How do I coach language learners?
The first thing I want to say is that I cannot learn for my students. They must learn. The best thing I can do is show them how I learn, show them again, listen to them when they ask for help, suggest new approaches, materials, and importantly help them make connections with members of the language community they wish to enter.
As a trained and experienced educator, language learner and linguist (after a fashion), I can suggest a number of approaches that may help the learner learn better; I can design certain activities that might increase the chance that the learner will notice some important feature of the language that they are trying to learn: a grammar type, a sound, a gesture.
Most importantly as an educator, what I do is try to keep my students’ spirits high, show them that they have made progress and be there for them as an understanding, caring guide. At the same time, I make it is part of my job description to only work with students who are motivated and are able to devote time to becoming intellectually and emotionally involved with a new language.
I do not believe in “methods” or approaches. There are two types of “methods” those mongered by businessmen –panaceas for language learning, or exhaustively researched, overly formalized teaching frameworks which have gotten professors much deserved tenure positions. While the former category is made possible by the dual truths that people love gurus and that the market for second language course is vast, the existence for academic language teaching methodologies is born from a scientists desire to do better a thing which is done frequently: teach foreign language.
However, there are no panaceas, there are no cure-alls. Each methodology –even the snake oil peddled by saavy businessmen have some kernel of truth, some benefit.
I make use of any and all appropriate methods for teaching. My relationship with my students, their changing needs, they understanding and confusions are all factors that I take into account when structuring lessons.
However, the student who seeks out the language on their own and uses me as a resources, rather than sees me a guru to lead them will always be more successful, and likely a potential friend.
That said if there is one framework, which I feel helps educators do good things –as a default, I would say CLT is one. Here are some words about it.
Note: CMAP is a company that produces software that allows one to produce concept maps.
What is CLT?
CLT (Communicative Language Teaching) is a language teaching approach (not a method) which comes from the “communicative competence” theory of language. The goal of CLT is to develop competent, confident communicators –not perfection. At the core of CLT is the human learner. Thus our focus is on students’ needs and individual personalities. CLT takes into consideration language as part of a whole being. For us language can be looked at from many angles including: linguistics, psychology, anthropology, history, etc. Therefore, CLT is an approach rather than a method.
Where does CLT come from?
CLT began in the UK in the 1960s and 1970s and was greatly popularized by the British Council and the Council of Europe. The developers of CLT felt strongly that classical language teaching methods were ineffective and antiquated. English has become the international language of business and research and technology. For this reason many people believe that they must learn English in addition to their native language(s).
What are the features of CLT?
- Language IS culture.
- Focus on negotiation of meaning and goal-oriented communication
- Focus on supporting active learning and active learners
- Develop a positive learning environment which considers students as individuals and encourages them to take risks.
- Focus on “whole learner,” –a full person with his/her own history, needs, desires and beliefs.
- Teachers are facilitators and coaches, not knowledge feeding machines.
- Using of “authentic” materials. You can’t recreate the real world. Languages must be learned by living them.
- Never focus on one method, set of materials, or technique –diversity is the key to success.
- Errors are a part of all language. EVERYONE makes errors