tell me about the inventor of instant english
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thumbnail sketch...

MaryBeth Guinan is an artist, and inventor and patent holder of the first icon language. In Instant English, every word is an icon, and every icon generates a spoken word. Teachers can drag icons into new sentences, choosing from 50 dictionaries and 5,000 icons. Guinan believes illustrated speech can rewire damaged brains, revive disappearing languages, bring literature to the non-literate and generate a new form of visual poetry.

MaryBeth Guinan 
for art
about Instant English
show me
project overview
program features
CD products
program components
user manual
project history
project people
ESL links
teachers' links


About reading pictures..

We normally teach English through a a book. But the textbook method is too slow and piecemeal. ESL speakers take a shortcut. They adapt English words to their own accent and syntax. The result is "broken English".

There is no one-to-one map between a sentence in English and a sentence in another language. Trying to learn a language through translation slows us down because the map doesn't work. Translation is also impossible in a multi-cultural classroom.

The immersion method works because it replicates our first language learning experience. The way we learned our mother tongue was by connecting a visual memory with a speech sound. We connected "bye bye" with putting on a coat and going toward the door.

But immersion requires temporarily inhibiting expression in the first language. New Americans hear English on the street, but they express themselves in their first language at home and at work.

So what is the fastest, most efficient method of learning English?

Learners can "read" picture sentences almost immediately. We are wired to interpret images as we are wired to learn grammar. Adults have been raised in an image-rich environment that has much cross-culture redundancy, so there is a comfort level with many symbols, such as an arrow for next and a slash mark for negatives.

Adults are also problem solvers and are not as literal-minded as children, so they can handle even English rebus symbols such as an eye for an "I". They enjoy both metaphor and the experience of a direct link between picture and thought.

Early civilizations used picto-graphic languages. Over time, the visual references became obscure and literacy became esoteric. Languages like Hebrew, that used a phonetic code, had a huge evolutionary advantage in learning efficiency. It was a kind of "just-in-time" way of noting down what people said, and of course, was not metaphorical, like signs, but a real transcription of the actual utterance.

But when languages merge and spelling rules proliferate (English is the best example), literacy again becomes a long formal process. So we need a short cut.

Just as wireless technology can skip over generations of infrastructure, we can skip the painful steps needed to learn the alphabet and phonics. Using multimedia, we can simultaneously present an image, a sound, and a label. It is this simultanaity that provides the brain with a network of meaning, pronunication, text and grammar.

Steps in language learning... FIRST STEP
The first step is speaking and it must become automatic. Listening over and over to the sound while seeing an image, is possible only on the computer (except that bar codes could work, too).
The ability of the
adult to follow their own learning rhythm, to repeat without embarrassment, to remain self-reliant, is deeply appreciated by older ESL students. Following work on Instant English, many teachers are observing
that their older students are beginning to speak up in class. The students take the CD and the workbooks home. The control over the learning pace accelerates learning by giving the individual both opportunity and motivation to study.
Steps in language learning... SECOND STEP
The second step in language learning is literacy --learning to read and write. It is easier for older adults to learn the
alphabet by typing. They find the letters on the keyboard and look at the screen again to see what letter follows what. Hunt-and-peck slows down spelling and helps the brain remember the letters. At the same time, learners are spacing after each word and adding a period. The computer forces the uses to capitalize and punctuate each and every time. It is relentless.

 biographical stuff

for art's sake
awards and publications

1980 Woman of the Year, Coalition of Labor Union Women
1980 HEW Summer Institute for Labor Leaders
1997 CCC, Excellence Award for Professional Achievement
1998 AWCC, Woman of the Year

1999 US Patent

2002 Archworks, David Award
2002 Icon Poetry, Literature for the Illiterate, AEQ (Academic Exchange Quarterly)
2003 Highest Leaf Award, Women's Venture Fund

wonder woman movie

truman movie

family pages
Paul and Anina's website 
photos of granddaughters coming of age
thanks to 
Bertha Mayorov / Dennis Startsev / Evelyn McHugh /
Xun Ding
/ Leo Kong
(pro bono)

Suzie T Isaacs
(contract, grants, laptops)
President Phoebe Helm / Retired AE Dean Therese Turnipseed /
PR Director Clifton Daniel
IT Asst Dean and webmaster, Joy Walker
family & friends
(loaned money)

Emilie Junge / David Swartzman / Paul Guinan / Anina Bennett/
Nick Bennett / Barbara Kessel / Ann Seeler / Hildette Rubenstein

 working life
2002-03 Instant English 2002-03  back to the classroom!
Icons grew to 5,000. Instant English Upgrade for 98, ME, 2K, XP. With new CD version, began installing Instant English in labs throughout Chicago: Rehabilitation Institutute of Chicago, Hull House, Olive Harvey College. Began web version. Educator. (in the e-classroom, developing literacy curriculum). Designed workbooks for classroom use. Published in Academic Exchange Quarterly.
2000-01 graphics 2000-01 TLC
Multimedia certificate. Truman College. See animations under art tab.

Designed a reader in verse and icon from Pushkin's folk-tale "Magic Fish".
Piloted Instant English. 

AE Coordinator, Technology Learning Center, Truman.  Developed 3 laptop classrooms. Presented, TechEd Chicago, and CCC Adult Education Conference. ICCB grant for e-classroom practicum. Mentored teachers. Stories by Channel 20, WBEZ.

mid 1990's Instant English mid 1990's Truman lab
Contracted with CCC for Windows 95 version of Instant English. Worked on Patent. Used program in lab for 1000 students per week. Technology Coordinator. Set up and expanded first computer lab for Adult Education Program. Netscape for students. Stories by Channel 07, 05, 09
early 1990's Instant English early 1990's graphics
Bought first computer: MAC. Incorporated Icon Language Systems Inc. Hired programmer for Mac version of Instant English. Created first thousand icons. Met Suzie Isaacs. Back to graphics! Experimented with self-published comics and coloring books for adults, and children's books. Invented icon parts of speech.
1980's labor education 1980's Truman
HEW summer institute for Labor Leaders. MSIR, Loyola. Wrote "The Work Esthetic", applying Piaget to work. Field research in worker-managed entrerprises in Mondragon, Spain and England. Taught Labor and Women's studies, Indiana U. Participated in cooperative projects sponsored by IU, Kokomo and GM and steel plants in Indiana. Part time Educator, (while grad student) Truman College outposts. ABE, Business Ed, literacy, ESL. After graduation, added second part-time gig as Counselor at JVS. Did grants for JVS. Courses in counseling and reading at NEIU. Founded literacy center with NIU.
1960's - children 1970's union/community activist
Gave birth to Paul Guinan. Exhibited sculpture. BAE from the Art Institute of Chicago. Montessori training. Director, Headstart for developmentally disabled. Developmental Reading clinic. Special ed coursework at George Williams U. Foster kids. Daughter, Frances Cochise. See her pages under "family" tab. Founded 3 parent-managed Montessori day care centers. Union activist. Full-time union officer.  Did grants to bring women and minorites onto local union staffs. With sister, Emily Junge, Helped found Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW). Labor leader awards and grants.



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