04 Feb The map is not the territory
This is one NLP presupposition which can be applied to different aspects of our lives, and has implications both for language learning and communication.
This presupposition makes reference to our “map” of reality, i.e. we see the world through our very own lenses or filters and, therefore, our experiences of reality differ from others’. Our maps have a big influence on our lives: they can expand our worlds or limit them and they determine the way we behave and react to certain things. There are no right or wrong maps, only maps which can be more or less useful.
Our maps will be revealed through our behaviour and our use of language. For instance, a statement such as “I never remember new words” shows a certain lack of self-confidence as regards language learning. What we need to do, in these cases, is to become aware of our map statements and how these maps limit our views and perceptions.
Students’ maps or representational systems of themselves as learners, of their language learning skills and the language learning process will determine their success (or failure) in learning a foreign language. It is necessary, then, to become aware of these maps and to question them if necessary.
Another example of a map statement which doesn’t seem to be very useful for language learning purposes and one which I have come across many times as a language teacher is “I can’t speak English”. My almost immediate response to these students is: “You’re speaking English now. I don’t understand why you say you can’t.” That seems to open their eyes to the idea that their views of themselves as learners may be neither accurate nor fair.
Another map statement which is very common in English language students is “I don’t like studying English”. This is a statement connected with negative past experiences that they’ve had as learners and which make them see all English language learning as something boring and unattractive, uninteresting. Once they realise that language learning doesn’t necessarily imply just memorizing rules and doing mechanical exercises, they take on a more positive view of the whole process.
I think it is probably our responsibility as teachers to show students what language learning actually involves and all the different alternatives there exist. We also need to make them aware of their maps and how they affect and influence their learning.