Page 1

The Silent Way And Zen

Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc.

Caleb Gattegno

Newsletter

vol. XIII no. 1

June 1985


First published in 1985. Reprinted in 1998. Reprinted in 2009. Copyright Š 1985-2009 Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc. Author: Caleb Gattegno All rights reserved ISBN 978-0-87825-322-7 Educational Solutions Worldwide Inc. 2nd Floor 99 University Place, New York, N.Y. 10003-4555 www.EducationalSolutions.com


In this last issue of Volume XIV of our Newsletter, we present two articles and news items all devoted to matters of language. We hoped to have room for a presentation of Visible and Tangible Math II, but had to abandon writing at length on this project since it is far from being completed. The article which corresponds to the title above was written in Japan, in a climate which suggested the subject and made its composition easier than if conceived and written in New York. In spite of its absorption in activities which made Japan into a Modern Commercial and Industrial Society the underlying spiritual basis of that nation can be perceived in many places and ways. Views on what is happening on those islands vary considerably and various opinions can be controversial. A year ago and again this year, contact with Buddhist schools and teachers in them brought to the fore question of education influenced by the past and by the future. One aspect of such reflection is found the first article, better considered as a sketch than as a fully developed concept. It deserves development. In the news items, there may be some points which can serve as illustration for it. In two places in this issue, our work with the Ojibwe language gives us opportunities to share with our readers, matters which half a year ago were totally outside our awareness. Perhaps readers too, will find the topic challenging, as we did. The News Items mainly refer to work done in Japan during April and May.


Table of Contents

1 The Silent Way And Zen..................................................... 1 2 The Ojibwe Language ...................................................... 13 News Items ..........................................................................17 1..........................................................................................................17 The Italian Course .......................................................................17 The 5-Day Language Acquisition Workshop ............................. 19 The 1-Day Seminar ..................................................................... 23 2 Visible And Tangible Math II ....................................................... 23 3 The Ojibwe Training Course ........................................................ 27 A Special Thank You ........................................................................ 31 Note To Our Readers........................................................................ 31


1 The Silent Way And Zen

In Japan, I learned that Zen is a practice. We call the Silent Way an empirical approach; in that, we already find a point of contact. The purpose of the notes which follow is neither to claim any affiliation to a way of thinking with a venerable past, nor to enhance the Silent Way in a setting which brought Zen to life a long time ago. As a teacher of language, I have had the opportunity over many years to notice that some states of being allowed language to descend into the minds of the learners and that others prevented this from happening. And so I tried to qualify the states and to urge the students to give themselves to those states which favored the purpose for which they had come to class, viz, to acquire a language. Watchfulness is needed to know what the pointer does on the charts, in particular on the Sound/Color Chart. Those students who are singleminded in this activity gain the code in no time and for good. The others give their time but get little. The task is easy, almost trivial. Those who see it that way master it at once; those who mistakenly see the sound-color connection as a feat of memory, stress in them what becomes a major obstacle and they get demoralized. These learn nothing, although they are fully equipped to own the connection through many of their past activities which are not allowed to come forth because of the emotions occupying their mind.

1


The Silent Way And Zen

There is nothing to memorize in this activity; only to yield to the demands of the game: a color always triggers the same sound; one sound is given a color and evokes it and only it. Nothing in this is beyond what ordinary people have done many times over, during the years of their lives. Zen asks devotees to sit in a certain position and observe their posture and their breathing. Both the Silent Way and Zen involve a teacher. In the case of the Silent Way, there are things to know and to have mastered, and the teacher is needed constantly in order to bring to the students what they cannot invent. Both in Zen and in the Silent Way, the responsibility for learning is squarely placed on the learners’ shoulders. The teacher has a greater involvement in the Silent Way than in Zen, and this is so only because the final ends are different. In the Silent Way, the language one is attempting to master exists outside oneself, and in Zen, the reality is within and can only be revealed by giving oneself to it more and more. But both require, all the time, the givenness of students to the discipline of learning. In both, this means keeping distractions out, by an effortless concentration assumed to be a most common attribute of human beings. The tone of one’s attention is the same in both, too. Easier in the Silent Way because it does not matter if the students leave off for a moment. They can always come back on a matter whose nature makes it recurrent. The purpose being distinctly different, the discipline will yield different results. In the Silent Way, finding oneself owning a language will give the satisfaction which may be tinted with joy. In Zen, there is nothing as clearly defined to be acquired, and the joy, when it comes, comes because one experiences the dissolution of some psychic abscess and a new freedom. Perhaps freedom is another point of contact between the Silent Way and Zen. The spiritual freedom contemplated in Zen manifests itself in the capacity of the devotee to see things as they are and not impinging on one’s view of life, one’s inner life and the larger one. The technical 2


1 The Silent Way And Zen

freedom in the Silent Way makes one return to the powers one had as a child, and finding that learning must be done with the whole of oneself, and in functioning right, by being in close contact with the challenge at hand with no one to please. The effect of correct learning is ease and fluency, with no emotional interference, and a sense that one is suited for expression in that language. Perhaps after learning a few languages that way, technical freedom will point at the spiritual freedom which is contained in it and contains it, and one will see that learning a language the Silent Way can be incorporated among the disciplines of Zen to make humans know themselves, their responsibilities and the unity of reality. The precision of the last three terms is greater today in the context of the Silent Way than in Zen, at least when speaking and writing about them. Knowing oneself in Zen is to be taken for granted when it is affirmed by a speaker. Through meditation and prescribed spiritual activities, the devotee reaches the dynamics of the inner life and eliminates what restricts it, and works with it to enlarge one’s perception and participation to the Buddha nature. The disciples in the Zen monastery may know the innards of the evolution they have managed for themselves. Knowing oneself — after one has discovered that participation in the Silent Way exercises reveals the roles of one’s soma, of one’s psyche and of one’s affectivity in learning, the role of awareness and of awareness of awareness, in one’s manifestations as a human — is an empirical access to the powers of the mind, to one’s evolution over the years, and to the baby and the child in one. This knowledge is extremely valuable in order to become a better learner from now on, but does not necessarily open the door to the future of the person in one, to a greater awareness of man’s place in the universe or of the universe in Man. Zen or some other path, will be required for that. Still, can Zen be better served by learners who acquired their knowledge of themselves — as far as it goes — through their involvement in the Silent Way exercises or than by those who just 3


