Teaching Skills Assignment
Over the years, many different methodologies have been designed and utilized in order to facilitate the second language teaching process. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses in learners acquiring a second language, which can be adapted and altered in order to create a methodology which most closely allows for a comfortable, more accessible language learning experience. Teaching has shown me that learners acquire a second language best when they feel confident and comfortable in their surroundings. In order to speak, they must be shown grammar structure and vocabulary, in an accessible format, and corrected positively and consistently. This essay will evaluate past teaching methodologies such as Suggestopedia, GTM, and TPR, as well as learner specific difficulties in acquiring a second language, in order to explore what I believe to be a successful teaching methodology based on my own research and experience.
An effective teaching methodology is rooted in a comprehensive understanding of the barriers to second language learning, both for adults and children, and thus the ability to overcome said barriers. A major issue in the acquisition of a second language, especially for adults, are mistakes which originate in the learner’s reconciliation of the new language with their mother tongue, known as language transfer. I believe that in order for the learner to speak L2 naturally, like a native, they must separate L1 and L2 in their minds. This is facilitated if the teacher discourages the use of L1 in class and translation of each word. The Grammar Translation Method (GTM), then, which consists mainly of students translating L1 into L2 word-for-word and memorizing grammatical rules and exceptions, is counterproductive in acquiring L2 for any reason that isn’t written translation when the learner has no intention of speaking the language fluently and naturally. From what I’ve seen over the last few weeks, I think that while beginner and elementary level students asking a teacher (and being confirmed or denied if the teacher understands L1) whether a word is the same as one in their native language (this is most common in vocabulary exercises) can facilitate the learner comprehension process, the teacher translating the word themselves is harmful to the language acquisition process, as students aren’t understanding the definition or the use of the word in a natural context at all. Furthermore, their pronunciation is given no attention. The Vaughn system, similarly, is antiquated. I have tried to learn a language through word-for-word translation before, and it only functions well if the learner has no intention to communicate in L2, only wanting to read and write.
GTM is also counter-productive due to interlanguage. Interlanguage is extremely common for non-proficient adult learners, who are more comfortable with the nuances of the grammar system and phonology of their native language. This leads to a tendency to overgeneralize the grammar rules of the second language, difficulties in the use of the subject and articles, and, fundamentally, pronunciation. As I’ve witnessed over the last few weeks, Spanish adults struggle with articles (‘I am teacher’) and pronunciation, especially the letters “b” and “v.” Interlanguage can only properly be overcome for students by drilling the correct use of words and pronunciation through modeling examples of words and grammar structures in their natural, fluid contexts, and then getting learners to practice. It is less about students seeing the form of the words and the structures than them saying them correctly. Once they begin to speak naturally, they can learn to write L2 correctly.
The final major barrier to learners’ second language acquisition is, in my opinion, probably the most important. Affective factors encompass the learner’s attitude to the learning process, including whether they want, need or are being forced to learn the language, and the psychological effect their emotions have when learning the language, such as frustration and anxiety. Suggestopedia is the teaching methodology which has most worked towards overcoming these barriers. The entire approach is based upon building up the learners’ confidence and eliminating their feelings of failure, through praise, positivity and even relaxing music and a relaxed atmosphere in the classroom. I agree with the main structure of suggestopedia and especially believe that all teachers should be positive, especially when correcting their students, knowing from experience how detrimental a negative teacher can be on the psyche. However, a teacher can over-praise their students. Some students might take the excessively positive approach of the teacher as an affront, a mockery of their attempts, especially if they are making mistakes and the teacher is inconsistent with their corrections. Minor lapses with high level students during a debate or discussion can be noted but not commented upon in order to not interrupt the student’s fluency and throw them off track. When teaching structure or vocabulary though, it is important to correct the student every time they make a mistake, and to drill these mistakes if necessary. One way to do this while continuing to build the confidence of the students is to elicit corrections from the students themselves. This is where the Callan method fails in my opinion, as students do not seem to take any of the corrections in as they are simply repeating what they have just been told without practicing.
Eliciting responses, self-corrections and definitions makes sure that the students are always practicing and that they are given the time and patience to show that they do know the correct answer. Eliciting has been maximized and taught under the ‘Silent Way’ methodology, in which there is no teacher talking time and the students overcome their anxiety toward learning through self-learning. This methodology is appealing and seems to function very well, but I would use it alongside other forms of teaching as it would be very difficult to get students to learn vocabulary and structure without help. The fact that the teacher neither praises nor criticizes can be a negative factor on the students’ learning as they won’t truly know whether they are right or wrong.
On the other hand, although no teacher talking time may be detrimental, my methodology would make sure that teacher talking time would always be as low as possible, as the entire premise of the class would be for the students to practice. Once students are at a more competent level, if they wanted to do writing exercises, I would advise them to do them away from class as a homework exercise. In class, they could be addressed in the form of students ‘speak-writing’ a letter or e-mail, or giving their opinion on a film, novel or picture. Writing would not be a part of the syllabus for beginners and elementary level students, however. Native children learn to listen, speak and read before they learn to write, and I believe that even adult L2 learners should follow the same process as it enables learners to communicate naturally. In the class, the receptive and productive skills would be balanced, mainly between listening and speaking, especially at beginner level. As students grow more confident, I would use more reading activities, although they would be short paragraphs to read and then comment upon in spoken form, especially debates. In this way, my teaching methodology would be similar to the direct method in that activities would all involve speaking practice. I disagree with both the direct method and audio-lingual method’s approaches that grammar and vocabulary should be taught with one favoured over the other.
I believe that these two parts of language go hand-in-hand; learners need vocabulary to voice their opinions and make sentences but they need to know how those sentences are formed and structured in order to speak correctly. Despite that, I agree with the direct method in that teachers should teach grammar inductively. Students do not necessarily need to know the form and formalities of L2’s grammar in order to speak it naturally. Sentences can be modeled and used in comparison with other, more basic, forms in order to teach a new structure. This can be used in complicity with confidence building eliciting approaches, asking the students if they notice the differences. My syllabus, therefore, would be mainly function based, with the functions inherently teaching grammar structures and vocabulary and giving students ample time to comprehend and practice each activity during each lesson. Each lesson would ensure students would be practicing all three forms of sentences: positive, negative and interrogative. I would also use some content-based activities related to the student’s hobbies and interests, or current events, in order to get them to practice their language fluency and different stances.
Ultimately, I believe that the communicative approach is what most closely resembles the teaching methodology I am designing. This approach encourages natural spoken language in real contexts, and is a vehicle for classroom communication. It builds confidence in speaking L2. The one adaptation I would make to the approach is incorporating some of the methods of TPR. TPR is a fast, easy way and an effective way of students learning vocabulary. It is especially helpful when attempting to convey definitions to students; often kinesthetic methods are the simplest and most successful means and evade teachers making the mistake of explaining a word with excessively complicated language: failing to grade their language, which would be fundamental to my methodology. Of course, TPR is more suited for children than it is for adults, but even adults appreciate when they are struggling over a word and the teacher acts the word out. I also believe that visual aids are very beneficial to teaching L2, and if I felt it would be helpful, I would even use video clips (max. 5 minutes) and other forms of IT - presentations etc. Primarily, my teaching methodology will be aimed at the most comfortable, natural language learning process possible.