My teaching approach
My Teaching approach
When talking of learning, I believe that it is impossible to generalize. Even we all share similar characteristics as humans being, every individual has different ways to understand, communicate, receive information or memorize it. There are people with a great sense of humor, who enjoy having fun and learning in a playful environment. There are some others who have to see the information written in order to process it and understand it. Some others had had more experience in their lives and help them to learn. Others have so little worries that can focus on the learning.
As this quote states: “Doctrina est ingenii naturale quoddam pabulum (Learning is a kind of natural food for the mind.)”
If learning is a food for our mind, not everyone enjoys or tolerate the same kind of food or eat it in the same way.
Then, in my opinion, there is not an only perfect method which will fit everyone in the same room and make them learn a second language. We could better say that there are different methods that fit to different individuals, with their abilities and purposes.
I will explain some characteristics of three of the main methods, and my opinion about them:
The Grammar-Translation Method (GTM): This method focuses a lot on reading and writing skills, through grammar learning and written testing. In my opinion, helps the students to understand the language’s nature by its rules, but it is of poor help to oral communication.
The Direct Method (Berlitz): The most significant rule is that not translation is allowed. The focus of this method is in vocabulary and communication. Not grammar is taught explicitly and there are chances for students to practice the language. I believe it’s a very effective method, because helps students to communicate; however I differ on some points. As I will explain later, I don’t believe that the student’s native language is something negative, but a tool to learn the second language. I like the approach, but not the concept.
The Communicative Approach: This is the method that fits better with my teaching approach. When students learn a language in the school, they learn by the Grammar-Translation Method (at least in Spain). The problem is that students learn the rules but not to communicate in that language. Is not to communicate the purpose of learning a second language?
Well, the Communicative Approach solves that problem by focusing on communicative learning skills. The concept is to know how to use the language by using it in real context. Errors are tolerated because they are part of the learning process, and grammar learnt follow from the function and situational context of the activities.
But there is something that I cannot understand of second language learning. Why is the student’s native language a problem? Why some of the most reputed methods totally rid of the native language? Can the brain ducts of both languages be separated?
My personal experience showed me that growing up with two native languages help me to learn the third (or somehow the second). Some of the phonetics sounds of English are in one of my languages but not in the other. Also when my brain is searching for a word or a way to explain something, the three languages pop up and it’s fast in picking the right one.
Wondering how can this be applied to second language teaching, I came across of an approach created by Professor Cook of the Newcastle University:
The Multi-Competence Approach:
“Vivian James Cook (born 1940) is Professor of Applied Linguistics at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom.
In the early 1990s he proposed the multi-competence approach to second language acquisition. Multi-competence is a concept in second language acquisition formulated by Vivian Cook that refers to the knowledge of more than one language in one person's mind. From the multi-competence perspective, the different languages a person speaks are seen as one connected system, rather than each language being a separate system. People who speak a second language are seen as unique multilingual individuals, rather than people who have merely attached another language to their repertoire.
The concept has been backed up by studies showing how the different languages a person learns affect each other. The phenomenon of language transfer, or the first language affecting the second, has long been known. More recent research has also shown that the second language also affects the first in various subtle ways. There is also evidence that people who learn other languages gain general cognitive benefits.
Under multi-competence, the second language speaker is seen as more than the sum of the languages he speaks. This is in contrast with the assumption in much of second language research that the ideal model of a language is the monolingual native speaker. Setting the native speaker as the golden standard implies that second language speakers are somehow deficient in each language that they speak, whereas multi-competence sees them as having gained from learning a second language.
Implications for language teaching:
Multi-competence has two major implications for language teaching. The first is about the question of what the final goal should be for language learners. The multi-competence viewpoint sees the goal of learning as becoming a successful L2 user. Language teaching, therefore, should reflect this: the goals of language learning should be based on what successful L2 users can do, not what monolingual native speakers can do. Also, teaching materials should show positive examples of L2 use and L2 users.
The second implication is for the use of the first language in the classroom. If the first language can never truly be separated from the second language in the mind, it makes no sense to forbid the use of the first language in the language classroom. Cook argues that banning the use of the first language will not stop learners from using it to help with their language learning; it will only make its use invisible to the teacher. Instead, Cook suggests that teachers should think about how they can make use of both languages in suitable ways.”
In my opinion, this is a very interesting approach. Based on Professor Cook’s theory, not only the native language is not a problem, but an advantage. But, how can be this applied in English teaching? What method could be used?
Then, we have the approach of multi-competence, which states that the native language can be used as an advantage to learn the second. Could we use that in English teaching?
As I have stated before, in my opinion there is not a perfect method. All depends of the learner’s preferences and goals.
In my teaching approach I would like to take the Communicative Approach as a base.
The goal in this method is to learn to communicate step by step, getting some knowledge of grammar and structures both implicit and explicit. Finally be able to use the written communication.
The syllabus would be dialogue-based, with activities based on situations and structure explanation.
The students would be divided by similar age and same native language. The teaching approach will be based in using the native language to learn the second language, but not by translation. Following the example of the “Unconscious Language”, the students will be able to speak in their own language, but substituting some words every class. The students don’t have to worry in memorizing or understanding, just have the need to speak normally but changing their language in some words. By that can be learned vocabulary and syntax.
Obviously this should be adapted to every language with their different structures.
The teacher would have the role of a guide. Will be also a controller of the right execution of the activities. He will correct right away the student’s errors and highly praise the correct execution.
There is no need of lots of material as books, nevertheless some would be you to reinforced the concepts being taught.
I would also like to incorporate the technology to the English teaching. Using technology we can do very realistic situation-based activities and engage the students.
The same way that airplane pilots have simulators to make their learning more realistic without the fearing the consequences, it would be good for students to be able to create that environment on a classroom.
I believe that the goal is to help the students to learn by their own experiences, by exploring the language and its limits. The teachers have the responsibility to guide them in that trip.
I explained what I believe it would be good to learn, but at the end, the method that is valid is the one that works for every individual.
Let’s not forget that: "The most important thing any teacher has to learn, not to be learned in any school of education I ever heard of, can be expressed in seven words: Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners." 
 Cicero, Adapted from Acad. Quaest., 4. 41, and De Sen. 14.
 John Holt http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Learning