To begin I would like to state that there is no right or wrong method to teaching. I think it all depends on the student, the teacher and the environment that they are in. An ideal situation would be that the teacher would be able to modify and adapt his/her syllabus depending on each case.
However, knowing that this made be complicated and somewhat ideal the reasonable method would be to have certain guidelines to be used as the basis for how the syllabus is structured and the class is managed.
Particularly when learning a language it is of the utmost importance that the student produces as much as possible so they would be able to learn and really understand the way that language works. Nonetheless, the student in he beginning would not be able to produce as much content since they are still beginning to grasp the differences between their native language and the new one.
According to a study, it is normal for older students or adults to have the need to translate everything they learn since with age the human brain becomes less elastic basically more rigid and needing structure so the person would tend to compartmentalize everything new they learn that they cannot link to their native language (interlanguage). Returning to our main concern which is the TTT and STT there must be a balance ideally a beginner would be talking less so the teacher would have to speak more to explain but keeping in mind that the students needs to repeat and attempt to give examples to enable the start of his/her own language production. Students in higher level should require less TTT since thy are now aware and should be capable of using the language in an adequate way with their grammar structure and their vocabulary constantly being challenged and added to.
Moving on, to how would a teacher know at which level is the student, this can only be done through testing the student. Also, as most of us know in the case of English most people are exposed to it in one way or another without even noticing, so the students are almost always false beginners. Plus, I think your native language also plays a major role when wanting to learn since some languages may have similar grammatical structure. This would make it a lot easier on the student to relate, and some vocabulary words may have the same roots that would also allow the student to acquire new words quicker.
Another very important factor, from what I have observed in the reason why the student is learning the language, is the student motived? Is it for your personal benefit or is it something you have to do. No one can force a student to learn information and to store it in his or her head to be able to use it, not even the best most experienced teacher in the world. If the student does not want to learn they will simply not retain the information given. An example of a class I have been to of L3 students, there were 4 students 3 very eager and one not so much, I thought that maybe the student was shy since his peers seemed to be better at given examples and participating during the class. However, it turned out after a debate that we had that he really wasn’t interested, he didn’t have any intention of leaving Spain, and had personal goal to actually learn it he just had to be there in the class so the only effort he made was to get from his office to the conference room.
In cases like these I think it is impossible to make someone want something they don’t want. Yes, you may try enhancing their experience or trying to find ways that allow the students to never forget a certain structure or vocab word but fully comprehending the language, would simply be an impossible task.
Furthermore, if the case was the student was shy, the affective factors in this situation would play a major role and it would be the teacher’s role to be able to guide, and create in helping to give this student a “safe” environment for them to feel that they may participate since being shy can be a personality trait so the teacher has to be prepared for it, for any type of student as a matter of fact.
Next, how the syllabus is structured when learning a language I agree with the Oxbridge method that communication is the most important part. However, I think that being able to start reading the language from the beginning is also important, this depending on each student because some need to see the structure in order to learn others have the natural gift of associating things and learning. This would relate to the method of learning visually etc.
The syllabus would be a mix since the student needs the structure to be able to give a sentence but for that you need vocabulary and depending on why you r are learning the language the target language may be changed to suit the students needs (ESP). I think in some cases during the lesson it is okay to write down the structure even though the student should be able to retain the information without having to see it being written. Also, for example if the students and the teacher speak a common language it would be okay to translate a word if it is of the same root but due to pronunciation the student didn’t understand.
At level any syllabus should get gradually harder or more challenging so the students and really learn new things and not feel like they keep repeating what hey learned, nevertheless all the exercises should in some way backup or allow the students to use what they have previously learned mainly through reinforcing it. So, if the teacher is able to pace the course adequately and with appropriate material the students should be able to grasp as much as possible and learn the language or at least to communicate as fast as possible.
Also, the activities prepared should always be interactive with images to enhance and permit the student to remember and understand easily.
The way the teacher presents himself or she and the way they interact with the student play a vital role in whether or not the students becomes receptive and open to learning. If you have a mean unsympathetic teacher the probability of you learning as much as you wanted to (you in this case would be a motivated student) would decrease a lot and would not be an enjoyable experience and that motivation may be altered and it would end up being annoyance and frustration if the teacher does not have the skills required.
Preparation as I learned in this course is vital and I agree 100% that there is no other way. If the teacher is not prepared the likelihood of the class being as productive as it can be decreases gigantically. No matter what your method of teaching if you are not prepared and don’t know what your are teaching the students will notice, it will show, the only way to rectify the situation would be if the teacher was prepared and in the case where the teacher isn’t you can no longer do anything about it. Preparation before going into a class gives you as a teacher a better perspective of where do you want the class to end up, what do you want the students to learn today.
What a teacher decides to do in the class is up to them whether you want your students to act out what they learned, to write it, to say it etc. As long as you see progress and they are able to use and reproduce from what they have been taught is the goal.
Another issue from my observations is that if the student is also not prepared the class doesn’t flow as well as possible. Meaning when the student is at a higher level but is still making lower level mistakes there should be a way of rectifying this, maybe not going back all the way but through reexamining the previous material of this mistake in specific. With language learners at no matter what age praise and encouragement is what drives them in my opinion and personal experience to want to learn more, and to have teacher that will be able to show you how much you have improved and not through a normal written test but through challenging you in an alternative way (send you to watch a movie in the language you are learning and ask you to explain it the next day for example, or if you are learning ESP then to send you to a political debate etc.)
In conclusion, I think it all had to be very well balanced out I think in language you need to learn how to communicate that would be anyone’s goals, writing may come at a later stage but this depending on the need of each student. Age is an undeniable factor in the way the language is thought to the student and the material used, an adult would be a lot more willing to learn more advanced and complicated vocabulary whereas children would be able to grasp the L2 without having to constantly translate and make those links with L1. However, the two most important factors would be he teacher’s attitude towards the students and the way he/she teaches, the second most essential part in the reason/motive for why the student is learning this is what will determine how much the student will learn. Proper pacing and being aware of the students needs are what would allow a good teacher to improve and to always be prepared. Focusing on communicative skills alone is ideally the best thing to do because in English if you can speak you will be able to write (this is not the case in all languages.) but also introducing activities that will help the students do so, everything depending on their level.