It is said that English is the world's language and that by 2016 2 Billion people will be speaking it. Hence English proficiency globally is in high demand as the need to communicate in this universal language becomes a necessity for work, study or leisure.
Acquiring a second language such as English can be challenging, as a lot of motivation is required from the learner to progress. This I am familiar with, as I am currently attempting to learn Spanish. However, knowing how best to teach English as a foreign language, as had many involved in the applied linguistic field formulating a variety of theories and approaches in an attempt to address the challenges faced by both the learner and teacher during this complex process of language acquisition.
I will briefly highlight the various methodologies and look at utilising their best elements into my own approach. Key features of the facilitative learning process such as the role of teachers; learner needs/goals and factors involved in creating a syllabus for effective communicative language teaching will be addressed.
Personal Approach to Teaching - Integrated Communicative Approach
My teaching approach follows the Oxbridge System (Oxbridge) combined with fundamentals from the Communicative Approach (CLT) and smaller elements from other methodologies that together I believe creates an interactive dynamic style of practice.
Key to my approach is the foundation principle of Oxbridge, that language is all about communication, hence the importance of teaching language first as the main goal and starting point for the learner. CLT echoes this and underlines the use of authentic language and materials to assist the learner to become confident in speaking and comprehending the target language (TL).
Both these methodologies have developing learner communicative competence as key, using target language in the classroom and the development of the four skills - productive - speaking/writing and receptive - listening/understanding.
The aim to develop fluency (Oxbridge) alongside pronunciation is also key as emphasised by the Direct Method, as pronunciation will enable learners to speak authentically from the start. Other approaches disagree such as the Audio-Lingual Method which states that language acquires structural patterns first, believing grammar should take precedence over vocabulary. This premise is also the core theory of the Grammar-Translation Method that focuses solely on form and is often criticised due to its detachment from the learner's need to speak and practice 'enriching' vocabulary as per se CLT approach, and contradicts my approach (Oxbridge) that focuses on the productive skill of speaking and receptive skill of understanding to support language learning.
Grammar is important, but I think emphasis should be on teaching it in an inductive manner with no explicit grammar rules given, following the Direct Method. In the Silent Method it is not mentioned at all. Structure activities (Oxbridge) also allows for form to be practiced within communicative activities without drills unlike the Audio-Lingual Method and the need for grammar tests like the Grammar-Translation Method.
Encouragement to only use the target language within the teaching space is a practical feature of both Oxbridge and Berlitz Method, as it immerses the learner in the L2 culture. Having witnessed the benefit of this as a non Spanish speaking teacher and learners wanting to engage in Spanish when they struggle with L2. By not speaking L1 the learner is encouraged almost forced to try and use L2 and work through the challenges with my assistance. The Suggestoppedia approach however allows the use of the native language (L1) which is then translated into L2 as part of its teaching process, in order to remove what it sees as all psychological barriers to learning.
Teacher's Role & Teaching Process
Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher. Japanese proverb
I believe, regardless of age, every person can remember a 'great' teacher and also the not so great teacher from their school days, and that one of the factors that separated them was their attitude. The teacher had to want to be in the class and even like to teach.
This is key to my teaching approach especially the new learner S1/P2 learners (Oxbridge) or beginners/elementary (British Council) who may have little confidence in their ability to acquire the language or unsure about the process and feeling vulnerable and anxious about failing - my attitude in the classroom can either confirm their fears or give confidence, assurance and support them gently through the process. The Silent Method however works opposite to this, with the teacher playing a passive role in the class, offering no feedback i.e. no praise or criticism in the believe this will make learners develop their own inner criteria for what they think is correct. With the Grammar Translation Method, the teacher is the 'authority' in the classroom.
Oxbridge states that teacher optimum preparation makes a great teacher, and this includes the teacher's attitude. Teaching materials are selected internally as a part of the internal system, but preparation is vital in knowing my class and materials to ensure learners feel confident in me as a teacher and receive quality in the classroom.
