The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘language’ as “the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way” (Oxford University Press, 2013). Human communication underpins all human interaction, and as such and individuals perspective of the world they live in. The acquisition of new languages requires an alteration of this perspective, and thus can be a daunting and challenging experience for learners. This experience however, can be significantly eased through the use of appropriate and effective teaching methods, a concept which will be explored in greater depth through the course of this paper.
The concept of second language acquisition is a simple one, learning a language alongside ones mother tongue, yet this process of acquisition generates a multitude of challenges that can influence its outcome. The age of a EFL (English as a Foreign Language) learner is one of the most important defining factors when considering language learning. As a child, individuals are not influenced by a grammatical perspective of their native language, and so are unlikely to experience interlanguage interference. In contrast, adults often experience this interference as their preconceived idea of grammatical rules; taken from their native language, often hinder the absorption of a new grammatical perspective.
There are a number of other complications we must consider when approaching the teaching of EFL. As well as interlanguage effects, adults are likely to have far less time to study language than children due to work schedules and other commitments. Moreover, they may well have specific reasons for learning the second language, such as for business practices, which will dictate the methods and direction of teaching that should be used. A ‘needs analysis’ provides a framework through which to assess the reasons and motivations of students learning a second language, and allows the teacher to begin adapting his/her methods to suit the student best.
Several other factors must also to be considered when assessing the adaptation of teaching methods. The larger groups may promote greater interaction comparison with a one-to-one teaching class; however, it may also reduce learning effectiveness if there are several different levels in one class or the students resort to first language communication. The motivating purpose behind student learning is also another important factor to consider. Self-motivated students who want to learn the language are often more engaged and committed comparison to students who are made to learn the language. The students preferred learning styles must also be taken into account the teaching method. The most common for learning styles are (1) Visual where students learn through visual material, (2) Auditory in which students learn by oral and audio material and lastly (3) Kinaesthetic whereby students learn from movement and gestures.
In order for both student and teacher to be familiar with and keep track of the learning objectives in a particular course it is vital that a syllabus is made. The teacher will most likely not have a great input in syllabus creation when working for a language school, however, for private teaching purposes this becomes vital. It is important to consider all the aforementioned factors when producing a syllabus as well as the learner’s goals (e.g. business language) and current level. Furthermore, the syllabus must consider a balance between productive (speaking and writing) and receptive (listening and reading) skills. The syllabus can be based on grammar, vocabulary or topic and will ensure that the lessons in different categories are not repeated.
The main reason why any student chooses to attend English classes as opposed to studying on their own is the teacher. Thereby making the teacher the most important element of an English teaching class. A good teacher needs to be able to build a quick rapport with the students and to easily interpret and adapt according to students’ needs. The teacher is seen as the guide in the classroom as students look to the teacher for answers and direction. Furthermore, a good teacher needs to be a conversationalist as well as a resource for the students. The teacher should be aware of effective tools such as body language and tone of voice when managing a classroom. Certain classes may require more control and more TTT than STT and it’s important that the teacher is able to use her different tools skillfully to ensure successful classroom management.
The teacher must also consider mediums and materials used when teaching. Many language schools have their own system for material creation, which obviously leads to a great database of a wide variety of activities. However, the teachers should double-check the activities according to the level of students’ grammar and vocabulary. Even though a set exercise is tailored to a set level student, it is not always the case that the exercise will be suitable. Furthermore, the teacher should consider other items for learning practices. Among these are blackboards, which may be very beneficial for a group of visual learners, however, not necessarily for audio learners.
Textbooks are also another valuable resource for teachers. Many of these come with a set syllabus, which can benefits teachers holding private classes, and may not have the resources posses by larger organizations. It is often preferable to use these textbooks as reference points and adapt, change or drop certain sections in order to be able to adapt better to the students’ needs.
There is a range of language teaching systems founded in the past that are useful reference points when selecting a methodology most appropriate for teaching.
The Grammar-Translation approach has a focus on writing and reading a language as opposed to communication. The teacher thereby takes an assessors role by telling the students what they need to learn. Even though this method is highly useful for developing written skills, however, in terms of communication it is highly ineffective. As oral communication is a vital part of second language acquisition, I would not consider this to be suitable method.
The Silent Way was developed by Caleb Gnetto and places emphasis on students’ developing a skill for self-correcting. A teacher using the Silent Way takes a passive role and teaches through gestures and body language. The method requires a very committed student continually correcting herself. The method does not have a fixed structure or syllabus, which would make progress confusing to the student, and it is not suitable for beginners.
Suggestopedia is a method developed by both Caleb Gattegno and Georgi Lozanov and it aims to reduce psychology barriers students face when learning a new language. The method uses relaxing art and music to free the students of daily life worries in order to give a 100% focus on language acquisition. This method therefore carries a very high level of TTT and does not particularly engage in interaction between students.
The Total Physical Response method places an emphasis on the use of gestures to indicate the meaning of the language students. Thereby making the students use all their senses and making it easier for them to remember vocabulary. Despite it enhancing students ability to remembering vocabulary, the method is limited as certain concepts such as ‘Human Rights are difficult to teach using gestures. Additionally, using this method grammar becomes very difficult to teach.
The Communicative Approach focuses on language creation by students rather than by the teacher. The method encourages specific attention to speaking and listening in context, rather than reading and writing. The obvious advantage of this method is the focus and development of students’ oral capabilities, however, it may be not be very suitable for students wanting to develop their written skills or who learn visually.
Having summarised some of the popular teaching methodologies I believe there are positives and negatives in every method. Therefore I will propose a much more engaging and enjoyable methodology.
The Matchmaker Method
The Matchmaker Method is based upon the concept of increasing the intrinsic motivations of learners by placing them in a situation where extrinsic factors cause them to try harder to learn. The method is centered on a class with 2 students, one male and one female of roughly the same age and language level. The aim of the method is to have interactions between the two students, attempting to create an atmosphere where each student attempts to impress the other with their superior language skills.
The teachers role in this method is to act as a guide, leading the pair of students through different aspects of language through topics, structure and vocabulary as found in the Oxbridge Approach. The teacher uses gestures to help the students learn vocabulary and the pattern of the language, and focuses teacher talking time into a block. The class then focuses on communications between the two students who practice what they have learned from the teacher through conversations in context, as with the Communicative Approach. As a guide, the teacher can correct and help to facilitate conversations during this period.
I believe this approach could have a significant beneficial impact on both the quality and speed at which the language is learned. By focusing TTT into one block, students are able to utilize the type of learning they find most effective (Visual, Auditory or Kinesthetic) and then practice the techniques studied through communication in a separate block of time. I believe this is far more flexible than other teaching methods, which do not allow students to adapt to the type of learning they find most effective, and also furthers the sub-conscious aspect of learning by increasing intrinsic motivation with the use of extrinsic factors (i.e male and female interaction in class).