Jordi Trenzano Vilar





My teaching approach

Jordi Trenzano Vilar

Method for 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 languages.

 

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 point.

 

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 for consistency.

 

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 follow

 

 

INTRODUCTION

VOCABULARY

GRAMMAR

VOCABULARY

GRAMMAR

QUICK DIALOG

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.

 

-More 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 activity.

 

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 students talk.

- 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. 



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