My role as a Oxbridge teacher is to facilitate the learning in the classroom by introducing the Quick Questions and then topic, vocabulary and structure activities, and finally concept checking to check understanding. One to one teaching will mean adaptation of material to suit the learner. In web-cam teaching, materials will need further adjustments as timescales are usually shorter but with more depth on content.
The Direct Method syllabus is based on situations or topics using objects (realia/pictures). Grammar Translation Method offers a different approach focusing on the written text emphasising reading and written form, with little importance on the learners ability to speak L2. I think this makes this method the more difficult to relate to in today's learning of modern languages.
As verbal communication is the primary objective, my key aim is to facilitate the greatest amount STT (Oxbridge) and to motivate lower level learners only major, repeated errors are corrected in order not to have a negative affect on speaking motivation, whereas in higher levels, correction takes place more regularly. At these times I check my TTT and body language (open, friendly).
Building a picture of each learner will help with preparation and teaching style that adapts to age (are they young people), gender (affective factors) and language culture (is this their 2 or 3rd language) and how these may affect the L2 acquisition and create interlanguage issues. A needs assessment will discover this information alongside needs and personal goals; their learning styles (auditory; analytic; visual; global/experiential or kinaesthetic) and affective factors (personal factors; personality; self esteem/confidence etc.) that might impact on their learning and participation.
Finally it is said that the role of the teacher is really a mammoth of roles rolled into one, for example teacher as coach; resource; guide; conversationalist; counsellor; agony aunt; psychologist; assessor; controller and organiser to name a few. I would agree with this and can think of many more, I've been asked to draw on.
Learner Needs & Learning Goals
Learning a language is part of a joint negotiation between teacher and learner, both dependent on the other to achieve the final goal, and to some extend includes the role of other teachers involved in the process from a distance.
The needs of the learners are varied and covers what motivates them and all the areas of the needs assessment already outlined. Encouraging the learner to reveal their needs is part of the joint negotiation.
Main need is to have the opportunity to speak and practice L2. Oxbridge addresses this goal within its classes, by giving learners as space for STT as possible this will enable them to get a command of the language. Alongside the practice of grammar structures within a communicative activity is also important to learning.
STT will reveal a number of learning needs in using the target language such as interference - mother tongue L1 as on L2; how the learner accumulates new L2 rules and how they automate existing ones, as we well how they use them communicative strategies (pro-forms or non verbal gestures).
I think the most important learner need is to feel secure and safe in order to feel free to practice the target language and not be conscious about making errors/mistakes and knowing that they are tolerated (CLT) and corrected with respect and consideration (Oxbridge).
Organisation of the Syllabus
Syllabus should be designed using communicative strategies (Oxbridge) and take on board the importance of input, output and interactions of learners.
The order of importance of development skills will be: Listening and speaking primarily, followed by grammar and vocabulary.
Key focus is providing a menu of talking opportunities to place the target language within realistic contextualised settings, alongside offering authentic materials (Oxbridge/Direct Method/CLT). This includes discussion topics that stir up debates and excite the learners to talk, test their listening skills and comprehension.
Games as a purpose of exchange for young people (CLT/Total Physical Response Method) can be used. I like Suggestoppedia's approach of using interests like fine arts including music, art and drama to engage learners, and I totally agree with the Total Physical Response principle that learning should be fun, an enjoyable experience in order to keep the learner engaged, excited and motivated.
Conclusion - Joint Negotiation
The third area of joint negotiation alongside the teacher and learner is with other teaching colleagues, for example those of us within Oxbridge. The System focus offers an excellent platform to share lesson plans, techniques, learner advice, alongside team meetings to discuss problems. This has been much appreciated as a new person to the team and as enable me to fit in quickly. Networking may also take place across external agencies whose practice philosophy is similar to Oxbridge. The future of English teaching is the collaborations between teachers for the exchange of ideas, support and breaking new ground on approaches. The end focus is the learner's experience and language achievement, working together as a teaching community within Barcelona, across Spain and even the rest of the world will ensure that everyone wins.