Author: Alexandra RADU

Abstract: Acquiring the ability to understand and converse in a foreign language is not just an experience that results from assuming a lexical baggage and grammatical rules but is a much more complex process, which succeeds in correctly tracing and delimiting a new neurological territory in the case of that individual.

That is why neurolinguistic programming is not, in the author’s opinion, just a pedagogical strategy that consists of a set of techniques for teaching a language based on theories and assumptions at the level of a particular teaching model but is rather a humanist philosophy. and a set of beliefs and suggestions based on popular psychology, designed to convince people that they have the power to control their own minds and to program their experiences and abilities in the desired direction.

However, the success of this approach consists in the correct delimitation of the new neurological territory.

Keywords: neurolinguistic programming, language teaching, tracing, territory

Programming a language course based on the principles of neurolinguistics in order to correctly delimit the new neurological territory

According to the Neurolinguistic Programming Manual (Joseph O’Connor and Ian McDermott, Thorsons Pub, April 1996)[1] the design of a course based on the principles of neurolinguistics requires the following criteria:

1. Defining results as objectives or goals: According to NLP, the exact knowledge of one’s own goals helps to achieve them. This principle can be expressed as follows: “Know what you want”.

In language learning, goal setting can be achieved by identifying the level of language to be achieved (eg Common European Framework of Reference for Languages).[2] Thus, the mental map of the individual will already have a clear outline, with precise “boundaries”. “Know what you want”, it becomes like this: “I know that I want to speak German at A2 level, that is, I want to be able to converse, to be able to understand isolated phrases and expressions frequently used in relation to immediate priority areas (personal or family information, shopping, close environment, work). I want to be able to communicate in simple and ordinary situations, which only require an exchange of information, simple and direct, on familiar and common topics. When I reach the goal, I will be able to describe with simple means my family, the environment and evoke familiar and common topics that correspond to my immediate needs.

There will thus be a clear definition of the baggage of words to be assimilated (perhaps even with the total number of words, which can be divided by a number of words to be assimilated each day), the grammatical rules and the constructions that the subject must and appropriate them.

 2. Correct reporting to oneself and others: maximizing similarities and minimizing differences between people at the unconscious level is an essential factor for effective communication. This principle can be expressed as “Relate to yourself and then to others. “

The process of learning a foreign language becomes much more efficient when similarities are permanently established between the new rules to be assimilated and the principles of the mother tongue or other languages known to the learner.

The tracing of the new territory thus becomes, in fact, only an extension of the existing territories, an overview of one’s own knowledge, meant to give the subject the capacity to contemplate them in a broader, overall perspective.

3. Sensory acuity: careful observation of messages transmitted by another person, consciously and nonverbally. This principle can be expressed as “Use your senses. Watch, listen and feel what is actually happening “.

From this perspective, the tracing of the new territory, in fact, becomes a guided discovery and, like any explorer, the trainee will be called to use his sight (eg to associate images with words) but also hearing and, according to some studies, even the smell[3]. In fact, the trainer must test from the meetings with the group, the learning styles that the trainees develop naturally. In this sense, in teaching based on NLP principles, it is very useful to stimulate trainees who have a kinesthetic learning style, or to determine the whole group for the application of techniques aimed at this learning style.

Learning techniques for kinesthetic style

The preponderant use of the palpable sense, the action, the movement in the learning actions. In order to be able to visualize, the trainee will focus more on the sensation that the respective image gives him.

• Use physical objects as much as possible. By touching them, you will learn much more about them or their functionalities.

• Use of diagrams or diagrams (these can also be considered physical activities). In order to transpose the ideas as well as possible, large sheets and strong colors will be used, which transmit states that will make the formable easier to remember.

• Using role-playing games, both alone and in a team. This exercise helps to empathize with other people’s states or behaviors and learn about them.

• Looking for ways to simulate or even implement what he has learned.

• Maximum focus on the state of the moment and trying to gain control over the state of his body

4. Flexibility: do things differently if what you do doesn’t work. If you get negative results, change your strategy! This can be expressed as “Continuously change what you do until you get what you want.” In other words, if the path you have chosen does not lead you to the desired territory, choose another path! There is no failure in learning a foreign language, there is only an extension of study time.

