My teaching approach
TEFL FUNDAMENTALS MODULE
Second Language Acquisition Theories
cardinal Joseph Caspar Mezzofanti was said to have spoken more than 38
languages fluently at the time of his death in 1849. Today methods of teaching an
additional language are wide and varied. Many methods and theories have evolved
over time. It is now widely acknowledged that memorizing grammar rules and
vocabulary lists will not make a student fluent in a foreign language. Most of
the methods used today focus upon learning phrases and sentences as oppose to
lists of single words. Many methods place a greater emphasis on the acquisition
of spoken language and encourage learners to communicate only in the language
they are learning as oppose to using translations. To aid learning additional
language teachers often use a variety of different stimuli to encourage their students
to communicate such as videos, audiotapes, newspaper articles and role-play. Robert
DeKeyser, a professor of second language acquisition at the University of
Maryland states "The only way to learn a language is to make
quite a bit of effort on a daily basis."
1970’s Georgi Lozanov developed
a humanistic approach to teaching a foreign language. Suggestopedia is based
upon the principle that the older a learner becomes the more inhibited they are
to learning. Lozanov’s method seeks to reactivate the capabilities the learner
had as a child to make them more receptive to learning a new language.
Suggestopeida aims to stimulate creativity by using the arts. Art, music,
visual and stage art are all vital components of the lessons. The teacher is
seen as the key to the learners’ success it is their job to create the correct
environment and build positive human relationships with students to ensure they
enter into a relaxed yet focused state, which allows them to achieve success.
Lozanov suggests that learners need a relaxed yet focused state of
mind. Once this state is created learners will be receptive to new information
and therefore achieve success in learning a new language. To achieve this state
learners should be placed in comfortable, relaxing environment, the teacher
should foster a relationship with their students similar to that between a
parent and a child. Suggestopeidia places students feelings as an integral part
of learning Lozanov suggests that a students psychological barriers must be
‘desuggested’ before they will be able to become masters of a foreign language.
Suggestopedia makes use of use of soothing relaxing music to enable
students to learn. According to the theory music is vital. After conducting
research Lozanov produced a list of recommended composers and pieces of music.
Ideally music should be 60 beats a minute with no one voice or instrument being
dominant in the piece. Ideally the same instrument should be played throughout
which is why many string orchestra pieces are often used. In these conditions
students are receptive to learning and have been shown to have high memory
recall when compared with learners given the same information without the
doesn’t put forward a theory of language or specific syllabus stating the order
in which items of language would be presented to a learner. However
Suggestopeidiea does provide a prescriptive method of how information should be
delivered to the learner. For example a lesson involving learning vocabulary
would be presented in three parts:
- First, an introductory
Largo baroque music piece (60 beats/min) helps the learner to relax (approx. 3
- Next, you listen to the
recorded flashcards, on a
background of soothing baroque music.
- Finally, a faster
Allegretto baroque movement (120 beats/min) awakes the student from their half-sleep (3 min).
The speech for each
flashcard is recorded following this pattern:?Breathe in (2 seconds) -
Front/Back (4 s) - Breathe out (2 s)?(Typically, Front/Back contain an English
word and its counterpart in a foreign language, etc.). The speaker should use
different intonations and rhythms, to make each flashcard more impressive. The
final recording must be about 20 minutes long (which makes 150 flashcards). It
will later be played back along with soothing baroque music
this structure along with the use of the music is thought to allow the students
to enter into a relaxed yet focused stated where they are able to effectively
learn and retain the new vocabulary.
this method is not often used now there are some advantages of employing some
of the techniques proposed by the Suggestopiedia method. There are countless
studies to suggest that music can be a motivating and relaxing source.
Lazanov’s attention to the learning environment will make learning a more
pleasant experience for students. Creating conditions where learners are alert
and receptive has been shown to have a positive effect on motivation. It is
possible with this method that sessions can be delivered via the computer
allowing students to learn in the comfort of their own home.
due to the emphasis on small class sizes and comfortable learning environments
many teachers are unable to use this method as it is simply impractical. Many
additional language teachers will be constrained by time, finance and schedule.
