In a world of international connections, the need and interest of understanding other cultures and languages has experimented an enormous rise. As teachers we have to be aware of all the different ways of acquiring new languages and make sure we are capable of distinguishing the different approaches and practices in order to find the most successful way to teach them. Choosing a method should be the result of a long period of analysis and consideration, not only looking for the approach the teacher feels more comfortable with but the one that shows better results in relation with the skills the students want to develop.
In Spain, the teaching of English as a second language has always been questioned for its bad results. The methodology used up until now —certain signs of change can be noticed nowadays — was based on the theory, memorizing all the grammar, without a real practise or interaction. This led into a generation that was aware of all the grammar rules but never had direct contact with the real language. Many other methodologies have been used along the years. The Silent Way, the Total Physical response and Suggestopedia seem like good examples to show that teacher talking time is not the most important part of teaching but, in my opinion, they are too intense and unnatural to be used for an entire lesson. I find the Callan Method and the Direct (Berlitz) Method very interesting as methods based on oral communication and avoiding giving explanations about grammar rules. I think, though, that most times the teacher talking time is too high and it is merely based on repetitions, alienating the students from real communication.
Most teachers agree now that the figure of a central teacher giving a lesson with a high percentage of teacher talking time is obsolete. Not only because it takes time from the students to practice but because it is proven that a more communicative approach can help students develop links and connections among semantic fields and structures, making it easy for them to enhance language skills. It is also a type of guidance that allows the students to keep learning outside the classroom, and expanding their knowledge for their specific purpose they need it for. It that sense, teachers should take the part of an orchestra director and not the orchestra itself. Nowadays, there is a clear tendency of adjusting your lesson plan taking into account the students' needs. After the course in Oxbridge TEFL, it is clear for me that the students' reasons behind should always be a mainstay of the teaching method. Therefore, motivation and a more useful acquisition of the language can be achieved.
In my opinion, every type of education should be adapted in its context. The teacher must take into account the different levels, ages and specific purposes. The lessons should follow a system of gradually increasing the difficulty, always depending on the level. It is also easier for the students if we introduce new subjects from general to specific. The age of the students can also be an important factor, as the communicative competence is also different from children to adults, and we should adapt our material to make them feel comfortable.
Having a good syllabus can help us adapt our class according to a consistent overview. The syllabus must include long-term linguistic objectives exposing the students to a growing number of vocabulary and expressions, and at the same time enhancing their structures in order to get them to master the language in a gradual way. The objectives of every lesson should also be planned in advance, keeping in mind what we want our students to learn and in what communicative situation they can used it. A good preparation of a lesson should also include a variety of activities that show a coherent thread from one to another, stressing the activities related to speaking in real communicative situations. It is strongly recommended to plan your material in order to make it useful and visually clear for the students. A good preparation can as well give us the option to be ready for any mishap, to prevent some misunderstandings, foresee some potential problems and be quick and clear while providing an explanation or solution. We, as teachers, should also be prepared with some back-up plans so we are ready for any problems and we also feel more confident during the class.
Teacher roles play an important part in the teaching of any language. Teachers have to be aware that different skills are required for us in order to give a complete performance as professionals. Some of the teacher roles include being a good listener, understanding your students needs, frustrations, fears and opinions. A psychologist, listening to and understanding our students concerns. And also a guide and playmaker, giving the right tools and materials to all the students in order to make them independent and able to carry on with their learning on their own.
The attitude towards the class and the students is also noteworthy. The teacher has to be kind and well mannered, so the students feel at ease in the classroom with the feeling that they can make mistakes and learn from them. Therefore, a good approach to errors and corrections should be taken into account. Also, we have to be a good example, using good organization and preparation for the class. This shows the student that we care about their learning process and to show ourselves as capable of giving a meaningful and pragmatic lesson.
The students' motivation is one of the factors that determines the acquisition of a second language as well as the perseverance in the learning of it in the future. Motivation is positive because it is determining of the attention. It attends and selects the sensorial stimuli that we receive depending on our needs and interests and dismisses the rest. I think it is interesting to observe how this attention makes the student focus on the acquisition and it makes them progress in the development of its communicative competence. For this reason, motivation provides success which becomes a loop and boosts more motivation, which implies that the student carries on with the learning process.
When students start learning a second language we must take into account that they have a compilation of knowledge and competences that they already know and that allows them to address some communicative situations. We must make sure we detect them and apply them in our class, so they can use the new language for situations they already feel familiar with. Moreover, as the learning advances they obtain more competences and the teacher should strengthen and work on them.
The grading of our language plays a key part of our methodology, specially with lower levels. Our vocabulary and structures have to be according to our students knowledge. Grading or adapting must be essential in order to avoid confusion and focus on the new inputs. The use of technology in our class can also be very positive. We can now use many devices such as interactive blackboards and audiovisual inputs. There is a thin line though between complementing our lessons and distracting our students, so it must always be an appropriate and justified use where the teacher must find the exact balance point.
Language teachers have the opportunity to show new ways to express ourselves and different points of view to observe the world, which promotes empathy and mutual understanding. It is fundamental for the teacher to carry on the research of more precise methods and techniques to enrich our teaching system. A good way to do that is to keep in touch with new studies and approaches, attending conferences, reading articles and, the most important, exchanging ideas and suggestions with other teachers. That way, we can always carry on exercising our critic thoughts and evolving into better teachers.