In fact, the development of a language course seems to be the most appropriate field for the application of these principles, as it is easy to see that each of them relates, to a greater or lesser extent, to communication. Or, better said, in the given situation, the way in which the author of the course builds his communication strategy with the target group from the sensing phase.

In the elaboration of his own pedagogical approach based on neurolinguistic principles, the trainer must take into account the following realities, referring to the new territory that he will delimit in the minds of the trainees:

1. The mind and the body are interconnected: they are parts of the same system and each affects the other. The involvement of conscious memory in the same way as affective and even olfactory memory is essential.

2. The map is not the territory: we all have different maps of the world. Each subject has its own representation of reality, sometimes more vague or more accurate, which the language teacher must always take into account. With the specific variations from one age category to another, the situations that have as subject an individual who learns a new foreign language and “forgets” or begins to “confuse” certain notions in his own language, demonstrate a defective delimitation of the new linguistic territory. or an insufficient definition of the existing one.

3. There is no failure, only feedback and a new opportunity for success. As we said before, learning a foreign language is done depending on the motivation of the subject and the time he has available. As such, the teacher must know how to arouse the subject or target group, the curiosity for discovering the new territory and motivate the exploration approach to obtain optimal results in the shortest possible time.

4. The map becomes the territory: what you believe to be true is either true or becomes true. In this case, the existence of “false friends” in the new language studied is an eloquent example, the subject associating the already known words with some that “sound” the same.

5. The resources we need are in us. Each of the subjects who want to learn a foreign language already speaks their own language, at least. Thus, in the new experience, he only needs to define a new representation of the notions he already has. For this purpose:

6. Communication is both nonverbal and verbal, and subjects are influenced by any of the teacher’s behaviors, which they set as reference points.

 7. Communication is also both unconscious and conscious, ie the subject will be influenced by any direct or indirect message sent by his mentor. Images and associations of any kind are essential in this regard. Also regarding unconscious communication, it is recommended, in learning foreign languages, to open all the ways of perception of the subject in order to learn the new language and trace the new territory (listening to radio and TV shows, watching social networks, talking with natives, when possible).

8. The meaning of my communication is the answer I take, which means that the new territory must be “furnished” with everything that means the realities of the newly assimilated language and culture, the subject must be fascinated by the new reality and be willing to “absorb” any information on the subject of the study.

9. Modeling excellent behavior leads to excellence. Last but not least, in the delimitation of the new territory one always starts from the principle that the approach will be a successful one, and the created or rediscovered framework will be a new world. No matter how elementary the level of language that the subject or target group must reach, this first level represents the foundations of a new world, which can develop at any time, depending on individual needs and desires.

10. Flexibility of approach is essential, because flexibility leads to change, and the delimitation of a new linguistic territory is always a fundamental change of the individual not only by access to a new culture and civilization but also by changing the general image at the cognitive level.

Last but not least, the activity of evaluating the degree of success in the case of the approach of tracing the new neurological territory, is, of course, essential.

In this case, from the perspective of using NLP teaching techniques in the field of languages, it is recommended to use the peer to peer feedback technique, which involves encouraging learners to communicate with each other, involving all senses and emotions, dissociating themselves from the “burden” of tests and “Summarizing” the communication. There are case studies, for example those carried out within the Erasmus PEER-TO-PEER TUTORING Project: Transferring successful methodology and learning, strategy to reduce drops-out in IVET, Project 2013-1-IT1-LEO05-040 – TRANSFER OF INNOVATION, which demonstrates precisely the success of peer-to-peer assessment in communication: “In partner schools in Italy, through peer-to-peer activities, tutor students have developed their communication skills. They have the ability to empathize with their peers, motivating them to learn and overcome various addictions.”[4]

What did our world look like before the discovery of American territories and what does it look like now? This is the question whose answer could lead us to a true picture of the steps to be taken if we intend to learn or teach a foreign language, ie to draw in our own mind or in the minds of others a new territory on that language will no longer be a foreign one, but proper to new experiences and knowledge. The application of NLP techniques in language learning, however, offers many more perspectives that will be the subject of other studies and articles that the author of this study intends to publish later.

[1] Joseph O’Connor and Ian McDermott, Thorsons Pub, April 1996.


[3] Dr. Ken Heilman,  professor of neurology at the University of Florida:  “The smell evokes memories. It goes into the emotional and memory parts of the brain, just as words get into the thinking parts”.