A Fundamental shift in language teaching approach

Teaching Language

Too many teaching practitioners continue to deliver their language classes adopting a teacher-centered approach. Teachers speak ‘at’ their learning audience, but fail to elicit real communicative response as their lessons are dominated by drills and repetition, as opposed to interaction and communication in the target language.

The general principal is that language learners begin to acquire language through its use, i.e. through communication. By being creative with the target language, being able to explore expression in that target language without hindering correction, the learner is able to do what ‘we’ call proceduralise the target language. The ‘chunks’ of language the learners had committed to memory are being used in context, i.e. for a real purpose. Here language learners struggle, but it is by conquering this struggle with regular opportunity to practice communication in the target language that fluency develops.

You might propose that the language learners are only proceduralising language which is wrought with error, as the teacher or tutor has not corrected the learner. Correction in an important element of communicative language teaching; however, it is not undertaken whilst language learners are practicing communication in the target language, but rather, after the activity. Communicative language teachers may circulate the class, or listen to their tutted, for common error. By noting these common errors down and using them as a basis of feedback, language learners are sensitized to process the language effectively, as the language is ‘their own’, and, in so doing, the language learning process is more effective.

There is, of course, an opportunity to teach or tutor any aspect of language in this way; combinations may need to change, emphasis will likely shift, but, by adopting the pareto principal (80/20), thus ensuring that 80% of the lesson is learner production and 20% is teacher input, language learning will become more effective. There is also evidence that this has a positive effect on confidence and motivation, but I shall address these in my next article.

Aaron’s love of French, German and Spanish culture is equaled only by his love of teaching and tutoring; he is an expert in French, German and Spanish literature, an experienced language teacher trainer and an avid lecturer in the language learning process.

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