¿Is there any particular method or approach to teach English efficiently?

Autor: Yordanka Brunet Valle y Mercedes de La Torre Valdés

Formación y capacitación

11-11-2011

Introduction

The language teaching methodology started many hundred years ago. Different methodologies and approaches have been created by linguists through history and have been put into practice in the classrooms by the teachers. Each of them with its particular characteristics makes it distinctive from the rest. The teaching learning process of foreign languages has been improved as a result of different research done by linguists trying to find out a methodology and an approach that allow learners to have a better acquisition of the foreign language and then, being able to communicate inside and out of the classroom taken into account the context. For that reason different methodologies and approaches emerged with its own characteristics, advantages and disadvantages. Each of them focuses more its attention on a particular skill or skills.

Development

Different theories of language and language learning influence the focus of a method: that is, they determine what a method sets out to achieve. The specification of particular learning objectives, however, is a product of design, not of approach. Some methods focus primarily on oral skills and say that reading and writing skills are secondary and derive from transfer of oral skills. Some methods set out to teach general communication skills and give greater priority to the ability to express oneself meaningfully and to make oneself understood than to grammatical accuracy or perfect pronunciation. Others place a greater emphasis on accurate grammar and pronunciation from the very beginning. Some methods set out to teach the basic grammar and vocabulary of a language. Others may define their objectives less in linguistic terms than in terms of learning behaviors, that is, in terms of the processes or abilities the learner is expected to acquire as a result of instruction. Richards J. and Rodgers T. (1986:20).

One of the earlier methods was the Grammar- Translation Method, where the content of the textbooks written in that time was focus on grammar points. Students codified the foreign language into frozen rules of morphology and syntax to be explained and eventually memorized. Oral work was reduced to an absolute minimum. After this method had been critized by linguistics, in the mid and late-nineteenth century there was the aim of discover how children acquire their first language that is why a new method called Direct Method appeared.

Later on, in the 1920’s and 1930’s applied linguists began to set out principles for language teaching methodology which eventually developed into Oral Approach or Situational Language Teaching in Britain and to Audiolingualism in the United States. The Oral Approach was the principal British methodology in the 1950’s in English language teaching” Laufer M. (2000:59).

There was no doubt that the Oral Approach and the Audiolingualism method favor learners to develop more the oral skill, although they were not allow to begin a conversation or a dialogue because mistakes may be implicated, so, this is not a free interaction. If learners do not interact each other expressing their ideas, without paying so much attention to mistakes, teachers will not make sure if learners have assimilated the whole content or not and as a result students will not improve the speaking skills as such.

Besides, as teachers control the teaching-learning process, modeling the target language and correcting the learner’s performance in the classroom they are the central of the attention and not the students, that is why it is the teacher-dominated method and in my view point it does not help learners’ acquisition of the language.

That’s why, in the 1970s educators worried about the way students acquire the language and reproduce it. Besides, lessons during that time were boring in some way, because of the repetition drills, even in group where some students did not repeat. Some of them know the rules of linguistic usage, but can not communicate orally. They realized communication required more than linguistic competence; it required communicative competence (Hymes 1971 cited in Larsen D. (2000:121).

Furthermore, Larsen D. (2000:121) argued that, “Communicative Language Teaching aims broadly to apply the theoretical prospective of the Communicative Approach by making communicative competence the goal of language teaching and by acknowledging the interdependence of language and communication.”

So, in my view the Communicative Approach since the Grammar Translation Method, is one of the most effective, because it has supported in many ways the development of the teaching-learning process of the target language paying mote attention in meaning and not in form, taking as a main factor the reality of communication, how it takes place outside the classroom and also, the reality of learners as they exist outside and inside the classroom. So, it contributed to the development of oral ability in the learners. Although, it is a challenge for teachers to put into practice this method because they must be very dynamic in the classroom, providing lot of motivation and input for the students through different kind of communicative situations, in order to use the target language during the activities. So, teachers assume a responsibility for determining and responding to learner language needs becoming the facilitators of the content and students feel like actors making a film in a movie, what means, that they are the main focus of the attention. So, this method provided some favorable changes to the teaching-learning process of the target language.

Although there are some points in favor of the Communicative Language Teaching, various applied linguists and practicing teachers began to question the overemphasis on language as communication and the consequent lack of emphasis on the grammar and structure of the language. It became apparent that in second language learning when we focus on communication and meaning there is a danger that we bypass language forms. By creating conditions for natural language use in the classroom, we fail to require learners to focus on communication and the grammar and structure of the language. Laufer M. (2000:60).

Then, “the need to bridge the gap between knowing (grammar rules) and doing (using the rules to communicate effectively) as a starting point, applied linguists began to develop what is known as the Task-Based Approach.” Laufer M. (2000:60).

The essence of the Task-Based Language Teaching consists in the notion of task as a fundamental unit of planning and teaching. A task is consider an activity or goal that is carried out using language, such as finding a solution to a puzzle, reading a map, giving directions among other activities. Richards J. and Rodgers T. (2001:224).

Additionally, during an initial teacher training course, most teachers become familiar with the PPP paradigm, which means, the presentation stage, practice stage and production stage. He also assumed that, in a PPP lesson the teacher first presents an item of language in a clear context to get across its meaning, doing through a text, a situation build, a dialogue etc, after that, students are then asked to complete a controlled practice stage, where they repeat target items through choral and individual drilling, fill gaps or match halves of sentences. This practice demands students use the language correctly and helps them to become more comfortable with it. Finally, they move on to the production stage, called the 'free practice' stage in which students are given a communication task such as a role play and are expected to produce the target language and use any other language that has already been learnt and is suitable for completing it. Frost R. (2004).

However, in order to conclude, it can be said that the successfully acquirement of the target language does not depend only on a particular method or approach, or on a specific methodology the educators use to teach the content, but also on many factors, such as the teachers’ experience, background and knowledge, the materials (books, videos, web pages, blogs, among others) teachers could use as a support of the lessons, the socio cultural context and the students’ needs and interest.

Besides, the authors consider that more than to judge whether a certain strategic is good or bad; an important issue for teachers is to decide the appropriate approach according to their circumstances and the student’s needs. Thus, the methodology or the combination of methodological approaches to apply is a decision that can only be made by the teacher, as a medical treatment for a patient is decided by a doctor. We defend the idea of choosing a creative, communicative and a practical way of teaching, characterized as we mentioned before by a problem-solving tasks. It is better for the students to remember something by making effort than something that they are simply told.

Bibliography

Richard, J. and Rodgers, T., (1986). Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. A description and analysis. Cambridge University Press.

Laufer, M., (2000). The multilingual challenge. First edition. Via Africa.

Larsen, D., (2000). Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching. Second Edition. Oxford University Press.

Richard, J. and Rodgers, T., (2001). Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. Second Edition. Cambridge University Press.

Frost R. (2004) A Task-based approach. BBC British Council.

Available from http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/think/methodology/task_based.shtml - 45k -

[Accessed 25th October 2011].

Ms. Yordanka Brunet Valle - nayyorarrobainfomed.sld.cu

Valle MA in TESOL Profesora Asistente.

Mercedes de La Torre Valdés

Lic. Profesora Auxiliar

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