Ways of teaching foreign languages


1. Introduction

1.1 General characteristics of the work

2.1 How to teach foreign languages (general remarks)

2. The Main Part

1.2 Comparing instructed and natural settings for language learning

2.2 Natural and instructional settings

3.2 Classroom comparisons

4.2 Five principles for classroom teaching

5.2. The principle getting right from the beginning

6.2. The principle of saying what you mean and meaning what you say

7.2. The principle of listening

8.2. Teach what is teacheable

9.2. Getting right in the end

10.2. Grammar aquisition: Focusing on past tenses and conditionals (work-out)

11. 2. The implications of classroom research for teaching

3. Conclusion

4. Bibliography

1. Introduction

2.1. How to teach foreign languages (general remarks)

Every few years, new foreign language teaching methods arrive on the scene. New textbooks appear far more frequently. They are usually proclaimed to be more effective than those that have gone before, and, in many cases, these methods or textbooks are promoted or even prescribed for immediate use. New methods and textbooks may reflect current developments in linguistic/applied linguistic theory or recent pedagogical trends. Sometimes they are said to be based on recent developments in language acquisition theory and research. For example, one approach to teaching may emphasize the value of having students imitate and practise a set of correct sentences while another emphasizes the importance of encouraging 'natural' communication be­tween learners. How is a teacher to evaluate the potential effectiveness of new methods? One important basis for evaluating is, of course, the teacher's own experience with previous successes or disappointments. In addition, teachers who are informed about some of the findings of recent research are better prepared to judge whether the new proposals for language teaching are likely to bring about positive changes in students' learning.

Our graduation paper is about how English language can be learned at classrooms on the bases of new pedagogical technologies with having taking into consideration the national aspect, i.e. influencing native Uzbek language and typical mistakes and difficulties in learning English by Uzbek speaking students. First of all we have written it for English language teachers who teach this language to Uzbek students at schools at 5-6 grades, but it could also be useful for afult learners who are only going to learn a wonderful world of English. We believe that information about findings and theoretical views in second language acquisition research can make you a better judge of claims made by textbook writers and proponents of various language teaching methods. Such information, combined with insights gained from your experience as a language teacher or learner, can help you evaluate proposed changes in classroom methodology

2.The Main Part

1.2. Comparing instructed and natural settings for language learning(1)

Most people would agree that learning a second language in a natural acquisition context or 'on the street' is not the same as learning in the class­room. Many believe that learning 'on the street' is more effective. This belief may be based on the fact that most successful learners have had exposure to the language outside the classroom. What is special about natural language learning? Can we create the same environment in the classroom? Should we? Or are there essential contributions that only instruction—and not natural exposure—can provide?

In this chapter, we will look at five proposals which theorists have made for how second languages should be taught. We will review research on second language learning which has been carried out in classroom settings. This will permit us to explore further the way in which second language research and theory contribute to our understanding of the advantages and the limita­tions of different approaches to second language teaching.

Before we go further, let us take a moment to reflect on the differences between natural and instructional language learning settings. We will then look at transcripts from two classrooms and try to understand what principles guide the teacher in each case.

2.2. Natural and instructional settings

Natural acquisition contexts should be understood as those in which the learner is exposed to the language at work or in social interaction or, if the learner is a child, in a school situation where most of the other children are native speakers of the target language and where the instruction is directed toward native speakers rather than toward learners of the language.

The traditional instruction environment is one where the language is being taught to a group of second or foreign language learners. In this case, the focus is on the language itself, rather than on information which is carried by the language. The teacher's goal is to see to it that students learn the vocabu­lary and grammatical rules of the target language. The goal of learners in such courses is often to pass an examination rather than to use the language for daily communicative interaction.

Communicative instruction environments also involve learners whose goal is learning the language itself, but the style of instruction places the emphasis on interaction, conversation, and language use, rather than on learning about the language. The topics which are discussed in the communicative instruction environment are often topics of general interest to the learner, for example, how to reply to a classified advertisement from a newspaper. Alternatively, the focus of a lesson may be on the subject matter, such as his­tory or mathematics, which students are learning through the medium of the second language. In these classes, the focus may occasionally be on lan­guage itself, but the emphasis is on using the language rather than on talking about it. The language which teachers use for teaching is not selected on the basis of teaching a specific feature of the language, but on teaching learners to use the language in a variety of contexts. Students' success in these courses is often measured in terms of their ability to 'get things done' in the second language, rather than on their accuracy in using certain grammatical features.

