The Human Way
If Education is the practice of freedom, then languages are its wings. I have been speaking Spanish for eight years now and I can say wholeheartedly (although it reads like a juxtaposition), that I never dreamt I would achieve this level nor did I dream I would give up until I had achieved it. When I set out on a journey whether of a physical or educational nature, I aim to gain total fulfilment of that experience. Bringing to fruition the student’s potential for learning languages.
When language began to be learnt through religious pilgrimage and devotion there was practise of translation of the sacred scripts. Historically language learning emerged from fear of losing battles or for the reunion of relationships, allies or families in wars and beyond. There has always been a motive behind the way it was to be experienced. We can agree that in much earlier historical contexts it was not then questioned as why these methodologies were carried implemented, they just were. Now we are fortunate enough to be able to question the past and extract from methodologies. Studying the positives and the negatives about how teaching methods started out, we can develop and perhaps improve the ways of the past.
Learning any language is an awakening of the mind and (or) a new part of you that you have never explored. Having learnt languages, I deeply understand the position that students are in, on their path to furthering their ability and confidence. There is a German term, which cannot be translated into English, ´Bildung´. It literally means formation in education, culture and development. The semantics of the word encapsulate what every teacher in language acquisition aims to achieve; namely, a full immersion and the formation of thought processes made in their language learned. For this same reason methodologies are crucial to our experience. It could be argued methodology and experience are in matrimony as one’s experience is marked and made so, by the chosen methodology.
The fundamental factors of my methodology of teaching for effective English (or any language) learning are a consideration of the following:
According to Neil Flemming in the aforementioned VAK model, there are three kinds of learners. Although this model is basic in that there are only three noted types of learners, we can accept its universal validity. It is a good foundation for understanding how to approach a student and understanding what motivates them. Being that there are micro and macro skills in language learning (writing, reading, listening and speaking), the VAK model can be applied to all of these areas within a syllabus. Flexibility and adaptability is key and not all activities appeal to all learners, but I chose to appeal to all the three elements as it resonates with a mind, body, soul teaching which resonates in effectiveness and being balanced. I choose flexibility within activities to challenge and complement Flemming’s model. Improvisation and being able to create solutions quickly in a classroom are very important. The space of learning should mirror the outside world, real life.
My priority is the learner’s needs. However, there is a consciousness that their needs are not to be confused with their wants and also that in a group situation, their needs should be dealt with fairly alongside with the needs of their peers. If a learner wished to stay in the zone of interlanguage because they feel a certain confidence where they are, it is my duty and responsibility for them to progress and assure them if they are anxious about going deeper into English they can, they can go native if they are dedicated to their practise.
My form of teaching is to guide students in their learning through a humanistic structured approach. It is important to understand the mechanics of grammar and the semantics of language teaching using (subtly) phonemes and syntax. This is not to perplex them, but it is important not to occult information. These elements exist and hiding them is denying them of further understanding; although the information is to be given at the correct moment in a students’ development. Taking the rhetoric from Suggestopedia (G.Lorazov), that language learning is to be enjoyed I agree and progress should be tracked. There should be a certain level of authority within the classroom for the dynamics of the class to work, but this should be levelled with a positive energy in the environment.
Although I could have written this essay about ESP (English for Specific Purpose) teaching English for Theatre, I have decided that I do not wish to pigeonhole English learning into one sector, although it could surely be for Theatre as it could be for any workplace or scenario. The English language is in everything and has been developed over the years into everyone’s universal language so therefore my methodology is about the effective sharing of knowledge and information; the methodology, the rapport and the needs of the students is cared for in the Suggestopedia method and in the Oxbridge methodology also.
Having studied, observed and practiced the Oxbridge methodology I would agree that this form of teaching is most beneficial to the student. In each lesson there is concentration on engaging in topics, introduction and practice of target language, stimulating and motivational attitude towards the students and error analysis in a logical and helpful way. It is a method I truly believe in because the student feels engaged with the teacher, no matter if they are in a class of 1 or 10 there is positive reinforcement and there are corrections at a good, helpful level. The concentration is on the student being able to express (through speaking) and this expression is truly important. In the Oxbridge methodology there is little stress on the writing element of learning, for which I would be inclined to include more writing exercises. I think expressing on paper is just as valuable as in voice and for business people being able to compose a letter or an email for their company etc. That is something I would implement for the more advanced speakers. I think if they have conquered good elocution their writing could be interesting and exciting to read.
With regards to assessment I feel that it is beneficial to mark the development of students and give constructive criticism where necessary. Exam pressure I do not see as useful for being able to speak and live in using a language, I see it as a way to pass an exam and learn about yourself under stress but it does not go any deeper. I remember my final year Spanish Grammar exam at University. It was not a fair reflection of the fluency I had achieved. That is not to say I couldn’t improve, I merely mean to state that assessment is not valid but nor is it a reflection of one's true understanding. Therefore, I would opt for progress reports at the end of each week and a summing up of his or her knowledge through questions and a fun quiz style ‘test’ on what they had learnt. If the aim of the student were to learn English to pass an exam, I would stay true to what previously said. I cater to the needs of the student. As I am writing about my way of teaching I would not use formal assessment, as I am more interested in reporting on their progression, to build their confidence in English and I prefer to refrain from creating a struggle within the learner and their expectations.
Everyone has his or her own objective and underlying motives for starting to learn or picking up his or her studies of English. These extrinsic or intrinsic, I believe that for whatever reason they are learning, if they have the will then there is the way. I believe the syllabus should be constructed starting simple with the tenses and vocabulary and through the weeks going into more complex terminology. I would set three topics a week to look at and have rotations of these topics throughout, so we can go back to refer to what they have and use the acquired language to expand and go further. Repetition in a natural sense is very helpful. It is practice of the same thing over and over that in the end remains in the mind and in the self, be that through writing it down, saying out, hearing it or seeing it. Repetition is vital. It will be subtly employed so that the students recognize patterns and create confidence.
To conclude this piece, my methodology would be humanistic, flexible and revise openly in negotiation with the student concerning their progress. Repetition and growth would prevail throughout the syllabus. One should experience oneself outside of a comfort zone; that is where they will flourish. Learning language is very similar to learning to dance. Someone can show you the basic steps, you start simple and you interpret them. When you get a feeling you could master that dance it creates more determination. Like movement, repetition of phrases, words is vital, relaxation is essential and positive reinforcement is just as important as being corrected. Once you have got to a certain confidence there is only growth and you really do master communicating in that language in your dance (or more poignantly for this essay), in your English.