The Silent Way And Zen

desire a freer and responsible life? The answer is unknown at the moment but seems to me as obviously yes, mainly because the empirical approach to oneself is compatible with transfer to other attributes of oneself, and desire may not suffice to overcome the first obstacles met and may lead to ambition and disappointment. A teacher of the Silent Way who is watchful at all moments and is guided by the learning of his students in the here and now, will recognize that watchfulness is a spiritual attribute of Man, and give himself to it so as to make it a constant presence in all his contacts with the contents of reality. In the Silent Way, relating has a very special meaning, a specialized meaning too. Students must relate to themselves as utterers, as vulnerable to how their somas obey their wills; how to affect old habits which are not required at this moment; how to objectify new ones; how to remain long enough with some conscious learning in order to generate the automatisms which will free one to move forward; how to distinguish what has to be paid for and what is for free and learn to pay for the first and then to conquer the territory one gave oneself access to. Becoming a responsible learner is one of the aspects of this relating. Linking with one’s teacher’s proposals and to one’s classmates’ work, so as to maximize the efficiency of learning by yielding greater returns per lesson or fraction thereof, is another aspect of relating. This one seems selfish, because it is linked to one’s gains in the language, but, in fact, betrays rather a new kind of responsibility. That of a member of a community of learners. Seeing to it that the teacher does not have to repeat only for one’s sake and that one’s turn in an exercise serves oneself as well as the others in the room, is another aspect of one’s new sense of relating to the situation in the classroom. Going through one’s involvements, which imply one’s soma, one’s mental activities, one’s control of oneself, leads to the admission that learning a new language — an offshoot of a certain culture and of innumerable influences — brings together many components in an organic and functional entity, displayed in oneself but equally well in others — i.e. anyone. Hence, implying an entry into the Buddhistic

4


1 The Silent Way And Zen

perception of the whole of reality integrating Man, history, the physical world and a constant creation and re-creation of what is and will be. In Zen, pretending has no place, for it is not affirmation of beliefs nor of one’s adherence to a certain doctrine. There is no doctrine and one has to be what one achieves with oneself, nothing more, but so that one begins from where one is and managed to be, at every station. In contact with oneself, one looks lucidly at the movements within to know them for what they are and to which extent they affirm oneself on the road to freeing oneself from bonds and from inner obstacles to being in the here and now, reducing to nothing the accompanying verbal comments and the verbalization of one’s state. In the Silent Way being with the language — that part on which one is working — is not a contact with ideas and knowledge, but a state which manifests itself in the act of utterance, emerging by itself because one has removed the obstacles which come from thinking, from emotions, from memorization and lets a flow of words appear as an integrated whole. This act is proof of one’s surrender to the higher dynamics which subordinate somatic and psychic functionings and allow the springing out of what one recognizes at once as respecting the reality of one’s intention, will, expression, agreeing with a deep inner project, now being objectified. If one is engaged in activities mobilizing the whole of oneself as required by the act (known to be no more than the one, or few utterances one is making deliberately), a sense of achievement, strictly localized, describes that oneself is speaking the truth in those words which one has brought together from within and which at the same time belong to oneself and to the language. Thus reaching the inner dynamics which blend sensitivity, intelligence, the experience of being oneself present in a larger self — here, the new language which is descending in one, is being given its reality by the witness. When this is done for some time — and if one is aware that it is oneself who is doing it — one finds, behind the act, one’s spirituality, one’s humanity and senses that the actual language is only a byproduct of the gift of oneself to that larger self. Clearly a Zen awareness.

5


The Silent Way And Zen

When learning a language becomes this kind of activity, a new self emerges capable of seeing that the discipline which yields the byproduct is what matters and, by giving oneself to it, one realizes the Buddha in oneself, even if it is acknowledged as only via a narrow path with much more to do to pursue one’s search for Him. Because Zen has ancient roots, is connected with religion, temples, rituals, monasteries, its evocation can create a totally different climate within than can be reached in Silent Way language sessions, which are, by definition, limited, specific, ending at certain hours and, in their secularity, are related to utilitarian ends. Still, once we become open to the spiritual dimension present, we cannot escape the sensation that through it we have altered altogether the state of affairs connected with language learning. While totally distinct from acts of worship and of devotion to a supernatural being — since there are none involved in the situation and no one claims that there are — there are, here, items which can be looked at again to find out what they actually are. In that search, Zen can help. Indeed, although religious by its own admission, it does not ask for symbolisms which specify the relation to the Buddha who does not even need to be a person and less still a deity. Everyone seeks the Buddha within and finds him singularly, personally, uniquely when one has managed to quieten the large and small turmoils one acknowledges to exist on entering the Zen community. Carefully stopping distractions from making one’s mind wander; letting attention become attentivity; coming closer to the “nothings” which are made to remain “nothings” instead of mushrooming into mental preoccupations; the person in question sees the inner dynamics, the inner criteria as the reality most deserving of one’s presence, of one’s attention. And both are given to it through the act of surrender, seen as the most advanced of the ways the will affirms itself. If one knows how to do all this, one can take it to the sessions of language learning. But one can also learn to do all that when one is learning a language under the guidance of a true Silent Way teacher.

