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Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) seems to me to be an interesting area to explore for DELTA Experimental Practice.

Revell and Norman (1997:14) describe NLP as

… a collection of techniques, patterns and strategies for assisting effective communication, personal growth and change, and learning. It is based in a series if underlying assumptions about how the mind works and how people act and interact.

I’ve only just begun my journey into reading and finding out about what NLP is, and particularly how it has been applied in language teaching, but a few of the principles behind it – coming from the above quote as well as being defined by NLP practitioners explicitly – do appeal.

I’m finding more and more that I feel language is almost ingrained in the brain, and that language affects behaviour and feeling, and vice versa (can you say ‘vice versa’ when you’ve just mentioned three things?). I don’t think you can say definitely that one of these is dominant, as there seems to be (for me, at least) a definite symbiosis going on here.

NLP, with its programming is about behaviour, ‘training [yourself] to think, speak, and act in new and positive ways’. The neuro element is about how our experience of the world is filtered through our senses of sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing, and how it is represented ‘in our minds through our neurological processes’. It is linguistic is all about how we use language to shape and reflect our experience of the world. Language is the tool we use to interpret the world and manifest our beliefs about the world and life. ‘If we change the way we speak and think about things, we can change our behaviour’ (ibid.:14).

This might seem a bit like mumbo jumbo, and to me is in fact reminiscent to me of a scene from Fight Club, where the narrator visits a self-help group using guided meditation/visualisation to ‘heal’. NLP is quoted by Revell and Norman as allowing us to reach our potential and scale heights we previously could only dream of. But, I’d like to see how this can be applied to my teaching context. I teach people whose life experiences are maybe a bit extreme, but perhaps their language potential could be unlocked by trying something as different as NLP. I’m sure they’ll think me wacky, but maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to teach the meaning of the present perfect by talking about eating a biscuit.

Wish me luck.


Revell, J. & Norman, S. (1997) In Your Hands: NLP in ELT London: Saffire Press
Quoted in Richards, J. & Rodgers, T. (2001) Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching Cambridge University Press