James Ekins
Certified English teacher profile

James Ekins TEFL certificate James TEFL certificate


English man who grew up in the South East of England. Got my GCSEs and A Levels in Essex, and then moved to Bristol to get a degree in Philosophy. Upon graduation, I decided to come to Barcelona to pursue a TEFL qualification so that I could further improve my teaching and communication skills


Basic conversational Spanish, taking classes to improve Proficient with all aspects of Microsoft Office Self-taught guitar and piano player

My teaching approach

There are many different methods of teaching a new language, all of which have their own unique stance on what is the most important part of learning a new language. All learning methods put importance on either oral communication (listening and speaking in a new language) or written communication (reading and writing in a new language). There are very few methods that do, or are able to, focus equally on both areas of communication.

It is clear that when it comes to teaching a new language, there are several differing opinions on what the most effective method is, which over the years has led to a multitude of different approaches in the way a new language is taught. Oxbridge itself falls into the category of focusing on listening and speaking. However, as discussed, it is not the only approach to learning and teaching a second language.

One other teaching method is the Grammar-Translation Method. This method states that literary language is superior to spoken language, and as a result speaking and listening are given almost no attention. The teacher is very much the authority in the classroom, and answers given must be entirely accurate before they can be accepted. Written tests are, expectedly, often used to gauge a students' skill level, with 3 types of comprehension tests: the first is to demonstate the student knows the information presented within a set passage. The second focuses on inferences that the student can make based on their understanding of the passage. The third test asks the student to relate the information in the passage to their own experiences. 
The Grammar-Translation Method has been shown to be an effective method in a number of areas. For example, it gives students an excellent grounding in the grammar of the English language, which is vital if it is going to be written and used effectively. The fact that answers must be exact if they are to be accepted as correct means that once students get something correct they will always know the correct way to write it. 
However, it does come with a number of flaws. For example, the fact that speaking and listening are given little to no attention means that students will struggle if they have to use the secondary language in any situation other than the written word. Another large problem is that, although this method is arguably ideal for those who learn visually, it almost alienates those who prefer to learn through audio or kinasthetic 
Overall, this method is arguably ineffective when compared to other methods, because although it does give the student the tools to write in a second language to an admittedly high degree, I feel that without any sort of attention given to listening and speaking a language, the question of exactly how much a student can understand about the second language has to be asked. Reading and writing in a language are skills that are necessary but are not enough on their own.

In stark contrast to the Grammar-Translation Method is the Direct Method, also known as the Berlitz Method. This method favours teaching vocabulary over grammar, and there is absolutely no translation allowed from primary to secondary language. The Direct Method teaches that language is mainly speech, and is therefore taught as such: the Direct Method is ideal for somebody who is looking to gain a general grounding in the basic vocabulary of a secondary language, if for example they wish to learn a secondary language for conversational purposes. The teacher acts as more of a demonstrator than a lecturer or translator, and demonstrates the secondary language through the use of realia (objects from everyday life used to educate on real-life situations). Grammar is touched upon with this approach, but it is done so inductively, and an explicit grammar rule is never given to students. 
I believe that the Direct Method is significantly better as a teaching method than the Grammar-Translation Method, largely because it is far more practical in its use. The Direct Method is structured much more around conversational use than on the structure of a language, and so is ideal for somebody who is looking for a (somewhat) quick approach to the basics of a secondary language. The fact that no translation is allowed in the class makes the Direct Method a totally immersive one, in which students are forced into learning the language quickly if they are to succeed. However, one drawback of this approach is that with no explicit grammar rules given, students are largely left to fend for themselves when it comes to the linguistic structure, which could severely hinder learning due to the problems of interlanguage.