6


1 The Silent Way And Zen

In this dual possibility we see the connections of the Silent Way with Zen. *** A Zen master does not explain what there is to do and why one does it in order to find the Buddha in oneself. He is present in a Zendo, sitting in a certain way, holding himself in a certain way and is given to most ordinary things such as his breathing, or his posture or the content of his mind. Near him, others do likewise. What they find is not knowledge; nor a skill. They find themselves. As they are, in time. They can say that they are more themselves when they are less anything else and that their work or their discipline, reduces the contents of their mind while enhancing the awareness of how contents are generated and the generation stopped. When the dynamics of the “nothings� is reached, and the concreteness of everything is that of nothing, then the worker knows he has moved closer to the state of the Buddha and is ready to acknowledge himself as one. The Silent Way master teacher has nothing to explain either. His concerns, though different from those of the Zen master, are centered on the transfer of the abilities already available to his students in the case of their first language, to acquiring a new language. There is no knowledge to acquire there, and the exercises he offers or suggests to his students are concerned with awarenesses and attitudes. It is not the teacher who makes students retain anything. That is the students’ work and responsibility. He is not in charge of their perception, of their will, of their intelligence; they are. He knows that they are the ones who must learn and that he cannot take their place in that any more than he can in their breathing. And learning implies a number of skills students bring with them to him, and only they have access to each. If he knows which they are and how to let them focus on them when needed, his responsibility is to propose exercises which force awareness, and to avoid these misconceptions capable of leading their attention to useless or even harmful activities. What the master teacher has to know himself, is not knowledge either. But he has to be aware of the demands of the language he presents to 7


The Silent Way And Zen

the students, in terms of distribution of energy over time, of flow of sounds, of stresses, of melody and of how to make the students find in themselves how to bring forth what is required using the instruments of the Silent Way, is not knowledge but skills resulting from observation of oneself at work and the singling out that this or that has to be entered into in order to command its emergence in one’s consciousness before it is uttered in full consciousness. Because there are instruments, the analog of the Zen approach is blurred, but it is no less there, to be picked up by a careful observer. Because the appearance is that the students are totally dependent on the teacher’s acts, it is easy to miss the reality. This, in fact, can be reached by observant students who have part of their awareness available to consider how they are generating what they hear and another part on that which requires their involvement. Since the processes are obvious, the students know with certainty what they are engaged in. The skillful teacher avoids rushing them through the acts which need to be perceived clearly to be performed correctly. But, at the same time, demands that the mind’s dynamics take over so that all is done in a “natural” manner: the way natives use that language. Cooperation follows at once from those who sense that the teacher is only inviting students to do some things’, easy enough because of what everyone has done in acquiring one’s native language; and because one can so easily enter selectively into the activity, stressing what is needed and controlling the possible interferences. Breakdown follows when instead of being involved in the discipline of learning, one indulges in doing something else called distractions. The master teacher knows that nothing can really be achieved by a diffused mind wandering where nothing happens of what the challenge demands so as to be met. Instead of yielding to the students’ complacency he demands discipline; and that too, is Zen. A master teacher has a relatively easy task since the language he is offering has a perceptible existence, while the Zen master must be creative of a way to render the inner life as perceptible as the outer one and to bring an apprentice to the point of dwelling in it for periods which are long enough to do certain jobs.

8


1 The Silent Way And Zen

In the Silent Way, the job is further simplified because of the materials and the techniques brought into existence by a teacher who knows that in humans only awareness is educable, i.e. made into an instrument of one’s spiritual evolution. The Zen part in the Silent Way will be recognized when one sees oneself as a source of a spiritual wealth which generates languages in one when one gives one’s time to objectifying them within. All the languages of the world taken together are proof that one reality in Man can take a vast number of forms distinct and separate in appearance, but reachable by one process: the gift of oneself, of one’s time, so as to let that larger reality get hold of the narrower one, made of those forms and their inner dynamics. If Zen teaches devotees that there is one Buddha and that — since he dwells in them — they can find Him by becoming one with Him; and through their gifts — which are also His — the transcending of the separation formed by their own bags and the reaching in themselves of the reality of the larger self, are one single act once they have taken place, there is no need to concern oneself with all the appearances which are distractions for them, once their inner life is their outer life and conversely. If each language has to be integrated separately like climbing separate peaks in a mountain chain, what the Silent Way brings to the student who become vulnerable to it, is the learner of languages in oneself, like the climber is in all climbs. Each time one more language is conquered the learner is better equipped for the next one and, in all aspects benefits from the previous performances. To the point of having a feel that a reality exists preceding every language and one must go straight to it when entering a new language in order to make the work of its integration what it must be, neither more nor less. Man, as the generator of languages, is thus encountered in oneself. Learning allows creation of that which has never been attempted and no longer appears as the work of memorization of that which is outside oneself. Owning a language is then having brought it to be a special mobilization of part of oneself, sensing its existence in oneself as one’s own, and its own too, because. one can remember oneself before the time when one was given to owning it.

9


The Silent Way And Zen

Meeting the language learner in everyone is what the Silent Way knows how to do and that transcends offering a language to master — though this too, takes place, but as a by-product. Once the language learner is met by oneself there is no longer a need for a teacher or for even the Silent Way. Like in Zen, truly meeting the Buddha in one makes one dispense with the Buddha as the teacher or the path. Those who feel they still need guidance and a special place on earth to meet themselves, have a need for Zen. Zen masters are sought by those who are still on their way to trying to find themselves and Zen masters, knowing the hazards of the path, offer themselves in certain ways by compassion and in recognition that all is not obvious and was not so for themselves too. Then, monasteries, Zendoes, exercises, become important, though they are not essential since they can be discarded and ultimately will be. The Silent Way too, is only for those who feel they need support and guidance in entering by themselves a new language totally beyond their perception as a reality. No one is asked to remember the stages of apprenticeship; no one is asked to evoke how some masteries have been reached, but only to know oneself as free to use oneself as a user of that language, for one’s expression and, following that, possibly, for communication with others, when that is possible. The Silent Way per se is of no importance. If there are other ways of reaching the learner in each of us which do it more economically, in terms of time and energy, more efficiently and more lastingly, they will push the Silent Way out and impose themselves, for people, spontaneously, feel they want to own other languages and are ready to give themselves to such acquisitions. Unlike the Zen devotees who have nothing to show for their time except to themselves and that, to their satisfaction, language learners can prove that they now own a skill of a certain quality and usefulness. *** The Silent Way as presented here — by what Zen represents to its devotees and to modern Man seeking to know himself — has gone 10


