Since I was born in Mexico City I come from a background where I was constantly exposed to foreign languages, English was the first foreign language I learned and it was almost at the same time as I started learning Spanish so it was a natural process for me which I canât remember clearly how it happened, however when I tried to learn French in my teenage years things changed radically since most of the teachers that tried to teach the language based their classes on old school rigid methods that did little to help me speak the language. This situation eventually led me to only learn basic conversational French and made me lose my interest in learning more because the teaching methods were not stimulating at all and teachers didn't do much aside from following a book and explaining grammar structures in a formulaic manner. Taking my French learning experience into account I was really curious about which teaching techniques would be implemented in Oxbridge TEFL method and to my surprise the system utilized turned out to be a much more balanced, dynamic and interesting method which helps and encourages the student to learn and practice the language, which at the same time turned out to be a challenging system for a teacher as it has helped me develop my English language skills in a way that Iâd never thought of before.
The Oxbridge TEFL course has not only helped me improve my communication, grammar and vocabulary skills in a considerable manner, it also helped me find out about the specific method that I followed years ago to learn French, this method is known as the Grammar-Translation Method (GTM), which was mainly based on translating texts and words from Spanish to French. Grammar rules were taught in a strict and non-stimulating manner, the teacher would write on the blackboard what needed to be learned and we would just copy and follow his/her instructions, grades were mostly based on written tests and only from time to time we would speak and listen, it was really tedious at times and teachers would utilize L1 almost 90% of the time so in the end it was pretty much pointless. In my opinion GTM is a non-effective method for in-class teaching and shouldn't be used for teaching a foreign language, the only thing that I would incorporate from GTM are fill in the blanks exercises for homework assignments or to reinforce certain aspects such as verb tenses and vocabulary but strictly for activities outside of class and only for specific students who may be having a harder time understanding a certain topic.
So GTM is really old-school and definitely not my cup of tea as I hadn't had positive experiences with it based on my learning of a second language but then thereâs the Direct (Berlitz) Method which is much better developed method where L2 is the main focus and thereâs no use of L1 in class, this type of Method is one that I think Iâd definitely incorporate in the way I teach a class since students are asked to participate actively through question/answer activities and all are encouraged to speak constantly, without singling out any student, also the use of objects and pictures is part of the method and these are optimal for helping students understand instead of recurring to textbook definitions. I consider that the most important way to learn a language is by speaking it and listening to it on the regular and the Direct Method incorporates both things, also the fact that grammar is taught inductively instead of being written on a board or explained is something that seems really logical, as an English teacher I think I definitely need to learn grammar structures in a traditional manner but L2 students have to learn it in the most natural way possible and without any stress.
This leads me to a second method that I consider has really interesting features for teaching a foreign language, the Total Physical Response (TPR) method, and even though this is mainly a method suitable for beginners or kids it has entertaining activities that require students to react to what the teacher is saying but in a physical manner, I think this method really relaxes people and helps out in case the class starts to become a bit frustrating for some of the students. I would definitely implement a short, fun TPR activity midway through a long intermediate level class (for example) so that students can loosen up a bit and then continue the class, I think that sort of break can help them focus more on the rest of the class and that way theyâd participate a lot more. In the case of entry level students I would try to incorporate several activities as they can definitely help the students understand and recreate basic sentences, words and situations, this method is also really natural as it is based on the way parents start teaching their children how to speak their native tongue which is a great approach to teaching a second language.
Finally there is the Communicative Approach which I think is a great method as it is more focused and balanced than TPR and the Direct method, the fact that it is centered around completing tasks makes it a really comprehensible method for both teachers and students, the use of Target Language I think is a really useful tool since the activities are centered around a certain grammar structure or vocabulary words and they are usually taught through discussion, a fun activity or a particular text/news article and by the end of the class there is a way to prove if students have understood everything clearly or not, it also encourages discussion between students and role playing. Another important thing about this method is that it takes into account essential skills for learning a second language: speaking, writing, listening and understanding; however, I wouldn't focus that much on the writing part of this method since I believe that speaking is definitely the most important thing that has to be developed in order to learn a second language quickly, of course understanding and listening are really important also but in regards to writing I think it is something that will come naturally when the student starts getting comfortable with the language.
In conclusion I think that my way of designing a teaching method would include parts from the direct method, the TPR method and the Communicative approach as I mentioned above, I think a proper design of a class should include a couple of grammar structures and vocabulary activities but should equally contain a lighter side where students debate, role play or discuss and have fun doing it, I would structure grammar and vocabulary activities with plenty of images for explanations and well thought out Target Language but would let topics run freely mostly, only relying on a few questions or a text to initiate the discussion or debate and let students do all the talking so that they can be introduced to new words by pushing the limits of their expressive capabilities, which is a situation where I would just guide and help out in order to enrich their vocabulary or correct their grammar, and as I mentioned earlier I believe a brief TPR activity would be great for students to relax their bodies and minds so they can focus even more on what they are learning and enrich the class even more.