The Audio-Lingual Method is similar in its teaching style to the Direct Method, but is almost completely the opposite when it comes to its appoach to teaching a second language. As with the Direct Method, it is almost exclusively an oral based approach, with listening and speaking being considered the more basic (and arguably the more essential skills) and therefore given the most attention. Although immersive and oral in its approach just like the Direct Method, it instead focuses on implicit grammar rules, and the teaching of the structure of a secondary language rather than teaching the vocabulary first. Like the Direct Method, grammar rules are implicit and must be learnt inductively. The teacher serves as the model for the target language, and students are encouraged to form correct habits when speaking a language, which is done through positive reinforcement. 
The Audio-Lingual Method finds a happy medium between the Grammar-Translation Method and the Direct Method, as it focuses on oral communication like the Direct Method, but teaches this through grammar rules and structure like the Grammar-Translation Method. The fact that the teacher is to be followed exactly as a role model to accurate structure could prove to be arduous, and tied in with the ideal that students must first learn grammar structures through induction before they can even start to learn vocabulary to apply to these structures, means that the Audio-Lingual method could prove to be a much longer drawn-out process than is necessary. Still, I believe it would be a far more effective approach to teaching a second language than the Grammar-Translation Method, as although they both focus initially on the grammar structures of a language, the Audio-Lingual Method does so whilst using listening and speaking, making this approach much more appropriate for conversational and communicative functions.

A method of teaching that is something different from the others previously mentioned is the Total Physical Response Method to teaching a language. The Total Physical Response Method has absolutely no translation from primary to secondary language; instead it relies on mimicing actions and directions from the teacher to come to an understanding on what words mean. Meanings are conveyed through actions, which students can either repeat from the teacher or can simply observe until they are ready to participate themselves. Commands and actions are given by the teacher quite quickly, and so presumably a lot of vocabulary can be learnt in each lesson. 
The Total Physical Response Method to teaching very much emphasises that students should enjoy themselves when they are learning a second language, and it treats learning as a subject of fun. As such it is ideal for teaching children some basic vocabulary in a second language; it is a quick, easy and fun way to learn a few words here and there in a very engaging and physical way, which is perfect for active and kinasthetic learners. However, a major flaw with this approach is that, due mostly to the style and the method itself, it would be almost impossible to teach much more complicated vocabulary and ideas that cannot be reduced to a simple and easy mime. As such whilst an ideal method for children or those who simply want to have an enjoyable experience learning a second language, for those who wish to seriously and effectively learn how to communicate in a second language, it would be found to be extremely lacking.

A fifth teaching method is the Triangle Prjection Method, which is the method that has been adopted by Oxbridge. It focuses on teaching a mixture of vocabulary, grammar structures and topics, which each area changing in importance depending on the level of the students. It is also a very immersive method, as there is no translation at all, and all classes are done in the secondary language. Under the Oxbridge Method, the system itself has been refined and is responsible for the success of the students to learn a secondary language, rather than the teachers themselves. The teachers take on a much more active and dynamic role in this approach than in others, and are there merely to guide the students towards the particular goal of the lesson (be it to learn how to use particular vocabulary or grammar structures, for example). One signature of the Oxbridge system is that the lessons always start with Quick Questions, which are designed to ease the students into speaking a second language, and to refresh them slightly on easy to grasp grammar structures. Lessons always end with a wrap up, which is a few minutes at the end to go over everything covered to ensure that students have taken in the desired information from the class. Under the Oxbridge Method, the preparation of the teacher is vital; the needs of the students can change massively depending on the class, and so the teachers must be able to adapt all given activities to suit the needs of the students and of the class.
The main advantages of this method are that it is a totally immersive language, which forces students to learn a language much faster than if they were able to use their native tongue. The idea of the wrap-up at the end of the lesson is also very good, as it helps to consolidate knowledge and to ensure that everything has been learnt from that lesson. A good balance of vocabulary and structures is a step-up from the Grammar-Translation method and the Direct Method, as, in my opinion, a good mix of both is required when learning a new language, rather than a heavy focus on either one initially. Because the method relies on a lot of adaptability of the activities from the teacher, the Oxbridge Method can be used extremely effectively by people of all age ranges and all reasons for learning a secondary language.

On reflection, what I would propose as my own teaching method would be inevitably something that takes a certain amount of influence from each of the previously duscussed methods, in order to try and find a perfect balance. Of the 5 methods discussed, I would posit the Oxbridge Method to be the most effective, as it has a healthy mix of grammar and structure. However, as it focuses (almost entirely) on listening and speaking, there is much left to be desired when it comes to teaching reading and writing in a second language. I would propose that reading and writing skills are also introduced into activities in later levels, perhaps from P3 onwards. I would argue that if one activity per lesson focused on the reading and writing of a second language, this would still leave more than enough time during the rest of the class to focus on grammar, vocabulary and topics, whilst also giving a healthy grounding in how to read and write, which are arguably skills that are as important as oral communication when it comes to becoming truly fluent in a second language.