Using TPRS method for teaching Farsi

Learning Farsi (Persian) language has not been as successful as it should be. In fact, people are dropping like flies from Farsi language classes and programs because of the many frustrations and failures they experience during their Farsi study. The dropout rate in Farsi language classes is as high as 80 to 90%. Most of Farsi learners who had studied even for more than two years don’t have a satisfactory proficiency and many of them will never become fluent. It means that spending years studying Farsi don’t allow the learners to become proficient enough to hold a conversation in Farsi. Lack of success of Farsi lessons are perhaps the results of the method used.

Farsi teachers usually use the grammar-analysis and audio-lingual methods. Teachers encourage students to memorize grammar rules and dialogues, which never produce communicative skill.  In fact, these methods of instruction are not able to teach the student to communicate creatively. 

Why TPRS Method?

More than ever before, today’s Farsi language teachers need more innovative and effective instructional strategies to keep their students motivated and actively involved. Recently, a number of powerful methods have been effective using a “listen first” approach for learning other languages especially English and Spanish. These natural methods help learners to focus most of their energy on listening until they can understand native speakers using the language. Only after that learners can switch their focus to other language skills. 

One of these effective teaching methods is called TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling). It is a method for teaching foreign languages invented by Blaine Ray, a Spanish teacher in Bakersfield, California, in 1990. TPRS is a technique which uses entertaining stories to introduce and reinforce vocabulary and grammar. It focuses on building proficiency by encouraging students read short stories. In this method, students are not drilled in grammatical paradigms. Instead, the grammatical structures and new vocabularies are delivered in the context. Therefore, students acquire proficiency in a conversational way. They don’t learn about the language; instead, they learn how to use the language. 

TPRS has been effective in learning other languages and it can be very helpful for learning Farsi effectively. The best way to help students develop both fluency and accuracy in Farsi is to expose them to large amounts of comprehensible input. The phases and procedures in TPRS help Farsi teachers to offer this input by making Farsi spoken in class comprehensible and attractive. 

How to use TPRS for teaching Farsi?

In the first step of TPRS, the Farsi teacher presents sentences structures and vocabulary through examples in Farsi, and ensures student comprehension through gestures and writing target structures on the board in Farsi and in the students’ native language. 

The next step is reinforcing the structures by asking questions about the story. The teacher introduces the outline of a story in Farsi and asks students to provide the details. The teacher solicits student responses by asking why, who, when, where and how questions, thus continually recycling the vocabulary and the grammar

Finally, the same vocabulary and grammar structures are used in a class reading to verify students’ comprehension. Sometimes, teachers may refer to grammar briefly with rapid explanation, but, the stress is always on meaning and comprehension. 

One of the most important concerns about using TPRS method for teaching Farsi is lack of training resources and textbooks. The good news is that existing Farsi Language textbooks can easily be adapted for use in TPRS techniques by simply taking the words being taught, and utilizing gestures and stories. In fact, TPRS fits into any standard Farsi language courses. However, the most important element of a successful TPRS program is the awareness that the focus is the students, not the books or even the stories. A good relationship with students is the foundation of a TPRS program.

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