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  • Writer's pictureEmma Corbet

Book Review: Learning Another Language Through Actions, TPR

In this book by Dr. James J. Asher, we are introduced to the learning tool, Total Physical Response (or TPR). Learning Another Language Through Actions is not a light read by any means, but it is well-researched and represents over 20 years of study. First published in 1977, Dr. Asher has continued to update this book with all of the latest research.


Anyone wanting to dive deep into learning about TPR, a specific language learning tool (and who doesn't mind a research-heavy, question-and-answer format). It reads more like a lengthy scientific study or research paper, but there are tons of wonderful findings and ideas hidden within.

TPR is based on the premise that people are biologically wired to acquire a language in a particular sequence. Dr. Asher observed that early language acquisition begins through listening, and must involve the right hemisphere of the brain. Children learn comprehension before speech, and their earliest interactions involve something he calls "language-body conversations." These language-body conversations take place when hearing language is immediately followed by seeing the physical action. Babies listen to us for almost two years before they are to use words to communicate in meaningful ways, yet they respond physically much earlier.

The development of TPR strategies are based on these principle observations and rely on the incorporation of movement and action in language learning. Dr. Asher believes new vocabulary should be introduced by the teacher with a gesture as the word is said aloud, and enthusiasm, visuals, and movement should also be incorporated. Using TPR is the difference between memorizing (processing information only on the left side of our brain) and internalizing (engaging the right brain).

The right brain clicks on when you incorporate:

- acting

- gesturing

- drawing

- playing

- touching

- demonstrating

- whispering

- holding

- pointing

- singing

- moving

- (and more)

"Activities associated with the right brain are play, single exposure to information, internalization, long-term retention, and zero stress."

-Dr. Asher, page 3-6

He also gives us permission to rely on physical responses, rather than spoken ones, in the early years of language learning to demonstrate comprehension, and strongly states that we should eliminate all critical responses to learners.

While it is a very informative book, I don't think it's for everyone and it does take a good deal of commitment to read through the entire thing. I did have to skim through some of the exercises myself. It's worth mentioning though because I have gained knowledge and greater understanding having read this book.


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Hola, I'm Emma. The author and voice behind Beautiful Mundo.

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