1 The Silent Way And Zen

beyond its primary function of subordinating teaching to learning in the field of language and has taken upon itself the task of making learners meet themselves as learners. Once they achieve this stage of contact with themselves, they can look at the road they had been led to take and remain on it and see it as actually leading — beyond the languages learned — to the human in them, reaching out to as much of human reality they are allowed and able to grasp, and comprehend. Learners — as disciplined people understanding the role of watchfulness, attentiveness, concentration, distractions, proper functioning of their integrative powers, sensitivity and intelligence — surrender to higher entities in order to be humanly more efficient and to seeing a place for their creativity in the form of sensing the ways of the natives for putting in their language the essence of their apprehension of their world of being. Learners as disciplined people contribute to Man’s evolution since they acknowledge being essentially multilingual. Gone is the time when it is a merit to have learned a new language. Now is the time in which the language equipment — we gave ourselves in our mother’s womb and that we used so well in the first two or three years after birth to acquire our native language — becomes the instrument of our self to change part of our time for learning into a number of languages which then become antennae to receive objectivations from collectivities in mankind seen as displaying the spectrum of Man’s possibilities which take the form of languages. The Silent Way can claim to have had, from the start, this objective in terms of human evolution by freeing mental energy in learners dedicated to acquiring other languages efficiently, rapidly and for good, as they knew how to do in their early childhood. Evoking Zen and its ways of education, has made it possible to stress attributes of the Silent Way which had no reason to be stressed in the field of language teaching where conditioning and memorization were the sole guides and which left out all the human inner powers so easily made evident by the techniques and the materials of the Silent Way.

11


The Silent Way And Zen

Enough to attract attention to its existence and as an object of curiosity. When language acquisition becomes a more serious preoccupation of theoreticians and practitioners in the field of language, it will become more evident that our inner life occupies a large place in our learning and more attention will be paid to it. Then what has been brought here in this article, may be of help to future investigators and to a humanity more conscious of itself and its reality.

12


2 The Ojibwe Language

I hoped to be able to write a short article on this native American language for which I have a special enthusiasm and admiration so that our readers share some of the excitement. To do justice to its reality much more time and space should be devoted than are available to date. Still a few months of intimate acquaintance with Ojibwe — which was needed to produce the Silent Way materials to be used in an Indian Reserve in Ontario, Canada — have prepared me to stress those parts of the language that the baby in me could take up from the printed materials I was sent to study. Because of the apparent complexity of that language and the keenness of the authors to tell everything they knew, the entry of foreigners in its study seems a monumental task. But it is not for babies, and therefore I looked for which criteria I have to establish to become vulnerable to the key moments of contact with the whole of the language unfolding every day in front of me. What is so remarkable in the invention of that language by people who did work thousands of years ago, is that none of the rigidity present in the structures of sentences in all languages I know, exists in Ojibwe. As if every word per se conveys the maximum of information and does not require the other words in a sentence to complement what the words do separately, with the meaning emerging through a new alchemy. New to me, that is.

13


The Silent Way And Zen

Words are variables. Complex variables which carry a multitude of dimensions. To learn to use them requires a special sensitivity which functions as immediate response to subtle changes, each pushing for an alteration of one’s outlook. Of course, there are many transformations which offer some ground to stand on; and habits can be formed to help extract meaning from strings of words. But it seems that, in that culture, the experiments with the language by its creators, aimed at finding how many complications can stand together without making impossible the process of transmutation of words into meanings and conversely. Among what we call here complications, let us cite three. Some changes are required by the ways words sound, whether they start with a vowel or a consonant; an additional sound is asked for in the first case to make the string either easier to produce or to respect an aesthetic feeling. Some vowels in some words are changed in certain circumstances which are grasped by one’s intellect to exist then; for instance, according to the length of the string, increased by addition of particles, these particles are changed in form or maintained, according to whether the string starts or not with them. Sometimes a form is kept the same but its function is changed, and one knows that, by looking at a particle which prefaces the utterance. Some other time, the presence of a definite particle in a string, ushers a meaning (e.g. the negative) but the placing of that particle in a string is a variable. By recognizing its presence, one’s mind is polarized but not ossified, for it must remain alert to some other component in the string which can refer to half a dozen or more of possibilities. As if a kind of dynamic equilibrium is reached allowing at the same time, movement and balance. Besides these complications, encountered in almost every word, the tendency of making words of some length so as to display the set of meaningful transformations, Ojibwe plays variations on several keyboards. To speak correctly, to understand what one hears or reads, one has to be prepared to have all these keyboards in front of oneself and to use them properly in various combinations. Because of this coexistence of items of change and for change, the mind must reach a level of intellectual freedom incompatible with rigid

14


2 The Ojibwe Language

grammatical rules. Grammarians often state that no explanation is at hand for them to present working rules, and they suggest that learners be patient and learn by direct contact with natives. But babies do learn Ojibwe. For them, reality is not yet structured one way or another. They are given to their double perception of the world (whose impacts they acknowledge as energy variations) and of the sequences of sounds in words and of words in sentences. They stress subtle changes, as small as a single sound in a mass of sounds, and the copresence of the contents of their perceptions and generate in them a temporal association which remains suspended until proven to be indeed functional. This is objectified as one of the possibilities of the language and held as such to serve as a two-way trigger: as word for images (i.e. inner energy structured by experience) and as images, emotions or feelings (also inner energy) for words. Thus one learns any language as a baby. To learn Ojibwe, is surrender to the many requirements put together by ancestors over centuries. A surrender to a special reality which has been produced to exemplify individual and collective awarenesses, part of the tribal experiment to create their own culture. To speak Ojibwe is to do all the alterations effortlessly because they make sense per se. Not with respect to an outside frame of reference, which can be any other language already occupying the mind of learners. No comparison to Latin, or French, or German, etc. can really help except in making one more tolerant of the reality of the demands which go with the reality of this masterpiece called the Ojibwe language and the bowing to these demands. This bowing is first done by one’s affectivity and also maintained by it. But soon, it becomes second-nature and real and legitimate, like any other system. Any resistance will ruin the possibilities of learning and has its roots in one’s psyche and one’s attachment to the past. No way of learning a new language! If babies can and do learn Ojibwe, so can I, provided I act like them, without investment and only expecting what the exchange of time for experience permits. The adventure of acquiring a new way of being — rooted in a collective experience which did not come my way before last Christmas and came not as a history of the tribe but as the

15


The Silent Way And Zen

objectification of its spirituality, humanness, in the form of its language — gave me a chance to return to the baby in me (in so far as I could manage it) and find an immense willingness not to interfere with its descent in me and the finding of its own place in me. I cannot speak Ojibwe, but I sense the meanings hidden behind the arbitrariness of the vocabulary that I have not memorized. I can understand a certain amount of written Ojibwe, but, much more than this, I can feel the language or rather what it stands for: the distilled unique collective experience of a number of humans who made themselves vulnerable to one of the numerous ways of being permitted Man on earth. As you will read in the News Items, I attempted to teach Ojibwe to people outside the tribe and gave native teachers of Ojibwe what I could receive from that language so that learning it becomes a truly valuable human experience.