For example many teachers provide classes in a number of different sessions
such as a students work places. In such a setting it would be unrealistic and
inappropriate for a teacher to arrive and attempt to set up armchairs and play
classical music whilst others would be working. Using music could also make
learning difficult for some students as some people can find classical music
irritating as oppose to stimulating in this respect using music could actually
prevent learning rather than enhance it. To some students having the teacher
read dialogue with exaggerated rhythm and intonation would be uncomfortable and
could create a barrier to learning rather than remove one. Due to a lack of
assessment it is difficult to find evidence to track students progress using
this method. As the emphasis is on speaking and listening rather than reading
and writing it is unlikely that students will achieve the required level in
reading and writing to pass formal examinations. The Suggestopeidia method also
allows learners to use their native language and make translations in recent
years many approaches to teaching a foreign language have rejected this method
as it is believed to hinder a student achieving fluency in the second language.
method of teaching a foreign language currently is The Direct Method. This
method of teaching rejects the idea of placing emphasis on the teaching of
grammar and the use of translation in the classroom. Instead this method places
emphasis on getting the students to think directly in the target language. The
student is taught the target language through conversation, discussion and
reading in the target language. To avoid the use of translation in the
classroom initially students will be taught to use the target language by the
teacher performing actions, pointing at objects or the use of images. According to H.G. Palmer, The Direct Method has the
1. Translation in every shape or form is
banished from the classroom including the use of the mother tongue and that of
the bilingual dictionary.
2. Grammar, when it is taught, is taught
3. Oral teaching precedes any form of reading
4. The use of disconnected sentences is
replaced by the use of connected texts.
5. Pronunciation is taught systematically in
accordance with the principles of phonetics and phonology of the target
6. The meanings of words and forms are taught
by means of object or natural context.
7. The vocabulary and structure of the
language are inculcated to a large extent by the teacher and answered by
The Direct Method centers
around four main principles. Firstly the method places emphasis on oral
training. Students are given lots of practice in the language they are
encouraged to listen and then speak in the foreign language. As a result the
method also places emphasis on phonetics to ensure students achieve correct pronunciation.
The Direct Method also seeks to inhibit use of the mother tongue whilst the
student is learning the foreign language. Direct translation is replaced with
the teacher teaching new words by showing the students what the word stands
for, with the aim of encouraging and enabling the students to think and respond
in English. Teachers using The Direct Method will focus their teaching on the
use of sentences as oppose to individual words. It is hoped that this will
encourage the students to internalize and then be able to employ correct
sentence patterns. The Direct Method seeks to teach grammar in context rather
than a set of rules. The ultimate aim of teaching grammar in this way is that
the students will eventually be able to correct their own grammar errors in
both speech and the written word.
The Direct Method
is based upon sound educational principles’ used across a number of different
curriculums. Both Piaget and Vygotskyts theories of learning are in evidence in
The Direct Method. Language is often modelled by the teacher first; as the
learner becomes more fluent they require less and less scaffolding to progress
further. The Direct Method aims to teacher the particular before the general,
the concrete before the abstract and the practice before the theory. Such
methods are now commonplace in classrooms worldwide and are applied to a number
of different subjects. The Direct Method aims to teach the second language in
the same way the student learnt their first language. It places emphasis on
speech and results in students being quick at understanding spoken English
whilst at the same time being able to converse fluently in English.
Critics of The
Direct method argue that it does not take into account all aspects of language
learning. It has been suggested that due to the overemphasis on listening and
speaking reading and writing skills are often neglected. Due to this it is
essential that a teacher has a clear understanding of their students aims and
motivations for attending the class. As if a student was aiming to pass a
formal exam in the foreign language it is highly unlikely that using The Direct
Method alone would provide them with the level of fluency and accuracy required
in all four skill areas.
is no one guaranteed method of teaching or learning a foreign language what may
work for one student or class may not be as successful with another. It is
perhaps a holistic approach to teaching a language which may be the key to
success taking ideas from a number of methods and adapting them accordingly to
suit the needs of your students. It is therefore vital that the teacher is
aware of the students needs and motivation in learning a second language, as learning
should be suited to best fit the students needs if it is to be successful.