In a world that is incessantly changing, there is one constant – language. For thousands of years, people have resorted to different means of communication with language being the most prominent one. Although languages may differ, there is always a universal truth to them. Take a “chair”, for example, it is labeled differently in different languages, but we all know what the object originally is. Language is an essential part of our daily lives. It is the way people communicate with each other; without it the world might be a much darker place full of people who are simply lost in translation. Now, let’s delve deeper into this topic by concentrating on how language can be taught and transformed from one person to the other. One particular language that stands out in the midst of many is The English Language. From the outside looking in, it is a complex web of rules and regulations but if you take the time to look more closely at it, you will see that there’s more to it than meets the eye.
The English Language comes with many methods and approaches to how it should be taught. Some of these approaches are 1st Language Acquisition, 2nd Language Acquisition, Cognitivism, Behaviorism, and Constructivism. 1st Language Acquisition is the way humans acquire their first language. It takes place during the Child stage of Human Growth and Development where humans are exposed to and acquire language the same way they learn how to walk. It is a process that exists innately in humans allowing them to acquire their 1st language perfectly depending on the environment they grow up in. For instance, a person can acquire one or even two first languages as they grow up if their surrounding allows them to do so. On the other hand, 2nd Language Acquisition – which is one of the preferred methods of teaching foreign languages – focuses on the acquisition of language through explicit education and instruction in adults. There is a critical period during Human Growth and Development where a person has to shift from acquiring language innately and passively as their 1st language to a more structural and educational approach thus paving the way to 2nd Language Acquisition. 2nd Language Acquisition is the preferred approach used in teaching a new language to adults who have crossed the critical period in the acquisition of language.
Some of the other approaches are The Cognitive Approach, Behaviorism, and Constructivism. The Cognitive Approach focuses on the stimulation of the mind in understanding new information and concepts that will help them retain the material being taught. This approach is implemented by asking students to reflect on their experience, helping them increase their problem-solving skills, encouraging discussions about relevant topics, and helping them understand how ideas and concepts are connected. The way students perceive information differs throughout this approach. Some might learn better by watching which is why the use of visual aids such as videos that tell a story or explain a certain concept is a great way to introduce material to students. Some learn by listening or writing so it would be best to give out detailed lectures and homework activities that will stimulate the use of their cognitive processes. Others learn by doing so it would be best to have activities that involve role playing or acting out a scene regarding what is being taught. Here, a teacher’s role is to figure out which student acquires information in what way and creating an environment where all students retain information comfortably and permanently in order for them to excel in learning the language. Behaviorism, on the other hand, focuses on how behaviors are acquired. The role of the teacher is to provide stimulus through material and prompt the right response while the student’s role is to be the receiver of the information until the behavioral change is permanent. An example of how Behaviorism is implemented in classrooms is through a reward-based system where students get rewarded for good behavior. Last but not least, the constructivism learning approach emphasizes that learners produce knowledge and form meaning based on their experiences. It allows students to construct their own learning. Students are encouraged to explore aspects of new concepts and materials. The goal is to broaden students’ views and challenge them to explore new things. One way a teacher can implement this is through activities based on the ESA Method which is a model consisting of three stages: Engage, Stimulate and Activate. The teacher introduces a topic through the Engage stage then moves on the Stimulate stage where they then work on practice activities with the students eventually moving on to the Activate stage which paves a way for freer practice where the students come up with new ideas and concepts linked or related to the topic at hand. This is a great and interactive way of teaching in the classroom. Another way is through the Present Practice Produce Model which focuses on presenting new information, coming up with activities to practice the new information, and then ultimately producing new ideas or concepts from the information that was learned. These two models are a great way to create vocabulary, grammar structure, and topic activities that will surely help making certain material easier to teach in the classroom.
How do teachers implement these approaches in teaching language? The Direct Method is one of many teaching methodologies used in the classroom. It is a teacher-oriented method which means the teacher presents the information to the students by using straight-forward, explicit teaching techniques usually aimed at teaching a specific skill. This method was widely used until it became apparent that students don’t respond to it in the same way. Another method that is favored when teaching language is the Callan Method. This method stresses on repetition and speed which are most likely to guarantee the successful attainment of a new language. Some other methods teachers use are The Total Physical Response Method which stems on the fact that a relation between physical response and learning will likely heighten students’ retention of new concepts, The Silent Way which makes extensive use of silence in learning, and Suggestopedia where lessons are usually accompanied by soothing background music in a comfortable environment with the teacher actively influencing the minds’ of students in a suggestive or de-suggestive manner.
Teaching a new language is not as black and white as you might think it is. A good teacher should always have that in mind. They must be prepared for anything for each class holds different students with different cognitive skills, backgrounds, and experiences. The teacher’s job is to create an environment where the student feels safe enough to help him grow and reach his full potential. The best way to find out what teaching methods are to be used in the classroom requires a good amount of proper experience and a mixture of attention to detail as well as genuine effort in order to produce the ultimate outcome for students. It is not an easy task to assess the needs of your students and come up with a game plan that will completely work 100% of the time but it is up to teachers to try their best. Having an open mind and empathizing with students is a great way to build a relationship based on comfort and trust between teachers and their students as it paves a way for open communication in the classroom. The perfect classroom does not exist, everything differs according to situational and environmental factors that might hinder teaching. Teachers must always be up to date with what is going on with their students in order to anticipate obstacles that might come up and create ways to deal with them.
In conclusion, language is one of the foundations of our existence as human beings – to have the privilege to be able to pass it on to another person is something that should not be taken for granted. Teachers should use this weapon to impact their students’ lives and perceptions of the world positively not only through teaching the material at hand but also by leaving their students a little bit better, more knowledgeable, and eager to continue learning than how they had originally found them.