16


News Items

1

In Japan, three seminars were given by Dr. Gattegno to people working in the language field. A 3-day course on Italian requested by people interested in the Silent Way and using it for other languages (mainly English, Japanese and Korean) and who wanted to experience how the originator of the Silent Way starts students from scratch, and to which level he can take them in about 20 hours. A 5-day seminar on language acquisition and its role in the techniques and materials of the Silent Way, and a 1-day seminar called “Advanced Seminar on the Silent Way� open only to users with a certain amount of experience. The Italian Course From outside, this course would be described in the same words as many others given before and reported here: i.e. use of the Sound/Color Chart, Word Chart N for numerals and then the Fidel, and finally connecting the rods and the first few Word Charts (1-4). What is worth reporting here is that, since more than half the group was made up of Japanese students who had studied English for years, with a mastery of the spoken language ranging from nil or poor to excellent, there was an opportunity to find out whether it was the language of the students (Japanese) or the way they had been introduced to the new language (English), which was the culprit for the mediocre results prevalent in the whole country.

17


The Silent Way And Zen

Everyone spoke from the start (i.e. after two hours), and all the time clear and distinguishable Italian to a level we could commend after a few months of study. The Japanese had no problem producing the sounds of Italian and making statements which would have sounded Italian to any native visiting the group. They did not hear a single word besides those produced by themselves. They were invited to make changes by pointing at the color on the Sound/Color Chart and told in English to think it was Italian and not Japanese. One or two had trouble with l or r, but so did the English-speaking students with the sound of r. Soon it was put right by simply involving the challenging words in sentences. Speeding their utterances, they shifted their mind from the so-called “hard” sounds, to the melody of the language, because they became less conscious of r and l and more conscious of the links between sounds. The strict discipline of learning imposed by an active teacher who never uttered a single word in Italian and was requiring that everyone be watchful all the time so as to leave the responsibility of learning to every student, gave the whole course a backbone which stood a lot of the pressure represented by a total absence of drill or repetition. Students had been warned that their powers and not their weaknesses would be called upon, that memorization will not be required, that being with the task was much better than rambling. They worked incessantly. They went through activities which lasted as long as was needed to produce the best results they were capable of. In particular, they learned to write as follows: a sentence was tapped on the Sound/Color Chart, enunciated in chorus by the group and then written down by each on a piece of paper, using as a guide the correspondence between the Fidels, then indicated by one of them on the Fidel, and accepted or corrected by others. Having thus gone as far as they could with the three charts (Sound/Color, N, Fidel), half the time of the course had been used up to give what we can call — the best foundation possible for students of a new language. During the next day and a half, a large chunk of the Italian grammar (as it is contained in the Word Charts 1 through 4) was studied through practice of situations created with the rods and with students’ involvements. The speed of utterances having been kept high,

18


News Items

it was constantly possible to add items of the functional vocabulary and see the class accept the expansion. Tenses were introduced without explanation, persons and numbers also, as well as gender and the demands of all those on word endings. At the feedback, the joy of learning in that way was constantly brought up; the absence of fatigue; the increased tone of one’s mind; the relaxation of non-competitive learning and need to be on one’s toes all the time, were more commonly remarked upon than the contents of the lessons and the curriculum covered which some found mind-blowing. The 5-day Language Acquisition Workshop The 22 participants to this intensive course in Osaka, at the Umeda Guaken School, were mostly teachers seeking some training in the Silent Way for English and for Japanese. But they had agreed to register in a program which defined the activities of the first 2 days as concerned with language acquisition, the next day as going through some acquisition of a language new to all of them, and to spend the last 2 days on English. Meeting the baby and young child in them made them much more receptive than they were prepared to be in a course of teacher-training. For everyone it seemed an incredible revelation which made sense in spite of so many preconceptions and prejudices of theirs being attacked and destroyed, sometimes causing some pain. The detailed work on L1 acquisition — supported by many more examples than it was possible to mention in Chapter 13 of The Science of Education — — as usual, generated respect for the learning abilities all of us display in our first years. At the same time it opened their minds to question the usual slogans accepted for no other reason than habits, formed by readers of textbooks and audiences at traditional courses on language learning, which they all were. Placing hearing after uttering, shocked some and they needed to work more critically on themselves to see why it had to be so. By contrasting the voluntariness of the second and the passivity of the first, it was found that language hearing must be postponed till a baby constructs a frame of reference of sounds to make sense of what reaches his ears. The roles of the will, of discrimination, of experimentation, of self-education, all new to most of the participants,

19


The Silent Way And Zen

were delved in long enough for a consensus to be reached early enough to allow further studies to be undertaken. That of sleep, as the actual time of learning, while the waking time is used to be charged and to act, appeared to have made sense and to help to prepare the group for exercises that were needed to understand what makes a good teacher of languages. For a day and a half, acquisition of L1 dominated. To illustrate the discipline of learning and how non-English speakers can get English out of their own speech, two “classes within the class” were formed to give the Japanese participants a go at becoming more aware of their pronunciation and how to improve on it. The ten English-speaking became the next two “classes in a class” and by then the Sound/Color Chart for English had been covered by all. “Learning directly” as they were part of the smaller class on which the teacher concentrated and “learning by proxy,” as observers or sitting around, were contrasted and found complementary. Thus these sessions served to give experience with teaching techniques (i.e. a class within a class and its value for all, and the two modes of learning available to students) as well as a mastery (for almost all) of a new instrument (the Sound/Color Chart) for getting a good pronunciation from newcomers to English as well as for letting teachers of English get a glimpse of their spoken language condensed on one small space. Learning was incidental for those who did not interfere, but a little harder for the others. As usual, sessions lasted about one and a half hours, and feedback was asked for at the end of each so as to maximize individual learning by collectively listening to what each gathered from the experiment; always more than only one can. The third day was mainly given to the study of a language unknown to all. It happened that a set of videos of Hebrew the Silent Way was in Osaka and could be borrowed for use at the school where replay equipment existed. But before the cassettes were brought in, the English Sound/Color Chart was used to give a first lesson in Hebrew

