Roser Nieto Benet





My teaching approach

A rosy method


As English teachers we play a very important role, we help our students understand and speak a second language, which is neither easy nor obvious with just being a native speaker. The essential thing is to know how to teach one's own language. It is not a question of speaking it perfectly, it is the way you transmit this knowledge what mainly matters. Therefore, as teachers we need to adopt and stick to our own methodolody in order to feel comfortable with it and also believe in it, so that we will believe as well in the progress and improvement of our students.


However, the decision of choosing a particular method or inspiring in it to create our own version is a difficult task. Since earlier times the humanity has had the need of learning a second language, for economical, social and other reasons. 


The first methods were as simple as the mediaeval vocabulary lists or dialogues in two languages. Later on grammar and translation were started to be seen as the best ways of learning a second language, a theory that remained until our days. 

Fortunately by the end of the XIXth century a group of linguists and language teachers started a new methodology as a response to the old ones, based on the idea that an L2 had to be learnt  through everyday language, rather than through arcaic texts. They also thought that students needed to be familiarized with the phonetics of that language and exposed entirely to the L2. So that their mother tongues should not interfere in the process of learning the new language.


Following these new ideas, the XIXth century started with a new attitude regarding the languages acquisition and methodology. Therefore a long list of new methods emerged in the field. An example of this is the method called The Direct Method (also named Berlitz), the Suggestopedia, The silent method or the Callan method.


The first one emphasized vocabulary (taught through pictures or objects) over grammar and defended communication as the main purpose of language learning. It also put some emphasis on pronounciation and writing and had a syllabus based on situations instead of linguistic structures. 


On the other hand the Callan method was quite opposed to the Berlitz system as it focused on listening and answering and it was based on three blocks which follow the formula “Answer, Answer, Question, Answer”. The students were asked 50 questions per hour in average, so that they had no time for translating to their natives tongues.


The Suggestopedia was quite particular as music played in it an important role to create a cheerful atmosphere while teaching. However there was a high teaching talking time in this methodology as the students were drilled and read all together. Also native language was allowed in order to help a better understanding. That was the opposite of what the Silent way encouraged. It was a method known for its non-existent TTT. The teacher was then silent all the time in order to better observe his students and foster their autonomy. It was a method with no syllabus and plenty of improvisation that encouraged students' self-correction.


In my opinion the best way to teach a second language is to have a personal method in wich you believe and feel most comfortable with. I personally had already my own methodology, which I will slightly modify after this training. All my formation in Spanish teaching has been focused on the communicative approach. I have been trained to teach an L2 in this approach which I find it very convenient, especially regarding a few contexts such as teaching a group of students of different nationalitites. 

However, after getitng to know the Oxbridge system I have discovered a new way that, again, I think fulfills perfectly the needs of the students it was created for. Therefore it is ideal for specific contexts such as all kind of companies set up in Spain. In other words, I'd rather say that in a country like Spain, where people have been learning English all their lives and are unable to speak it, it is the perfect system as it enables students to improve in this specific skill and the lessons have all a conversational purpose. 

Nevertheless, I strongly hesitate if the system is as efficient within other contexts or if it is adaptable to other languages. What happens for instance with languages which use characters such as Chinese or Japanese? Are the students supposed to learn to speak it but not be able to write it down? The Oxbridge methodology does not reinforce writing at all. Even begginer English students could have some lacks in terms of Grammar comprehension, as the skill is worked indirecty and somehow I have the impression that we omit too much the work on grammatic rules, which can be useful for lower levels.

For all this I would rather do a mixture of both, the communicative system and the Oxbridge system. Obviously whenever I am asked to teach any conversational class I immediately will think of the Oxbridge method but if it is a conventional lesson I will mix both ways. The reason of this combination is beacause I do think that the communicative approach settles better the language basis without forgetting the speaking and the learning goals are clearer and  well organised. 

Through units that are normally perfectly linked you work on a main objective, which is normally  functional-based and practice it through the four skills. Throughout the lessons you build up each objective step by step by adding all the necessary to reach it. In other words, the students are given different tools (Target Language: grammar and vocabulary) thanks to very different activities to reach it and be able to successfully do the last and main task which is normally a wrap-up activity to use all the TL given and put in practice the main goal. Also one has to bear in mind that all the steps have a communicative approach and even written activities have a communicative side as most of the times students have to negociate or speak to correct or compare with their classmates. All the activities are functional and give priority to real language overall.


In conclusion I would use the Oxbridge method for intermediate levels who already have a basis and the communicative approach with lower level students. In terms of resources I would just use a book if it is a good one and it follows my methodology. I would then ignore any material not following it. There are also plenty of interesting resources to be used rather than an old-fashioned non-communicative books. I also think it is important in a book to have a syllabus based on topics rather than on structures. 


But overall it is also important to add personality to our methodology by playing our role as teachers, being enthusiastic and good listeners, as well as good coaches to our students. As a method would not work if you do not have the characteristics of a good teacher. I would finally add to this that I would always teach from the L2, which means that no translations are allowed or any other language would be spoken. I would reduce the teacher talking time as, overall, the students need to make the most of the lesson to practising conversational skills. My TTT would always be used to correct learners' mistakes, to give them instructions and interact with them whenever needed.




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