Zane Abweh





My teaching approach

The Zanetastic Method

 

The purpose from learning a language differs from one person to another, and for each purpose a different method might seem best. For example, for a shop keeper with tourist clientele, oral and interactive skills are more important than writing skills. However, for a university student, writing skills are crucial to writing essays and taking exams. Other factors come into play when learning a language. Language acquisition differs from person to person; what might take one person to learn 10 minutes, might take another 20 minutes. In addition to grammar and vocabulary, cultural context is a determining factor in the meaning of a sentence. Both the culture of the native language and the target language affects language acquisition and interlanguage. Finding a comprehensive method that addresses all these different factors has been a concern to linguists for a very long time. The role of the teacher in class has also been taken into consideration when discussing these methods. A teacher is a facilitator, supporter, resource, controller and coach. However, the manner and degree to which he is involved differs from method to method.

Teaching methods have evolved and changed drastically over history. Whereas in the past studying was the focus of the teaching methods, researchers have concluded that learning is more important and thus different approaches were suggested. Among these modern methods is The Direct Method, often called the Berlitz Method. In this method the focus is primarily on speech, visual aids are used, translation into the native tongue is prohibited and vocabulary is emphasized over grammar. In fact, grammar is integrated into the activities done and no single grammar rule is explicitly given. The pros of this method are many as it encourages communication through real life situations and takes great care of pronunciation; however it is difficult to apply in classes with over 10 people. The lack of grammar terminology is also a negative aspect of the method in my opinion as I believe students should have a reference in the form of the grammar rule. 

Another oral-based approach is The Audio-Lingual Method. It is similar to The Direct Method in that it focuses on speech and grammar rules are not explicitly given. However, unlike The Direct Method, structure is emphasized over vocabulary and the teacher is more of a modal than a guide. Students are to imitate him rather than come up with their own sentences based on their understanding. Although this method prepares students for real life situations, the fact that it uses repetition to drill the language into the students makes it too limited.

Yet another oral-based approach is The Communicative Method, like both previous methods, grammar is not taught as a separate entity but as part of the real life situations presented in class. This method is based on functions and games are used to relate and practice those functions. It differs from The Audio-Lingual Method by encouraging students to produce their own examples rather than imitating the teacher. It harnesses students’ deductive skills and imagination throughout lessons, and errors within this method are tolerated and seen as a natural outcome of the learning process. 

In what appears to be a total contrast to The Communicative Method, The Grammar-Translation Method focuses more on literary language rather than the spoken one and concentrates on developing the reading and writing skills. The differences don’t end here; whereas in CLT the students’ levels are graded on their ability to communicate, written exams in GTM are often used and errors are to be corrected immediately. Furthermore, in GTM the student is more of an analyzer of the language rather than its user.

In what could be described as an unconventional method Suggestopedia addresses the psychological barriers a student might face when learning a language. Fine arts are utilized to achieve a cheerful and relaxed environment that would make students feel confident in expressing themselves in the target language. On the other hand, native language translation is used to make the meaning of the dialogue clear, which in my opinion has several negative consequences; one of which is that students would rely too much on the translation and would not make the effort to understand the language in its native form. In addition, through understanding words using translation students might not comprehend the cultural context related to that language.

Another unconventional method is The Silent Way. As the name might suggest, the teacher here is completely silent. Its originator; Caleb Gattegno, designed this method to be without a syllabus and meant for the teacher’s silence to make students self reliant and encourage self correction. Despite these benefits, I believe the lack of praise deprives students of the support and encouragement they need and that their motivation towards learning the language may decrease. The lack of criticism may leave students unaware of their actual level. As for the lack of syllabus, it puts a great strain on the teacher to come up with material for each class that at the end of the day may be disorganized, inadequate for the students’ levels and leave the students feeling lost in the language.

A more movement-based approach is the Total Physical Response method. Students are to observe actions being performed by the teacher and then performing these actions themselves thus creating a fun atmosphere for language learning and eliminating native language translation. Boredom is certainly not one of the downsides of this method. Another characteristic of this method is that students are not prompted to speak; they do that only when they are ready. I find it hard to agree with this aspect as any delay in student talking is loss of precious target-language-practice time.

Language approaches have varied enormously throughout time; the difference between The Grammar-Translation Method from the 1940s and The Communicative Method from the 1970s is inarguable. The methods have developed and changed trying to deal with all the factors that go into language learning. My method sees successful communication of the students in the target language as its objective. Equal attention would be given to both the receptive skills; reading and listening, and the productive skills; speaking and writing. Like The Communicative Method, The Zanetastic Method would aim to answer the age-old question: Do you speak English? Thus the main priority of the method is the spoken language. Nevertheless literary language is not to be neglected; activities would be provided that focus solely on reading and writing skills. Attention would be given to both pronunciation and spelling from the start. As for the syllabus, it would be based on functions rather than language structure, so students would be learning to use the language and not studying about it. Albeit, even though grammar would not be taught as a separate entity and would be integrated into the lessons, students would be informed of the grammar terms. Text books would not be used, but are to be substituted with activities that are interactive, engaging and diverse in their content. To help these activities be more interesting and effective, visual and audio aids would be used. Modern times and technology have made this easy with movies on demand, instant streaming websites like YouTube and portable devices to facilitate the use of all these services.

Students would be grouped according to level and age, as I believe that different ages are interested in different things and would hence warrant different topics and activities. Taking from Suggestopedia, classes are to have a relaxed cheerful atmosphere with soft classical music playing low in the background.

The teacher’s role in the classroom would first be of a guide. He would provide an example for students to follow, but unlike The Audio-Lingual Method, students are to produce their own sentences and examples based on their comprehension. Moreover, he would be the first resource for pronunciation. More than that, he would provide a listening nonjudgmental ear to all students, a fact that would be told to students from day one should any of them need it. Additionally, the teacher would be expected to know how to deal with the personalities of the students. For example, encouraging shy students to participate and build their confidence. He is also responsible for keeping a dynamic class that engages all students and not just the willing participants. And as there would be no written exams in this method, another of the teacher’s duties is to evaluate students based on their level of linguistic competence and provide praise or criticism when warranted. Having said that, errors are to be corrected immediately, as I believe that once some time has passed on an uncorrected mistake it would be very difficult to get students to use the correct form.

The Zanetastic Method can be applied to all ages and levels; be that as it may it would be more suitable for small classes and difficult to apply in big ones.

All these methods have added to my knowledge both as a student and a teacher. It has taught me how important the motivation of the student and the teacher is to the learning process. Additionally, how to come up with level-appropriate, beneficial and fun activities. It has also introduced me to the effect the native language has on the target language, and how the transition between them is a natural part of the learning journey. 



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