20


News Items

requiring that only one rectangle be associated with a Hebrew sound not existing in English but found in Japanese. During the first lesson, which moved very smoothly and quickly, the group found that — 1

languages do not differ that much in terms of their sounds, though they are totally separated in other terms (words, stresses, melody, structures . . .);

2 knowing how to use one Sound/Color Chart can serve to teach more than the language which it is purported to display; 3 much language can be put into circulation without the students hearing a model utter any word in that language; 4 that the flow of words in a new language can be worked on by the utterers so that it sounds to natives as good as any foreigner can possibly do; 5 if a selection of sounds and gestures is such that they can be connected to associate meanings to sounds, the utterers understand what they are saying and why. Though in Hebrew, “he” means “she,” and “who” means “he,” there were no objections to their use, and soon they were correctly employed at the same time as other sounds. Criteria supported all choices of words put in circulation and everyone was clear about what he or she was supposed to say. Before watching segments of the tapes, they had by then arrived at saying a longish statement which was transferred via the Sound/Color Chart to a spoken one uttered by the class in chorus and understood by many who offered an English translation when requested. This single event had a tremendous effect on the morale of the group witnessing so much invention in a language never heard before. What the tapes did was to show how, in two or three hours, youngsters (12 to 16 in age) managed to learn to utter, read and write Hebrew watching their pronunciation and correcting themselves, as well as

21


The Silent Way And Zen

showing how the techniques expounded in the course could actually be used in teaching and lead to results more than satisfactory. In the afternoon there were other Hebrew lessons using the rods to show the transfer of learning from the Sound/Color Chart and the videos, to what can be done in the classroom. The most remarkable moments were those in which irregular plurals were proposed by some of the students, correct though out of the blue, thus proving a grasp of the spirit of Hebrew so early in its study. Because there was daring, there was unexpected success and a new opportunity to revise one’s views of language learning and teaching. The impact on the group was electrifying and made these five days the first ever where a long course did not show a period of fatigue and sagging of interest around the fourth day. The participants knew they were changing in a manner they had not suspected to apply to them. As from the start and on several occasions, the inner life and its importance in all learning had been referred to, it seemed that it becomes a tangible reality for those who displayed it for all to witness. For the first time it was possible to be in close contact with one’s mental dynamics and watch oneself learning or displaying aspects of learning which ordinary approaches neither consider nor attempt to know. A number of people there knew profoundly that the Silent Way is not a method, but a way of being which enhances one’s powers of learning. No one was left untouched, unmoved. The Hebrew language appeared as having a familiarity which nothing beforehand allowed to assume as possible. No one asked for further evidence, satisfied that the intensity of the experience and the quiet which went with it, conveyed its significance and importance. From then on, the last two days made sense as they rarely had in previous workshops. Everyone cooperated, everyone was keen to take away as much as possible of what can be done with the materials and the techniques in the teaching of English to Japanese students, which was the source of the livelihood of most participants. It was therefore possible to be brief and at the same time profound, in the presentation of the roles of the Fidels, of the rods and the word 22


News Items

charts, in meeting the needs of those who want to learn English as beginners or as more advanced students. Everyone had a chance to learn the techniques directly but also by proxy. The native speakers of English discovered aspects of their language not one of them had met before and no one had been told about before these sessions. In particular, that their language could be looked at in its spoken form through the Sound/Color Chart, in its written form through the 8 Fidel Charts displaying its spellings, in its functional form (the set of its structures) through a small set of twelve word charts. The last hour was taken up by the final feedback which more than usually provided the group with the multiple and varied insights of the individuals in it. The affective tone was that of a serious enthusiasm associated with the certainty of an intellectual illumination. The 1-day Seminar This seminar was planned as an advanced session with veteran users of the Silent Way. It didn’t turn out that way because the questions that were asked by those present were not of a kind which one can call advanced. The day was interesting and in its casualness, gave the participants entry into what the Silent Way can do for the future of language learning and teaching. For instance, in teaching mixed classes of students who do not have a common language nor a common script; and in reducing the time of learning languages in schools and therefore in opening the future to a polyglot humanity.

2 Visible and Tangible Math II After eight months since the scenari for this courseware were completed we only have on diskettes Scenario One, concerning multiplication. In brief, this scenario offers a new approach for a very traditional segment of elementary school mathematics, which can make a marked difference in the minds of the children forced nowadays to memorize 23


The Silent Way And Zen

“tables” all over the world. The tables can now be generated by the students at a certain moment in the course of their study of the contents of these diskettes. The approach has been offered in written materials since 1957, and given again in the Math Mini Tests during the late ‘70s. Here, because of the computer, much more can be done, earlier, faster, better, to solve any number of school problems associated with boredom, inability to remember and the need for products. From Visible and Tangible Math I, a thorough acquaintance with the set of integers results. In particular: quick additions and subtractions; the sequences which are part of that set; the name of any numeral; the different bases of numeration. Once we know how to associate the integers from 1 on, to the evens from 2 on, we can call each of these the double of an integer and this one half the other. In notation x 2 and x 21 , the sign x being introduced arbitrarily at one moment to request the operation associating those pairs. If “I” is the sequence of integers, “2 I” is the sequence of their doubles. A number of games are proposed. Given a certain element of € “I” (or “2 I”) find another one whose place is selected among the other set. This implies either a multiplication followed by an addition or a subtraction or conversely according to which is the pair selected and which is the given and which the unknown. This work done on the screen is then translated into equations, also on the screen, and met as substitutes one of the other, so that solutions of equations are learned at that level rather than postponed a few years, as they are now. Repeating the process of doubling generates the set called “4 I.” Double doubling is called “quadrupling” in English; and taking half of half, taking one quarter or one fourth. On the screen one sees “I”, “2 I” and “4 I” (at least a certain number of their elements) linked within the sets by addition or subtraction of 1 or 2 or 4, but between the sets by multiplication by 2 and again 2 or by 4 or by 21 and again 21 or by 14 . Repeating the process of doubling will generate “8 I.” € € 24


