Sheltered Initiation Language Learning 

This website is devoted to an innovative method for teaching foreign languages (including English as a second language). The method is called "Sheltered Initiation Language Learning."

"Sheltered Initiation Language Learning is the creation of Zev bar-Lev of San Diego State University. In its startling methodological assumptions, instructional procedures, and degree of success, Sheltered Initiation Language Learning presents a bold challenge to prevalent theory… Future theories of formal language learning will have to account for the manifest success of SILL." 


from Robert Blair’s section on "Innovative Methods" in teaching foreign languages, in Marianne Celce-Murcia’s Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language

SILL mini-courses have been developed for some thirty languages. These are available to participants in "Learn a New Language" workshops given through the Learning Annex™ in San Diego, Los Angeles, and, occasionally, San Francisco. Longer courses are available at San Diego State University and SDSU Extension. Teachers interested in using SILL courses for their own language are invited to inquire. Please e-mail Dr. Zev bar-Lev for more information.

What a SILLy idea!

For students to speak and read on their own in class!

The goal in SILL is authenticity of skill: There is no point for students to read "authentic" newspapers if they can only read with a dictionary, just as there is no point for them to have "natural" conversations if they have to memorize them.

The strongest argument for using SILL first is that it makes all student confident, creative speakers from the beginning. After ordinary study, even in modern courses, it will be too late for many students ever to become confident speakers. (SILL is also notable for the degree of command and accuracy it imparts in spontaneous speaking.)

You can "cut off as much as you want" and use it alone or before regular courses. Use just a few hours of this method ("unit A") and follow up with your own textbook if you wish. (See the "intermediate exercises" page on this website.) Or use a greater length: "units A-C" comprise about 40 hours for high-school students (20 hours for college students); "units A-G" (the equivalent of a year of high-school study) and beyond are available for an increasing number of languages.

At first sight, it may seem that "associations" are the most characteristic feature of SILL; in fact, they are completely optional in the method. The most distinctive feature of SILL is the curricular sequencing. In SILL, all vocabulary and structures are presented in a an acquisition order than guarantees maximum success, especially long-term. A main principle is asymmetric sequencing, in which grammatical categories are presented one at a time, rather than in pairs or tables. Examples: personal endings on verbs are presented one at a time, starting with a "basic form" (chosen independently for each specific language); gender and number endings are also presented one at a time. Even vocabulary is presented in a carefully designed sequence, avoiding lists covering whole semantic fields, which (like grammar tables) look pleasant but are difficult to acquire.

Main Menu 

This website includes:

1. three sample speaking lessons in Hebrew, Italian, and Japanese, including comprehension exercises for each;

2. a sample of how to develop intermediate speaking lessons and comprehension exercises (for students and teachers);

 It is hoped that you will take a look at (or, even better, learn) lessons (especially in a new language) and give your reactions. Please write to me. I would appreciate any feedback wether positive or negative or both!!! Thank you!


Hebrew lessons
Italian lessons
Japanese lessons
Intermediate exercises

Website designed and developed by Dr. Zev bar-Lev and Joseph Sherman, with support from the Foreign Language Council and Language Acquisition Resource Center.