What is "Target Language only"?

When teachers teach in our classes, they teach in the language of instruction, instead of the native language of the students. For example, if you're an English native speaker and you register for a Japanese class, the class will be taught in Japanese, not in English.

What we are trying to do at Hills Learning is not have a lecture about the language in the classroom, rather, give the opportunity during class to have the student interact in the language. The best way of doing this is to have the teacher speak in the target language, which will encourage the student to also respond in the target language.

What is SWIRL?

SWIRL is Hills Learning’s own teaching methodology. It comprises of S – Speaking W – Writing I – Intonation (Pronunciation) R – Reading L – Listening

We use this teaching method along with our philosophy of target language only in the classroom. So we expect that both teachers (and students) try to use the language that they are learning in the classroom as much as possible. Hills Learning incorporates FIVE language techniques in both group classes and private lessons. These techniques are Speaking, Writing, Intonation, Reading and Listening (SWIRL).

We believe that these language techniques are indispensible to one’s language acquisition and production. At Hills Learning, we aim to offer a Highly Interactive Language Learning experience to students in both group classes and private lessons. Hence, our language lessons are structured into three tiers of focus.

The top tier comprises of Speaking and Listening.

In all our language classes, the focus of the classroom are the speaking and listening components of the language. We feel that these are the most important aspects of learning language, “to speak is to know.” It’s also been the most popular with our students, most students want to focus on communicating the language orally, whether it’s for travel, business, or personal enrichment.

The second tier focuses on Intonation (Pronunciation).

Please note, while we say “Intonation” we really mean Pronunciation. Although Intonation is important in tonal languages such as Chinese, Cantonese or Thai, pronouncing language correctly really determines your ability to get your point across. In Mandarin if you use the wrong tone you’ll say a completely different word. In phonetic languages such as Korean or Japanese it’s also important.

The third tier of SWIRL comprises Reading and Writing.

Although this is the bottom tier and thus least in importance, it’s important to say here “last but not least.” Our philosophy is that while the other language skills are ranked higher, you will never be fluent in the language without learning how to read and write it. This is a very important point because it's one of the most challenging skills to develop in our classrooms, and usually we assign students homework for reading and writing. It’s important to learn to how to read in all languages, because once you do you can learn to pronounce the alphabet (and eventually the language) correctly.