News Items

The algebra is the same all through, the only differences are in the actual calculations leading to the awareness that 2 x 21 is equivalent to 1 x 2; to 4 x 14 ; to 14 x 4; to 8 x 81 , to 81 x 8; to the definition of x 1. That 2 2 x 2 is equivalent to 4, 2 x 2 x 2 to 8 and to 2 x 4 and 4 x 2. €

€ At every step, after producing € € € € doubling which yields the next line, the three languages of multiplication, solutions of equations with the boxes on the screen and their written form, are being systematically practiced, allowing numbers of three digits to be handled, thanks to the ease acquired on the programs of Visible and Tangible Math I.

Of course, implicit in the above are the tables of 2, 4, 8. After that, multiplying by powers of 10 by simply placing 0s on the right of the multiplicand, can easily be treated as a new language for what had been met in Visible and Tangible Math I. This yields lines “10 I,” “100 I,” “1000 I,” and if need be others though they are not met in 1 1 this program. Multiplying by 101 , 100 and 1000 is as simple or even simpler than with the previous factors: 2, 4, 8. Once it is understood that 10 = 5 x € 2 or 2 x 5 and 5 = 21 x 10, the series € € for “5 I” can be generated and with it the product N x 5 where N is any integer. Because N2 x 10 is a form equivalent to N x 5, this product is immediately calculated and written down by € halving the digits of N provided they are all even. So we can extend the multiplication by 5 to numbers of any number of even digits. The extension to numbers with € is handled in two ways, first by multiplying N by 10 and then odd digits halving it, or by relating N to N - 1 (which now has an even digit on the right) and therefore can be halved. Adding 5 on to the right end will take care of the required product. x 51 is also available. To obtain “3 I” we add the items on “I” and “2 I” on the same column and read the answer as 3€x N. These numbers can be doubled and doubled again producing the lines “6 I” and “12 I.” Because of the mastery of doubling and of inversing operations, x 31 , x 61 , x 121 , 6 x N = 3 x 2 x N or 2 x 3 x N; 12 x N = 2 x 6 x N = 6 x 2 x N = 4 x 3 x N = 3 x 4 x N and games on boxes on the screen and on equations, can be incorporated at this level. Nothing new algebraically, but numerous € € €between “I,” “3 I,” exercises to practice products, factoring, equations “6 I” and “12 I.” 25


The Silent Way And Zen

“9 I” and “11 I” are formed out of “I” and “10 I” subtracting (or adding) the first from (or to) the second. Then x 9, x 11, x 91 and x 111 can be treated like all the previous ones with exercises on boxes and equations. € € This procedure provided all lines from “I” and “12 I” except “7 I” which is obtained by looking at 7 in “I” and all those numbers under it on the other lines. These numbers are then taken from that column and put on the line “7 I” leaving one gap at 7 x 7. This can be found either by adding 7 to 42 or subtracting 7 from 56, yielding 49. One difference between this line and all the others, is that it ends at 12 x 7, since this is the last product on the column of 7 in what we did so far.

Extracting from these twelve lines the Pythagorean Table is immediate. To make sure the products are known, the computer offers the games of putting blanks instead of the numbers on the Table and asking for the numbers needed to fill them. Factoring is as easy as multiplying. Both are offered in a special program. In the above, the base of numeration was that in which 9 precedes 10. Tables are made in all bases from 2 to X and exercises are put in each of them so that multiplication is understood as an algebraic operation concerning polynomials rather than of numbers in one base only, as is universally taught to this day in schools. Distributivity is studied separately after it has been used a number of times in examples and never mentioned as such. The reason for this separate treatment is that in order to understand the algorithm of multiplication (as it has been adopted when numbers to be multiplied have more than one digit) we need to recognize that: 1

numbers are polynomials, and

2 that if we are asked to multiply two numbers, a number of separate multiplications must be performed first and at the end an addition will give the answer.

26


News Items

The algorithm is treated as the last item of Scenario One. It is independent of the base of numeration and therefore belongs to algebra. *** Those who tried out these diskettes on an Apple Computer have found them engrossing whether they were elementary school children or teachers or members of the general public. Contrary to Visible and Tangible Math I, these new programs do not require a joystick and a super-talker and are therefore easier to use. Young children easily learn how to make the programs advance and enjoy meeting the challenges without a teacher. They see clearly what they have to do and do it almost at once. Copious notes for teachers spell out all the above as it is meant to appear on the screen if called in by a title on the Menu. Patrick Writt, who participated in the coding of some of the scenari of Visible and Tangible Math I, did all the work of programming Scenario One of this second series. The format adopted was his suggestion as was the language adopted for the coding.

3 The Ojibwe Training Course At the Anishnabe Spiritual Center in Espanola, Ontario, forty or so people came for an intensive training course in connection with the work done on the classroom materials for teaching Ojibwe the Silent Way. The course lasted three days, June 2-5. Its structure had been decided months earlier: mornings: 9:00-12:15 used to teach (with the materials) a class of adults who did not know that language, a total of fifteen people; afternoons: 1:30-6:00, used to give teachers as much acquaintance with the techniques of the Silent Way for Ojibwe as

27


The Silent Way And Zen

possible. Visitors from other Reservations participated as observers. The course was fully videotaped. The nine hours of actual language teaching were the highlights of the course, for, in that short time were demonstrated: 1

that adult newcomers to the language can acquire a fluency based on a clear survey of the sounds of Ojibwe all of which they owned already without suspecting it;

