Why are we learning English first of all? I want all of you to stop and reflex upon this question: What do I need to learn English for? Is it a necessity? Is it because I want to travel? Is only a hobby of mine? Do I want to be able to communicate with people around the world? Do I want to be promoted at work? Do I need that job where they will not hire me if I cannot speak English? It will only take you 5 minutes to think about it and ask yourself WHY? I think we need to reflex more upon everything in life; then, when you know your reasons you know why you want to get there the path will open. Nowadays, everything that surrounds us is in English. The great majority of Earth´s population can say at least 1 word in English. Even my parents, who never spoke English they can understand basic words and say “Home sweet home “, "children" , "email", "online", and "happy". Isn´t it strange, is it? We are surrounded by English; mass media, technology, company names, brands, food, shoes; everything around us has English names. Many will say “In ordered to succeed you need to learn English” or “Speaking English will open many doors for you” and so on. It is true, speaking English may help you achieve what you want, but first, reflect on the questions above.
Throughout the ages plenty of teaching methods have evolved intended to help students learn English. Next, I will like to write some lines about The Grammar Translation Method, Suggestopedia, and The Direct Method. It is worth mentioning that all of them have advantages and disadvantages worth taking into consideration.
The Grammar Translation Method was used to teach “dead” languages such as Latin and Greek and it involved little or no spoken communication or listening comprehension. The goal of this method was to read and translate literary masterpieces and classics. It focused on accuracy (grammatical correctness) learning grammatical rules; the vocabulary in the target language was translated directly from the native language. The objectives of this method included students ability to read literature in the target language, translate from one language to another and it helped them to develop reading and writing skills. We can observe that there are more disadvantages than advantages. This method may create frustration for learners as it is an unnatural way of learning a second language; speech is totally neglected and is done only in the native language; this method lessens learner’s motivation.
Suggestopedia is a method based on the idea how the human brain works and how we learn most effectively. The aim of this method is not memorization, but the understanding and creative solution of problems, however, memorization of vocabulary pairs is an important goal of Suggestopedia. Teachers should show absolute confidence in the method and are expected to be skilled in acting, singing and psychotherapeutic techniques. Mistakes are tolerated, correction is not very important; the emphasis is on the content not on the structure. Grammar and vocabulary are presented by the teacher and handed out for students to read, but are not dwelt on. Music, drama and art are integrated into the learning process. There should be a relaxed atmosphere in the classroom and the teacher would play Baroque music in the background so the students can relax and enter a passive state but still focus on the reading. The main disadvantage of suggestopedia is what we call “infantilization learning”, the class is conditioned to be child-like and create a parent-like relationship with the teacher. There are many students who do not like to be treated like this and need to have some authority in the class.
The Direct Method also called Natural Method was established around 1900. It appeared as an answer to the Grammar Translation Method. This method encourages the use of the target language and discards any use of the mother tongue in the classroom (similar to the Oxbridge Method). There is lots of oral interaction, no translation, spontaneous use of language, and little analysis of grammar rules and syntax. One of the main advantages of this method is that it promises to teach the language and not about the language. This method is more realistic and it is more attractive to students who have needs of communication in the target language. As we can see there are many methods, but is up to each teacher to follow one, none are a combination of all.
As far as my own teaching style, I can say I am more inclined to use a combination of different methods and try and to get the best of each. I do not confine myself to a single method, but I try to synthesise from a variety of methods. From my point of view, what makes a teacher successful is his or her ability to establish a “successful rapport” with their students. I think any teacher who strictly follows a book is going to lack the flexibility to deal with the complexity of real-life situations. It is very important for a teacher to be positive, friendly, engaging and realistic and to praise the students. The teacher`s role in the classroom is that of a facilitator, advisor, and playmaker. The teacher should encourage the students to communicate and participate, thus TTT should be limited while STT should be the main focus. As teachers, we need to learn how to be versatile and adaptable to our SS needs. Each SS has different needs and we need to get to know our SS. Each SS has a different level, starting with S1, P1, P2, P3, P4 and P5 ( from the lowest to the highest level at Oxbridge). We need to grade our language depending on the level we are teaching; we will not use the same grammatical structure or vocabulary when teaching S1 students or P4 students. At S1 level, we will use very basic structures and vocabulary, and we have to learn to express complex ideas in the simplest way, while at a P5 we should act more natural and use more complicated and complex structures. I personally think that at a P5 level we should not grade our language as much as we do at a lower level. The SS role should be that of a communicator and imitator; SS will follow our instructions and respond and they should actively engage in the class and try and understand the target language; the SS is responsible for his/her own learning. Each SS has a different rhythm, so each of them knows their pace. Still, we should try and adapt to their needs and assess them. I would definitely correct my SS, and I am pro-correction. It is crucial to correct our students` mistakes but is more a matter of when and what to correct. I think it is up to each teacher and to his/her own style of teaching, but I would correct structural mistakes on the spot, followed by vocabulary mistakes and last pronunciation mistakes. Pronunciation correction is a matter of debate, again up to each teaching style, but I would correct the words they are stressing in the wrong way and let them know that there is a difference between stressing a word on the first syllable vs., stressing the same word on the second syllable. There is no written homework here at Oxbridge, but at a P3 level I would start and give 10 minutes homework; nothing to complex, just a brief summary/reflection on that day´s class. In this way they are the ones who can reflect on their teaching process and write down the positives and negatives of each class; for the next class, you will get to know your SS better, meet their needs and see what they are lacking in the classroom.
Inside the classroom, we should praise and encourage our SS to communicate freely. I would definitely use materials taken online or scanned from books (if I think they adjust to my teaching style and meet my SS needs). I would use videos and scripts, reading materials and games. I do think it is a necessity to use only realia (newspapers articles, podcasts, thus improving our SS` understanding of real life situations and different cultures). We should always adapt the materials to each level. At a lower level, the more we repeat the best and the easier the SS will follow. Grading our language will help the SS to comprehend the activities (either structure, vocab. or topic) and will help them to progress and increase their level. Concerning the syllabus I would use a task-based syllabus (process oriented). The task-based syllabus is suitable for learns of all ages and it uses real task as learning activities. I would focus on the communicative purpose of language (its function) rather than on form. I will use task and activities to encourage my SS to use the language communicatively in order to achieve a purpose. My classes would always start with quick questions so we get the SS warmed up, afterwards, I will move into a topic discussion with an aim to practice the target language. Thirdly, I would use concept check questions to make sure the SS have understood the TLS. Lastly, I will finish with a 5 min wrap up questions (questions using the TLS, asking for synonyms/antonyms). We have to make sure the TLS is perfectly understood because that is our focus- SS need to leave the classroom with the TLS assimilated and ready to use whenever needed.
The main aim of my teaching approach is to meet my students´ needs. I will focus on what they want to achieve and guide them in the process. My objective is to have students communicate, regardless the topic. Learning a second language is a very demanding process, but we have to bear in mind that it is possible at whatever age to learn English, or Spanish or French, whatever language you want. I want to develop the potential within every SS and I want them to feel confident when they communicate in English. When speaking a second language, confidence is the key, along with knowledge and a good understanding of “what do we use language for?”