There are as many ways of learning a language as there are people. Actually, asking people knowing many languages how they learned them, scientists have found that each one of them has discovered their own way of learning. It turns out, knowing what type of learner you are and in which way you learn the best, is the key. It can though, be somewhat difficult to find your own, unique way of learning - not everybody has the time or enough knowledge for that, and this is where the teacher comes in. Taking into account the different needs and motivations for each student needs and motivations they can lead them to find out how they best will acquire the language.
There are also some tools and material that have been proved efficient for many people when it comes to language learning and some of the aspects of that is what I will discuss in this essay, as well as describing more in detail my approach to teaching English as a foreign language. .
Speaking is usually what is considered the most difficult part of language acquisition. At the same time, using the language, especially by speaking, it what makes you remember it and it also usually one of the main reasons for learning it.
The very common insecurity when it comes to speaking often has to do with the lack of opportunities of doing just that - for instance when learning a language in school and/or the lack of English speakers in the students environment. Therefor, speaking in English will play a major part in my classes.
On the other hand, speaking has become so important the latest years that it is given such a superior role that other skills sometimes are forgotten. For practising reading, writing and listening, I don't believe that translation, reading stiff dialogues and writing texts the students never will have use for is a good way either of practising, learning or remembering. It is much more relevant, fun and efficient to bring in authentic material. To a certain extent depending on the students interests and needs, material such as news articles, news video clips, instruction video clips (for recipes, learning an instrument or building a car) will be used in my classes. Writing letters, text messages, emails and resumes are examples of stimulating activities for practising writing, material that also can be used in real life.
To learn something, you usually have to be motivated. But it is not easy to always stay so and it is the teachers´ role to keep the student motivated. With this said, it is also the students responsibility to be open to what the teacher is proposing and try to find their own reasons to stay motivated. It is also important that the student is honest - it is essential that the student lets the teacher know when they don't understand so that this can be explained satisfactory.
I believe that encouragement plays a big part in how the student will gain self confidence and dare to start speaking or using any other skill. Therefor praising, not only when the student is doing something correctly but also for trying, will be important. The teacher should be there as a guide and not an authoritative, helping and leading the student in the discoverence of the language and not just telling them what is right and wrong.
There are many methods on how to teach languages. One of the more popular one recently is the Direct method, which includes no use of mother tongue, focus on oral skills and inductive teaching of grammar (grammar are taught by examples in different contexts so that the learners find out the rules themselves and are believed to remember it better). These are the parts of the Direct method that I will to use in my teaching. This combined with the Communicative approach: learning to communicate through interaction, is how I best would describe my teaching method and approach. The interaction will be practiced with work in pair, group work and me constantly asking the students questions. As I mentioned before, authentic material, such as news texts and instruction videos will be used.
Corrections are very important for improving. However, with beginners, corrections can inhibit their willingness of speaking and they might lose self confidence constantly being corrected. I therefore believe in correcting mostly bigger mistakes (such as the use of wrong tense or words that have a completely different meaning) in the beginning and increase the “harshness” of correction as the student processes his or hers language skills. I also believe in positive corrections - to praise the student for trying and encourage them to continue that. If a student for instance would change an irregular verb in past tense as you would construct a regular one (“goed” instead of “went”) I will praise them for the correct use of construction of regular verbs and then explain that some verbs are irregular and therefore are formed differently.
Structure: Syllabus (course) and classes
With a structure based syllabus, the teacher will start with more simple vocabulary and grammar and working the way up to more complicated vocabulary and grammar. I believe in combining this structure with a structure which ranges from the more commonly used forms and vocabulary to the more rare ones.
I also believe in learning by doing, so during a typical class I will have the students to either present something, write a short text or tell a story. In this way the student is also practising the target language - using it in their presentation, text or story. Typical activities during a class would include role play, discussion, watching a short video and some listening activity.
I don't believe homework is a necessary mean for learning. Quite the opposite, homework can be stressful for students not being able to carve out time for them and also resulting unfair when some students may have someone to ask for help, when others don´t. I think it is much more effective, fair and less stressful for the students learning and doing everything in class.
Assessments can also create stress, but I believe that we should see assessments as an assess and not only a necessary evil. Assessment as learning is an important tool improving the language acquiring and I would carry out an exam with relevant questions of what the students learn just to see if they remember and what they are struggling on so that we can keep on working on that.
Teaching different age groups
With children, it is of high importance to take into account the different types of learners: visual, auditory, reading/writing and kinesthetic. With children a lot of plays and games are recommended - different games with movement and listening to songs using gestures (for example learning body parts with the song: “Head, shoulders, knees and toes).
As children learn their second language in many ways very similar to how they learn their first language - by seeing and putting together words with movement - adult learners already have a very developed and integrated understanding of their mother tongue and will always use this as a reference. They will often translate what they hear and what they want to say, which will slow down their communication (first they are translating what they have heard, then formulating an answer in their own language and then translating into English). This is why it is so important to teach new vocabulary by examples and not by translation.
With adult learners it is also possible to bring in very diverse and complicated topics at an early stage (politics, economics, education), just discussing them with easier vocabulary and a lot of cognets.
Teaching different levels
As I mentioned before, the importance of correcting the students goes up simultaneously with their level of improving. Apart from that, these are the main differences when it comes to teaching different levels:
Beginners: Beginners are in great need of repetition - what would be boring and too repetitive for a higher level is a necessity for beginners. It is important that the teacher grade his or her language and uses clear examples always with the same words (not using both holiday and vacation for instance, but choosing one of them).
Intermediate: With intermediate students the teacher can start introducing more complex activities, such as debates and situation-based role plays. The activities will include more complex use of grammar, for instance different tenses for the future used in one activity, whereas beginners would focus on just one.
Advanced: Advanced learners need to refine their knowledges and discussions will form a big part of their speaking-practise. More complicated, authentic material (such as a real news presentation) can be brought in.
Using the direct methods, students and teacher will speak in English constantly which will improve both the speaking and listening skills of the student. Reading, writing and listening will also be practised using authentic material. By encouraging the students, their self esteem will improve and they will therefore perform better. They will also have a greater responsibility for their own learning and be encouraged to make mistakes (to try) and asking questions. As grammar are taught inductively and reading and writing through real life supplies and games, the information will be stored in the long term memory and assessments are used as a learning tool. The most important is that the students are having fun during class and feel that they use and will have use of what they are learning.