My teaching approach
teaching catalan, beginners.
My method is aimed at people who want to learn Catalan
from scratch, beginning from absolute beginners and stopping at intermediate
level. Considering such level the one achieved right before the moment when
students will begin to write sentences and short texts in catalan. Whereas in
intermediate level learning vocabulary would follow a similar path as the one
we will implement for beginners, the complexity of Catalan’s accentuation
system would require a new and more complete method in order to learn how to
write the language properly. It would be a method adapted to needs such as the
wider variety of vowel sounds, the rules for the graphic accents and the right
identification of tonic syllables.
As a Romanic language, Catalan shares many traits with
languages such as Spanish, French or Italian. Most of the time, if not a 95 or
99%, we are going to find a group of students who know at least one of these
languages as their mother tongue. Yet, our goal is to produce a method that
will be equally useful for anyone, not only people who “only” know one of these
languages as L2 but also to anyone who is completely new to the world of Latin
Catalan has some particular points that need to be
taken into consideration, specially in our psychological approach: The student
who chooses to learn Catalan does so knowing that he is learning it as a way of
integrating in the community more than because of a specific need for a job or
for educational purposes. There are jobs where Catalan is definitely a must
(Ex: Teaching any kind of subject in a Catalan public school and in most
Catalan Universities), but in jobs in the private sector or amongst the average
Catalan speaker, there is a feeling of thankfulness towards the language
learner rather than an obligation to learn the language. This is an affirmation
that I admit it to be a generalization that could be object of debate in some
specific cases. Yet I strongly consider that is completely valid as a starting
Hence, affective factors change in respect the process
of learning other languages. In such an easy atmosphere, it is likely that we
will be eliminating most (if not all) of the anxiety that the student might
have before beginning its study.
However, eliminating pressure does not necessarily
mean relaxing. Certainly, it does not mean adopting techniques coming from
methods such as Suggestopedia, as I personally believe that techniques more
challenging for the student will be more effective.
The teacher must assume it’s role of a leader.
However, we are not talking about a sports or political leader: We are talking
more about the captain of a sports team. Somebody that must guide the team, if
not to victory, at least to play a good game, to have a good time, to learn
from their mistakes and to learn something new every day. All of the students
will trust their teacher so that they will be confident in his/her judgement.
How can we achieve a method that is good for every
student, regardless of their background? Consistency is the key. We need a
method that approaches the language in a way that is consistent throughout
every lesson. The presence of students with a similar background will always be
an asset for the teacher, but in terms of methodology should not imply a change
of methods. It will make them faster and smoother, which is a plus, but a quick
change of methods would only mean a general feeling from weakness coming from
the teacher’s side. We are looking for a method valid at all times for all
kinds of students. We are not ruling out flexibility, but yet we are looking
My method will take most of its elements from the
direct method. Implementing them in a way that will probably be similar to the
method that Oxbridge has developed.
Based on 60-minute lessons, the structure will work as
RECAP + WRAP UP
Examples about how it should work
- Introduction. Dialog about how students are
feelings, what have they done in the day, what did they do in the weekend….The
more we advance, the longer this introduction will be.
-Vocabulary: We’d begin the first day with the
most essential expressions. ‘What’s my name’ (El meu nom és / Em dic….), ‘I
am English’ (Sóc anglès), also greeting expressions. Also ‘I speak
Spanish’ as ‘Jo parlo espanyol’, which will be used to introduce the
negative sentences, as ‘I am not Spanish’ or ‘Jo no sóc espanyol’.
-Grammar: Absorbing structures. We begin the very
first day by learning the verb “to be” (ésser) in the present tense. As it’s
such a key verb, we make sure to use it in different meanings (ex: I am Spanish
as jo sóc espanyol but also ‘I am tall’ as jo sóc alt. With help
from all the students (or by using drawings if needed) we’d complete the whole
conjugation of the present tense of the verb, both singular and plural.
vocabulary. We’d follow by putting
examples of professions, about the place where we live…..(‘I am a teacher’, ‘I
live in Barcelona’ as ‘Sóc un professor’ and ‘Visc a Barcelona’).
-Grammar: Learning the verb ‘Estar’, the
other use of the verb ‘to be’.
- The quick dialog, in the earliest stages of
the level, would be a mixture of grammar and vocabulary that we already know.
It can also be used to practice daily life situations, like going shopping or
asking for directions. Its relevance will grow along with the course.
-A quick recap of the lesson. Trying and wrap up.
From the 4th or 5th sessions, we might consider adding
new sections. We might listen to child songs, or watch videos with very easy
instructions. However, they need to be chosen carefully. If they are not, our
students will be entertained but we don’t know for sure if they will be
learning something. A new activity that we can suggest is, at the end of the
class, showing them pictures of different items or actions, and research its
meaning in catalan for the next lesson. That would engage the students in a
minimum dose of homework that would commit them more to study outside the
classroom. It’s an activity that would come after the first vocabulary
Some elements that are key for this method:
- We are not going to write any words in a paper or in
a board. The students will read them.
- No use of L1.
- No translation.
- In order to help the previous points, a special
effort in gestures. We are only using Catalan.
- Prevent students from talking in a different
language different than Catalan.
- Low TTT. The teacher needs to create a dynamic
environment for the students, and we are looking to achieve that by making the
- Intensive use of drawings or printed pictures in
order to help teaching vocabulary. Those cards will not be translated.
What we want to achieve is a method that is dynamic,
quick and that can be easy to remember for all students, regardless of age or
mother tongue. The fact that the method might rigid in its structure does not
mean that it could become boring: At some points it will be the perfect
simulation of a Catalan dialog.
By focusing our teaching in Catalan alone, we don’t
want to prevent the appeareance of language transfer: We want to the student to
guess for him/herself what is the meaning of the word without the teacher
saying it. In Catalan, as I have mentioned earlier, we have a good starting
point, the fact that many speakers that have a latin language as mother tongue
will easily recognize dozens of cognets in every lesson.
What if the teacher is facing three students that know
no latin language? I feel that the method is strong enough to face such
students. The main difference that we could find is in terms of pace: The rythm
of such students will be significantly slower.
During the very first lessons, we are expecting to
find many errors, mostly in grammar, but maybe more in vocabulary if the
student comes from a similar language, such as Spanish or French. The teacher
must take note of all errors, and if the amount of errors causes the class to
slow down, we will reconsider our choices: Not in the structure of the class,
as it is simple and we want the students to remember it easily, but in the
choice of grammar examples and words used in vocabulary, specially the ones
that make students struggle the most with pronunciation.
Recap lessons will be necessary. Once every 4 or 5
sessions. Following the same structure. Needless to say that the teacher should
have taken notes during the previous lessons to try to correct the most
persistent errors from the students.