The distinguished philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once said: “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” When one learns a second language, one not only acquires a new way to communicate but obtains different perspectives and outlooks, which further broadens one’s world. After all, to learn a language is to discover a culture.
Becoming bilingual for general or business purposes opens up a wealth of possibilities including new career, social and cultural opportunities. Having a high English proficiency allows one to communicate with an additional 20% of the world’s population because it is the 3rd most spoken language. This is extremely pertinent for adults wherein an increasingly connected globe, technology allows instant and easy communication across time-zones and borders at the touch of a smartphone.
As a teacher with a background in digital and broadcast journalism, I believe that an important and frequently overlooked component of second language acquisition, beyond understanding “the textbook rules”, is the ability to speak with confidence and conviction.
I help second language learners improve and maintain their fluency in a teaching environment that fosters enjoyable engagement, while still including formal aspects of language learning like grammar and structure.
My Guiding Teaching Philosophy: Constructivism
No student comprehends a second language without drawing on prior experience and wisdom. No well-developed mind is a tabula rasa. Every adult, whether they are a beginner or advanced learner, brings to a class an immense amount of knowledge about the world. Therefore, any new concepts they learn are linked to the prior knowledge they already have.
Simply put, constructivism is a paradigm that posits learning as an active, constructive process i.e. each student constructs information and actively creates a subjective representation of reality.
Learning is undoubtedly affected by a person’s beliefs, attitudes and the context in which an idea is taught. This entire process becomes more meaningful when second language students are capable of interacting with a problem or concept that has practical implications, enhancing their logical and conceptual growth.
My Role as a Teacher
I tailor my lessons to meet the unique needs of each student. I am in a constant dialogue with my students throughout the lesson, producing a flexible learning experience that opens to new directions, depending on the student’s changing needs as their learning progresses.
Each student’s knowledge is dynamic and ever-changing. My role, rooted in interaction and facilitation, ensures that learning is interactive, utilizing what the student already knows as a building block to further their knowledge construction and aid them in making meaningful connections between their prior and new knowledge.
My primary function is to help students become active participants in their own learning. I encourage autonomy and initiative by using an extensive variety of interactive learning materials based on the innovative Oxbridge curriculum, which trumps hands-on activities and collaborative learning environments.
My Teaching Approach
Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) is my favoured teaching approach. This enables students to communicate effectively and appropriately in various real-life scenarios they would typically find themselves in, whether it be asking for directions or giving a business presentation.
Students typically learn target language most effectively when attempting to communicate genuine meaning. Therefore, CLT emphasizes interaction as the means and goal of second language acquisition.
By exploring topics outside traditional grammar, I help students to develop the necessary verbal skills needed to produce meaningful conversations. In doing so, students learn to understand the function of the language first. This means they focus less on the structure and more on what the structure is used for (its purpose) and what they’re capable of expressing with it. The communication approach not only focuses on what is said but where it is said, by whom, when and why it said.
Being in the process of learning Spanish as a second language myself, I more often than not, am interested in learning how I can practically apply what I have learnt to communicate effectively. I have discovered that once I recognize and understand the function of the target language, learning the grammar is considerably easier because it transforms from an abstract rule to a lived reality.
With the CLT approach, I endeavour to achieve good rapport with my students, which encourages tolerance and inclusivity, further nurturing each person's particular learning aptitude. In group lessons, its vital that each student feels comfortable – no matter their level – to interact with me and others and so positive encouragement remains key.
As a teacher, it is imperative to produce meaningful situations that diverse students can assert themselves in. All learning needs to be proactive and, in a constructivist context, context must surrender itself to the construction rather than receiving of meaning. To achieve this, I practise a combination of the PPP and ESA teaching methods.
My Methods: The PPP Model
The PPP teaching method consists of three stages – presentation, practice, production – whereby rich and complex elements of language are broken down into manageable chunks to facilitate effective learning, according to the competence of the student.
Presentation: This stage consists of presenting students with an aspect of language in a context they are familiar with, which relates to a concrete situation where they require the natural and logical use of the language they are learning. Students will instinctively realise why it is relevant and valuable to them.
Practice: In the second stage, students are provided with an activity that gives them the opportunity to practise the new target language and become familiar with it, while receiving appropriate assistance from the teacher. Practice activities are clear and understandable, directed towards promoting confident language use. Activities should be challenging but always within the student’s capacity.
Produce: The production stage is where the students use the language in context with an activity to create effective communicative language learning. In this stage, the learner transitions from student to becoming a user of the language.
Principally, the activity involves recreating a situation that requires the student to utilize the language that was introduced in the presentation stage. At this stage, students tend to produce more personalised language (based on their own experiences and knowledge). Some example activities might include role-plays, debates, discussions, games and quizzes.
PPP Example Activity
Aim: Teach a group of business professionals how to use interrogative pronouns.
Present: Students watch a short YouTube interview, that is topical and related to their line of work.
Practice: Each student answers specific questions about the clip, prompting them to practice using interrogative pronouns.
Produce: Students pair up and re-create their own interviews, each receiving a turn to practise and engage in the target language they have learnt.
The ESA Model
The ESA model is also based on three stages – engage, study and activate. It is similar to PPP but includes more engagement in the different parts of the lesson.
Engage: This stage consists of engaging students in a variety of activities that introduce the target language and appeals to them on an emotional level. The aim is to rouse the students’ attention and curiosity. While the PPP model tends to assume that students are motivated for each lesson, the ESA method doesn’t presume this and attempts to introduce novel activities as a catalyst for motivation.
Study: The study stage focuses on learning the construction of language. This can range from the pronunciation of specific sounds to investigating how a particular writer achieves their literary style in a long text.
Activate: The activation stage is where students participate in activities designed to utilize language as freely as possible without focussing on a particular construction, rather allowing them to use all language they know appropriate to the situation.
In essence, the ESA method draws students in, explains a language point with examples and then requires students to produce their own meanings by practising the language. The most significant advantage with ESA is it allows considerable flexibility. A teacher might structure a lesson following each stage in their standard order or decide to use a boomerang sequence going back and forth between the study and activation stages as the lesson evolves or use a patchwork sequence interchanging all three stages.
ESA Example Activity
Aim: Teach general English learners to express preferences when travelling
Engage: Students are a presented with a simple restaurant menu. They are encouraged to comment on the types of food and chat about which restaurants they like.
Study: The teacher presents the students with new sentence structures pertaining to preferences, ensuring the students are capable of reading them aloud and understanding how they are used.
Activate: Students engage in a role-play where they need to order food from a restaurant as the waiter presents them with various options.
Study: The teacher provides feedback on the student’s language use, sharing some common mistakes and urges the students to compose a sentence that correctly uses each misused word or grammar construction.
Activate: The students receive another chance to role-play, this time attempting to implement the corrections they received.
Learning English in Today’s World
As technology alters the way we communicate, so too does my teaching approach. Given the proliferation of social media and access to the internet in the palms of our hands, I believe it’s vital for students to learn English in a practical way that equips them for today’s instant communication demands. I structure lessons within contemporary contexts that students are familiar with.
Sending emails, posting on social media, giving a power-point presentation or sending a WhatsApp all present dynamic ways to communicate and learn. Whether you’re an adult learning general English and prefer online classes or you’re a business professional looking to perfect your sales pitch face-to-face, I can help you master English with increased confidence and fluency.