomes a more enjoyable experience.

If you would like to read more short posts about life in China or teaching in China click HERE
Asher, J. (1977). Learning another language through actions: The complete teacher’s guide book. Los Gatos, CA: Sky Oaks Productions. (6th ed. 2000)


About Ken Hayes, M.Ed.