The fact that human beings are extremely social animals is indisputable.
To create a state of such social prominence it becomes obvious that the most important and essential factor is, without a doubt, communication. Humans have the most advanced form of communication known to mankind, using language as the carrier of immensely complex forms of information, that can be shared amongst one and other and at the same time, evolves along with ourselves.
Nowadays,due to many factors such as the increased consequences from globalization, English has acquired a noticeable stance of importance on many grounds worldwide, making it a desired skill for a great variety of reasons.
Teaching a new language to anyone is a procedure that has to be addressed with the notion that each and every one of us are different in many aspects, including the way we retain or
assimilate incoming information while learning said language. This information can reach the learner through different ways of stimulation, them being visual, audio or kineasthetic (being the use of body language). As mentioned before, everyone can vary in the way they respond to these stimulations, resulting in a vast variety of learners.
To cope with this, many teaching methods have been developed throughout the years, each addressing the issue with their own techniques and procedures. They each keep their attention on different approaches, some centering themselves on spoken language, others prefer to emphasize on grammar or structure and vocabulary, whilst others focus more on a more communicative approach, which at the end of the day, is the factor that gives most usage towards any language. They are each right in their own way, but none are, as things seldom are, perfect. For this reason the best chance to make the best possible approach towards learners would be combining these methods, in the sense that one can apply their different methodologies in accordance to the learners way of intaking information and needs and goals that he or she may have.
For this, it is important that a teacher can be flexible in a way, being able to use the different beneficial techniques each method has to offer. The most renowned methodologies are as follows:
- The callan method: This method focuses in teaching through repetition, concentrating more on spoken and listening skills uniquely with the target language. It Works mostly by using the question and answer procedure. The callan method is very memory based, making it a good tool to for example, learning new vocabulary. It is also useful for correct pronunciation as its speak and listen format makes for an obvious verbal response. It is also limited in the sense that, it does not allow space for self expression. This means the learner is limited only to the responses he or she may have learnt, making it difficult to be able to express different or more complex ideas, facts or feelings.
- The direct method: This method concentrates more on vocabulary, having the students learn through a more spoken approach, using specificity the target language, which at the same time will emphasize upon pronunciation. This will later be followed with correct use of structure and grammar. It tries to simulate real life situations, giving the opportunity to put many meanings in to context. This is why it is also known as the natural method. It definitely has a good communication methodology, although it lacks strength when attempting to address grammar, for instance.
- The audiolingual method: This method focuses more on teaching grammar. The students learn correct structures through a monotonous repetition. It is useful in this sense, although it lacks a deeper reaching within the language, meaning that it misses out on the output a learner may have in the sense that he or she has little control over the whole learning process.
- Suggest-o-pedia: This method focuses on confidence,creating a comfortable environment that makes the learners loosen up and feel free to learn at their own pace. It is beneficial in the sense that one may have more control over the way he or she learns, but can encounter great barriers when trying to achieve a specific goal.
- The grammar translation method: This method, as its name implies, focuses on the use of text based techniques, pivoting around reading, writing and translation in to the native language. It is widely regarded as an outdated methodology, since it basically lacks a communicative approach, which is of most importance when regarding how a language is actually used in day to day life.
- The Silent Way: This method focuses on letting the learners interact in between eachother, having the teacher stay out of play, although still observing and guiding them when need be. It is beneficial as it implies that the learners correct eachother, making them self aware as a group, which can also help build confidence, that is followed by a more fluid use of language. This methodology can encounter problems if there needs to be a determined program to learn, and may require more time to do so. This would be a problem if one has a deadline for a specific goal in relation to the target language.
The truth is, vocabulary, grammar and speech need eachother like fish needs water. This issue must be addressed in a way that a good combination will fulfill the students learning procedure. Knowing words is useless if you do not know how to place them in a sentence. Perfect writing is no good when you want to have a coherent conversation in a targeted language. Speech has no use if you need to write a letter and lack the specific knowledge to do so. Therefore, each issue has to evolve side by side, depending on what the student may need to improve, creating an observable growth in the targeted language.
We never truly stop learning language, since the day we are born until the day we die, there is a constant exposure towards language in many forms.
If one observes how language is most used, it becomes clear that there is a need on enphasis upon communicative skills. A baby for instance, gains language in this way, slowly learning how to communicate with his or her mother and father, and ultimately evolving along with his or her growth to form a complex language. For this, it is of vast importance that speech, the main tool for communicating, should be targeted as the foremost matter. Once one learns how to speak, as children do, it will be much easier to focus on written skills.
From personal experience, coming to Spain as a Young boy I learnt Spanish through the need to learn it. I went to a Spanish public school having no idea how to speak the same tongue as my fellow classmates. Being exposed constantly to the language and the way it is used I slowly learnt, being able to speak quite fluently within a year. For this same reason it is important, as mentioned, to create the need to speak the target language, as this forces the brain to respond in accordance to what may be new incoming information that needs to be processed. This need can be easily achieved by replicating the usage of language in real day to day life. Through speaking correctly one gets accustomed to the correct use of vocabulary and structure, while at the same time perfecting fluency and pronunciation. In this sense you can kill two birds in one shot. Along with good fluency and use of language, the way grammar works can be targeted in a reciprocal manner. Obviously a teacher must adjust him or herself towards the level, needs and goals of a learner, being able to adapt in such away that the issue to be targeted gets its most effective approach. For this same reason it is important to create an efficient syllabus, to be able to engage in the best way possible towards the students. This will vary from student to student, according to their needs and goals. It must be specific, being able to fend with every macro skill that needs improving (Writing, speaking, listening and Reading), by slowly building up from the inside (micro skills, such as correct spelling within writing).
This is the way I would aproach learners.
Practice makes perfect!