Dave Ramos

My teaching approach

                                                                                                           Dave Alexander Ramos


Acquisition of language is a complicated  process requiring multidisciplinary approaches.  Nevertheless, the teaching of languages has traditionally been dominated by disciplinarians in the old-school Latin way: blackboards, bulky books and scant student output.  Though the quest of knowledge is what brought most students of Latin to seek language education, its transmission--in the last couple of centuries--has undergone much needed refining, with more of student-learner focus emerging around the beginning of the 20th century.  After the 1960‘s “Cultural Revolution” in the United States, more diverse and holistic visions, theories, attitudes, and applications emerged and this paper will focus for the most part on the analysis of at least of three main methods for teaching English Language Learners (ELL’s).


Around the year 1900, a “Massive Jump” occurred towards newer approaches of language learning with better blended methods.  The Direct Method eventually led towards more demonstration instead of dictating, along with attitude awareness, positive reinforcement, and other better contextual attributes.


Audio-lingual Method

This method developed during World War II (WWII) when there was a urgent need to quickly train legions of monolingual English-speaker soldiers for combat and intelligence actions in foreign languages like Japanese, and German, amongst several others.  It focused on habit-formation in the repetition of key words, orders, commands, and  certain questions--war purpose.  This method has origins in the listen and repeat way of teaching language, which was a certain step, but remains a faulty method in itself because it does not take into account on how context can change or other how homonymic challenges can confuse action scenarios. It may still be unknown how much more bloodshed occurred during WWII due to linguistic barriers with roots in faulty foreign-language instruction.


After World War II language learning continued to morph and refine itself in military and civilian/academic quarters.  In the ensuing decades, a cultural shift begins to take place in the U.S., a cultural revolution seeking to break with the strict duplicitous ways of the “old-order.”  A certain political, educational, sexual, and social renaissance takes place and peaks around 1968, though the advocating for a more egalitarian society continues due to the seeds spread by that generation.   This youthful-oriented counter-culture began to review everything that the status quo had been putting in front of society since the industrial revolution.  This of course included education and teaching, amongst many other disciplines.


Suggestive Method

Taught in the target language, this way of teaching English is all about a “de-suggestion” of peoples barriers to learning, both subconscious and conscious.  Musical sound effects are played, but songs or music must be chosen well, because they can be engaging.  And engaged students are good for teachers!  But this suggestive method is an example of a type of method that came after the cultural revolution, which at  essence, was quite open to new ways of thinking on doing just about everything we were taught.  In some video footage of this method what also becomes apparent is that that in big groups and extremely tranquil music, some students may be tempted to doze-off or zone-out and think about other things to the tune of the music.  Especially if the teachers voice is very low, which is vastly the case in this method.  So this method, as encapsulated in many online videos, is quite lacking in interaction with students because all the students do is listen to soft music while the teacher in front of a stage with props that form the vocabulary content of the lesson.  That being said, this method does have merit because many students suffer from conscious and subconscious barriers to learning.  This puts the students at ease but may be better for groups of twelve or less because like that the teacher can control the snoozers and cruisers (people just waiting for the class to end with as little attention paid to them as possible).  But this approach definitely has positive attributes that can be combined perhaps with other methods, and only under optimal conditions of facility or/and faculty access.


Callan Method

This high-paced method of teaching English is too teacher-driven but has had some reported success.  It consists of a fast-talker looking teacher quickly asking questions to language students in the style of a brisk auction.  This method may have effective characteristics for students that have been thoughroughly pre-screened in an individual oral and written testing assessment--but seems something better suited for high-level international businessmen seeking additional language competency (or a similar demographic).  But it obviously alienates anyone below a high-intermediate level and/or timid students.  How students feel matters, and this was learned with the array of psychosocial experimentation that took place and developed into, serious, well-funded research in the 1970’s.


Other Methods, Models and Trends


The affective method exactly focused on the perceptions of people about each other and how it plays a role in language acquisition.  The general consensus here is that anxiety hampers learning, though being in hunger and other factors also undermine information acquisition in big ways.


The silent method encourages group collaboration and forces the students to work out challenges on their own--without the sometimes impeding voice of the teacher.  That is, sometimes the voice of an older male or other person may actually trigger some unconscious resistance by the student.  The mind is complex and the addition of new methods can only breath new life into aging curricula.  This method also is free of praise or criticism, something that in itself could be researched further.  An obvious limitation to this method is that if you do not speak, the ways to correct errors become more complicated.  But that may exactly be the point of the silent method.  This makes it interesting but in need of intense training, further research and sound institutional support.


For lower-level and possible special-needs learners, Total Physical Response (TPR) may have some credit in getting people to process language.  This “Simon Says” approach is mainly for children but certain adults also receive benefit from the physical way it teaches.  But this methods heavy reliance on imperatives renders it better for low levels.


But the action of movement does something to the human brain that excites it in some way and in the stimulation of that movement, there may be an opening for more efficient learning.  Kinesthetic activity has been proven quite effective for some learners.  The rearranging of study aids like pictures and the like is an example of dynamic learning that fits into the Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) model.  This model holds that some learn better when they see stimuli while other better when they experience it audibly or kinesthetically.  This is an area that has been studied but merits much more research because ideally every pre-school student in the world be pre-screened and placed in the appropriate class according to the results of a truly holistic NLP assessment. 


The Maurer method quickly gets to the point by focusing on teaching the most commonly used 1,000 words in the English language.  This has showed some success and merits cross-breeding with other methods.  The need for thought-out, professional, cross-breeding of methods of foreign language teaching has been around for some time but not until quite recently have we seen an attempt to blend different models by taking the good of each and molding that into a new, dynamic model for teaching English to foreign students.



Final Remarks


Oxbridge embraces a new trend towards effective language learning by admitting that past educational practices have been in large part, ineffective in teaching the whole individual and that a hybrid method taking positive attributes from varied models is the solution.  Many of these models began in the last 200 years, with the majority only in the last 50 years, after profound social questioning in the 1960’s by large groups in the U.S. pushing for a cultural renewal known as the “Cultural Revolution”--a reassessment of everything.  This cultural shift allowed a space of tolerance for experimentation in many disciplines, and education was a big one. 

This, in turn, has given conceptual offspring that we are trying to master to this minute.

This new hybrid model accepts that weighty textbooks are dated and the brain is more complex yet capable of more than just memorizing and regurgating information on demand.  Oxbridge agrees with the 1970’s theorist Steven Krashen in that language needs to be in a functional context containing meaning.  That is, the brain needs to learn language for a communicative purpose, if not, it will not pick it up as quick and forget what it already has.  Second language acquisition is how the brain takes it in and three critical parts in language are input (what the teacher gives), output (what the students give), and interaction.  So, a steady balance must occur between the previously mentioned parts of language acquisition.  But the goal is the most interaction as possible.  With a real-world topical focus that reinforces vocabulary and structure simultaneously, it appears that the Oxbridge blend is on the right track to ensuring “diversity is destiny.”







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