THE HUMAN APROACH
My mother is English and my farther Spanish so I have been raised with both cultures but I never learnt English grammar or its rules, I learnt the language by hearing it and repeating it, my mother used to speak to me in English and play story tapes in English at night when I went to sleep and that way I absorbed the language and learnt to communicate with it.
Therefore I believe that in order to learn a new language you must learn how to communicate and think in a new way. Your mind needs to learn how to express itself with a whole new system.
I think the best way to learn this process is with real and active communication, to recreate, in a way, how a person would learn if going to a foreign country with only the tools he has at his disposal.
He would, step by step, need to learn what this or that word means and how to put in a sentence or a determined structure. Language is something alive, you could almost say that we breathe with it, so rules and regulations are only there to guide us but are not necessary for learning such a process.
I have studied different teaching methods and they are all valid in their own way, even having very different approaches, but the one thing I find missing in all of them is that they do not mention the students’ needs or situation. I feel one should learn about your student first so as to know his needs, capability, willingness and motivation and then build on that, not the other way around in which we have a specific method and all the students have to follow it regardless of their situation.
By introducing the language to the student in a more practical way by use of recreating real life situations and ideas he will find a more immediate use to what he is learning and it will be easier for him to assimilate it.
For this system to work at first we would have to do an interview to each student to be able to assess his level of the language he wants to learn and also know the reason why. By doing the interview we can also know what previous ways he has studied a language before (if any).
Having done this we can know exactly what level he needs to be in and the purpose of his learning so the different groups of students can be formed accordingly.
The aim of teaching/learning is for the student to learn how to think and speak in the desired language, in order for this to occur the target language must be the only one spoken in class being able to make exceptions in the beginners levels but here the native language may be only used in a comparative way and only if absolutely necessary. Oral communication is basic for the students to start learning the language. Vocabulary would be given priority. For the beginners it would be with the very basic and for the rest of the groups depending on what they need. Pronunciation for the lower levels would not be so relevant so as not to slow down their learning, the priority is to get them understanding and then slowly absorb the language.
The idea is for the students to learn also culture of the target language alluding to everyday life of people, for this, emphasis on them enjoying the experience is crucial and the classes will be done in a fun and dynamic way in which they learn the target language and its culture through role plays and debates and games.
The organization of the syllabus will be based upon real life situations, we would use language which is used for example at the supermarket, at a bank, at a hotel, etc…Or we would use topics to have discussions on different issues that might concern or interest the students. Being this so there would be no fixed or linear structure, the classes will build on what students already know or have learnt and the new vocabulary or structures would be introduced as soon as they seem ready to assimilate it, we might find it necessary to stay fixed on one particular situation for a longer period of time if the students struggle with it or find it specially hard. We would use dialogs to introduce vocabulary and therefore these dialogs will be graded by the vocabulary.
The teachers’ role in the class is that of a friend or a colleague, he is there to help, guide and assess the student in a friendly and interactive way. The idea is for the teacher to introduce the material and situations for the students and then monitorize their performance as an observer. When acting out real life scenarios the teacher will assume the role of a “film director” guiding the students through their characters. The teachers’ objective is to make the class fun and dynamic so the students learn at the same time as they enjoy the class. The students can also give opinions on what they want to learn and give ideas for different activities they might find useful or interesting for them. Another aspect the teacher will also have to bear in mind is the students needs and character and by knowing them get a better idea of what will interest them more.
By knowing our students well we can increase their motivation and with this help improve their focus and attention in class so their learning process can be successful.
The characteristics of teaching/learning will be to introduce the language and its meaning through the use in real situations(pictures, pantomime, role plays ). New vocabulary is introduced in sentences, situations and dialogs, the meaning of words or structures can be explained with the help of gestures to enhance the meaning. The grammar is learned implicitly, knowing the form before the rule, that way the students won’t get bored having to memorize rules which will be learnt by absorbing the language and just intuitively know how the word or structure goes. The native language may be used in beginners levels but only if absolutely necessary, we don’t want the student to get frustrated specially when starting. Correction is applied when absolutely necessary. If not, give time for the learners to self-correct, they will soon realize they are not doing it correctly and will look for the correct form by themselves.
Evaluation will be done through observation and it will imply how the students use the language and not demonstrating their knowledge of it.
The class will be one hour long and it will begin with a round of quick questions asking the students what they have done or are going to do, even if it is something regular like waking up or going to sleep.
Then we would start with the activities, first an activity on vocabulary, introducing it through pictures or reading a text, or in high levels with audio highlighting the new words. Having introduced the new vocabulary we would do an activity to put those new words in use by way of a role play in a scenario were we would use them and all the students have a part to play. If the group has high enough level the role play can be substituted by a debate.
As you can see the idea is for the students to learn the target language by way of communication through real life situations and that way know what to say and how to understand what is needed of them, by interacting they will absorb the language faster and in a more practical way.