2 that retention of a large number of strings of words made up of a small number of units, for which ogdens had to be paid, was easily attained and maintained; 3 that if meanings are directly conveyed (here the numerals and the situations created with the rods) then students can concentrate on the vocabulary and its inflections and learn both in their stride. All speakers of Ojibwe at the final feedback session, stated how impressed they were with the mornings’ progress; no one ever suspected that this was possible. During those nine hours there was need for tandem teaching since Dr. Gattegno’s mastery of Ojibwe was plainly nonexistent, although the choice he had made of words, short sentences and longer ones, helped students enter more easily into the spoken language and encounter a variety of the demands of this speech. Once more it was plainly proved that the use of the throats of students is incomparably superior in language learning to the use of their ears. In spite of the novelty and strangeness of the exercises with the Sound/Color Chart, this soon became a helpful friend everyone was happy to keep around. When the Ojibwe Fidel made its appearance, its welcome was short-lived. Students preferred to relate to the Sound/Color Chart. Ojibwe’s numeration is much more complicated than those of other languages met by the teacher in the past, but it is a remarkable instrument to provide students with a number of the inflections needed 28


News Items

in ordinary speech not referring to numbers. The two hours spent at learning to read and write numbers of up to nine digits in Ojibwe, were joyful and intensive with a feeling of unleashed mental powers which students and observers felt strongly and enjoyed thoroughly. The application to asking and telling time was also considered as easy, practical, and enjoyable. The work with parts of Chart 1, Chart 2, and Chart 12, done in the third session of three hours was successful mainly thanks to the native supporter in the tandem: Mr. Dominic Eshkakogen (Chairman of the Board of the Foundation hosting this course). A fine Ojibwe scholar, excited by what he experienced last March when the project was presented to their approval, he was remarkable in that he did not ever take the students’ place. He kept silent, used the pointer to let them form the words from the charts and came in at the right moment to suggest, by a gesture, that changes were needed to reach correctness. The ground covered during those three hours seemed to everyone as equivalent to what might easily take weeks or even months. Without mentioning singular and plural of animate and inanimate objects, or tenses, or conjugations, agreements of adjectives, numbers and genders, they all used and practiced them, with full understanding because of the perceptions of the situations which the rods and the people in the class made possible. The dynamic in the class kept students alert and relaxed so that no fatigue was experienced in these lessons. Outside class, during meals, there was involvement in what had happened, which extended through sleep to the next day. The afternoon sessions were less intense first because there was more exposition and explanation than activity, and also because of the shyness of the teachers who use different dialects and are perhaps more articulate among themselves than in public. Still since the success of this project stands mainly on their cooperation and good will, it was necessary to involve them in exercises in the p.m. sessions which followed their observations of the teaching in the morning. Almost all 29


The Silent Way And Zen

of them had a go at the use of the pointer at forming words on the Sound/Color Chart and sentences on the word charts. While five of the sixteen charts had been used extensively, the other eleven were barely examined and much work was left for the teachers for future meetings. These will require that the users of various dialects understand that they must stop arguing and see that those who need to be helped most are their students, who at present, are quickly bored and are ready to abandon their native language to the unhappy fate of becoming only a written one, no longer spoken. The final feedback was structured so that first the teachers told of their assessments of the three days; then the administrators of the project; then the visitors and finally the seven members of the class who were present. All stressed the positive impressions which dominated by far the objections. These, in the case of teachers, were directed at the existence of dialects which were not cared for by the charts; in the case of administrators that there will be a tension between the need to use costly materials already in existence and the need to get more deeply into the Silent Way which seems to meet most of their needs. The two visitors concerned with language programs in other Reservations in the province of Ontario, were divided between acknowledging that they witnessed a very impressive show, and thinking of the numerous projects at present in action and already funded. The seven students of Ojibwe wanted to continue at once and could not see how. *** At the last luncheon break, an Apple IIe computer was available and Infused Reading in French (Level I) was shown as well as the beginning of the one for Ojibwe, now in the works. After dinner, half an hour was spent in involving a couple of people in the new sequence of the Visible and Tangible Math courseware. As the schools in the Reserves are entering the phase of adopting micro-computers, criteria for good courseware are being sought. These two examples may help generate some. ***

30


The Silent News Way Items And Zen

There was talk of another visit by Dr. Gattegno to the area at the end of the summer.

A Special Thank You At a considerable cost to herself, in terms of money and time, Fusako Allard worked indefatigably from November ‘84 to April ‘85 to organize the three workshops in Osaka. She received acknowledgments of gratitude from a number of the participants, and we want to add our own here. Ms. Allard’s experience, as the Founder and Administrator of The Center in Osaka, was needed to make a success of this adventure. But even more than that, her profound appreciation of the contribution of The Silent Way to language learning and teaching, was needed to sustain her in the belief that her efforts and investments would attract enough people to the workshops. At the end she expressed her satisfaction to the point of conceiving another round of workshops after those of 1984 and 1985.

Note to our Readers Unable to arrive at an objective assessment of the value of this Newsletter for the public subscribing to it, but knowing how much time its writing and publication takes and that it never paid for itself, we feel inclined to stop its publication with this volume. A very small number of our readers let us know whether our efforts were meeting some of their needs and we continued on the basis of our belief that the studies we circulated were of value to people other than ourselves. To go on producing it may not be wise. We therefore neither announce a Volume XV nor ask for subscriptions, unless better informed.

31


About Caleb Gattegno Caleb Gattegno is the teacher every student dreams of; he doesn’t require his students to memorize anything, he doesn’t shout or at times even say a word, and his students learn at an accelerated rate because they are truly interested. In a world where memorization, recitation, and standardized tests are still the norm, Gattegno was truly ahead of his time. Born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1911, Gattegno was a scholar of many fields. He held a doctorate of mathematics, a doctorate of arts in psychology, a master of arts in education, and a bachelor of science in physics and chemistry. He held a scientific view of education, and believed illiteracy was a problem that could be solved. He questioned the role of time and algebra in the process of learning to read, and, most importantly, questioned the role of the teacher. The focus in all subjects, he insisted, should always be placed on learning, not on teaching. He called this principle the Subordination of Teaching to Learning. Gattegno travelled around the world 10 times conducting seminars on his teaching methods, and had himself learned about 40 languages. He wrote more than 120 books during his career, and from 1971 until his death in 1988 he published the Educational Solutions newsletter five times a year. He was survived by his second wife Shakti Gattegno and his four children.

www.EducationalSolutions.com

The Silent Way and Zen  
The Silent Way and Zen  

The Silent Way and Zen

Advertisement