Cristina Ayuso





My teaching approach

 

Throughout the years of my degree in Translation and Interpreting, I had many different teachers who would impart their knowledge of the language and translation techniques, helping me to become a good translators/interpreters.

As one would expect, many of them I considered average teachers. These were the teachers I will simply remember by name, appearance and subject. But I cannot remember any special classes or conversations in particular. To be honest, after so long, I find it difficult to remember any specific knowledge imparted by them.

Nevertheless, there were a few teachers that I will always appreciate and with whom I associate great memories. These were the ones who would tell us stories and anecdotes related to the language and the cultural background, and those who made us laugh to tears in class. These were the ones whose lessons I would never miss no matter how high was a fever I might have had. These were the teachers who made the classes so personal and enjoyable that the lessons became simply unforgettable. And that feeling is exactly what I want my students to feel towards me as a teacher. Those teachers are nowadays my example to follow.

Some students contented themselves with having a grade certifying their knowledge, mistakenly believing that they knew “everything” about the language then. However, once the course had finished my conclusion was that the teacher was great, not only for making it easy for us to pass the exam, but rather for having motivated me to continue learning. After all, languages are the expression of our thoughts and feelings put into words following a structural system implemented in our brains. As the world and humanity are in constant states of change and evolution, languages change and evolve too. According to the ever-changing events around us, our lives are transformed so we create customs, habits and traditions that are reflected in new words, expressions, concepts, and terms. So, to those who suggest they completely master a language, I would suggest one never stops learning a language.

Even within the same country, words and expressions tend to vary from one region to another, among cities, and even among neighbourhoods. Expressions and concepts will still change with time. We never stop creating. Hence, we never stop learning. Things change and that’s the beauty of it.

Recalling the case of the teachers that I always appreciate and remember, it shows how important the affective factors are. Brain experiments carried out by Neurologists investigating on the learning process of human beings have proved that we learn in a more effective way with emotion. People don’t normally tend to memorize and retain exact long numbers, data or statistics and so on. In a conference or a speech where information is presented only through figures and charts without any personal touch, rarely will attendees retain all of the information provided. But tell your attendees a story or anecdote to compare specific data, and nearly 100% of them will remember the story and retain this information. Why is this? The reason behind lies in the fact that no matter how rational we think we are, the truth is that a great part of our brains is emotional.

Having said all that, I hope I made it clear that my teaching method will be inspired in those methodologies using emotional factors such as the communicative approach. Given the case, just like Oxbridge does, I absolutely agree with the fact that old methodologies based solely on grammar structures are not a good way to make students learn to communicate, as it will only give them knowledge on how to analyse structures, but won’t provide them with the skills necessary to fluently form structures in their oral production. In fact, one does not learn to play a sport by reading a book on how to play that sport. One learns how to play the sport by playing it, and so must be the case when it comes to learning a language.

Acquisition is one of the terms I would like to mention in this essay, as it is one of the main variables that my method will focus on. Acquiring the language in a subconscious and natural way, as babies do when learning to speak, would be the main aim. Acquiring a language must be a natural process. It should not represent a chore for the student. If we think about it in a deeper way, why can children get to learn even several languages so easily? Do they attend grammar lessons? No. They just go with the flow. They repeat what they hear. They enjoy and speak without any fear and without even wondering if it’s right or wrong. Their parental figure will correct as necessary, and the child will repeat, internally correcting that mistake for the next time. This comparison with the way a baby learns a language will be the focus of my approach. The role of the teacher could be as that parental figure caringly correcting his child. Beginner students could adopt a role analogous to a child learning how to speak for the first time.

For those starting to learn a new language, the teacher’s primary role would be to create a friendly and nice atmosphere. The teacher should keep a professional appearance to inspire respect from the students, but he/she can also adopt the role of a friend in some cases, showing interest in his/her students, providing motivation and encouragement to search for materials to prepare for lessons based on things they enjoy.

The teacher should also focus on offering guidance and resources to contribute to the students’ oral production, so use of their mother tongue would be avoided in the class. Otherwise, students might get used to asking in their first language, and they would always try to follow their underlying grammatical structure, thus leading to errors and mistakes.

The class would also start with a few Quick Questions as we have seen in the Oxbridge method. I find it a great way to grab students’ attention and engage them on the activity. But I also find it very important to introduce activities in a smooth way with personal questions as if it were a natural conversation between friends, so they would hardly notice it is actually a language class.

An effective teacher would prepare lessons by selecting interesting activities from different resources or textbooks. But the student does not have to have a textbook. Just a programme or syllabus of what they are going to learn throughout the course would be enough. The teacher would provide the students with photocopies of the activities done in class and objectives to be learnt and practiced in class. The main target here would be that the students have fun and enjoy the lesson whilst learning and acquiring the language at the same time, so I would definitely prepare activities combining usage of the language and having fun. The more varied the activities, the more enjoyable the classes would be for the students. Therefore, I would combine activities with dynamic games, drawing or painting, roleplay games, telling stories to practice tenses, vocabulary and grammar.

Regarding physical resources, I would make use of the whiteboard to write as necessary and for myself or my students to draw pictures, explain concepts if need be (recalling that I would not communicate in the students’ mother tongue); a projector to project videos, short movies, images, presentations, maps; and a CD player or computer to play a song and do a gap-fill activity at the end of the class. Music has always been one of the most useful resources for me to learn languages, so I want to transmit this to my students.

The programme of each class must have the same structure and fulfil the objectives set, but every class should be as different and as enjoyable as possible. This ought to involve the teacher showing empathy and concern for his/her students in terms of their progress, and even in personal problems if appropriate, thus creating a healthy teacher/friend-student relationship. But the teacher must also show his/her know-how when it comes to dealing with problematic learners who might not show interest at all in the class or behave with bad manners.

The most important thing would be that at the end of each class the students feel like they have practiced and learnt the objectives, in a natural, enjoyable and effortless way. This is after all what everybody wants when learning a new language. And this is one of the things that I have learnt throughout the weeks of the TEFL course with Oxbridge. It has been for me a big eye-opener in so many ways, especially since I had only seen a traditional method based on grammar, where I observed frustration of students who could not speak the target language at all. Therefore, I would like to express my gratitude and acknowledge the Oxbridge TEFL preparation team.

Thank you so much for everything you have taught me. It has inspired me in so many ways for my career as a language teacher. Your team of experts and the teachers I have had the pleasure to meet will be among those that I will always remember with joy and gratefulness.

Thanks again!

Cristina Ayuso

 

 

 



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