In the chart below, mark a plus (+) if the characteristic in the left-hand col­umn is typical of the learning environment in the three remaining columns. Mark a minus (-) if it is not something you usually find in that context. Write '?' if you are not sure.

Table 1: Comparison of natural and instructional settings

CharacteristicsNatural acquisitionTraditional instructionCommunicative instruction
error correction
learning one thing at a time
ample time available for learning
high ratio of native speakers to learners
variety of language and discourse types
pressure to speak
access to modified input

As you look at the pattern of + and - signs you have placed in the chart, you will probably find it matches the following descriptions.

In natural acquisition settings

- Learners are rarely corrected. If their interlocutors can understand what they are saying, they do not remark on the correctness of the learners' speech. They would probably feel it was rude to do so.

- Language is not structured step by step. In communicative interactions, the learner will be exposed to a wide variety of vocabulary and structures.

- The learner is surrounded by the language for many hours each day. Some of it is addressed to the learner; much of it is simply 'overheard'.

- The learner encounters a number of different people who use the target language proficiently.

- The learner observes or participates in many different types of language events: brief greetings, commercial transactions, exchanges of informa­tion, arguments, instructions at school or in the workplace.

- Learners must often use their limited second language ability to respond to questions or get information. In these situations, the emphasis is on getting meaning across clearly, and more proficient speakers tend to be tollerant of errors that do not interfere with meaning.

- Modified input is available in many one-on-one conversations. In situ­ations where many native speakers are involved in the conversation, however, the learner often has difficulty getting access to language he or she can understand.

Learners in traditional instruction

These differ from natural learners in that:

- Errors are frequently corrected. Accuracy tends to be given priority over meaningful interaction.

- Input is structurally simplified and sequenced. Linguistic items are pres­ented and practised in isolation, one item at a time.

- There is limited time for learning (usually only a few hours a week).

- There is a small ratio of native speakers to non-native speakers. The teacher is often the only native or proficient speaker the student comes in contact with.

- Students experience a limited range of language discourse types (often a chain of 'Teacher asks a question/Student answers/Teacher evaluates response').

- Students often feel great pressure to speak or write the second language and to do so correctly from the very beginning.

- When teachers use the target language to give instructions or in other classroom management events, they often modify their language in order to ensure comprehension and compliance.

Not all language classrooms are alike. The conditions for learning differ in terms of the physical environment, the age and motivation of the students, the amount of rime available for learning, and many other variables. Class­rooms also differ in terms of the principles which guide teachers in their language teaching methods and techniques. The design of communicative language teaching programs has sought to replace some of the characteristics of traditional instruction with those more typical of natural acquisition contexts.

Communicative language teaching classrooms

Thus, in communicative language teaching classrooms we may find the fol­lowing characteristics:

- There is a limited amount of error correction, and meaning is emphasized over form.

- Input is simplified and made comprehensible by the use of contextual cues, props, and gestures, rather than through structural grading (the pre­sentation of one grammatical item at a time, in a sequence of 'simple' to 'complex').

- Learners usually have only limited time for learning. Sometimes, how­ever, subject-matter courses taught through the second language can add time for language learning.

- Contact with proficient or native speakers of the language is limited. As

with traditional instruction, it is often only the teacher who is a proficient speaker. In communicative classrooms, learners have considerable expos­ure to the second language speech of other learners. This naturally contains errors which would not be heard in an environment where one's interlocutors are native speakers.

- A variety of discourse types are introduced through stories, role playing, the use of 'real-life' materials such as newspapers and television broad­casts, and field trips.

- There is little pressure to perform at high levels of accuracy, and there is often a greater emphasis on comprehension than on production in the early stages of learning.

- Modified input is a defining feature of this approach to instruction. The teacher in these classes makes every effort to speak to students in a level of language they can understand. In addition, other students speak a simpli­fied language.

3.2 Classroom comparisons

In this activity we are going to look at transcripts from two classrooms, one using a traditional audiolingual, structure-based approach to teaching, and the other a communicative approach. Audiolingualteaching is based on the behaviourist theory of learning which places emphasis on forming habits and practising grammatical structures in isolation. The communicative approach, in contrast, is based on innatist and interactionist theories of language learning and emphasizes the communication of meaning. Grammatical forms are only focused on in order to clarify meaning. The theory is that learners can and must do the grammatical development on their own.

With each transcript, there is a little grid for you to check off whether certain things are happening in the interaction, from the point of view of the teacher and of the students. Before you begin reading the transcripts, study the following definitions of the categories used in the grids:

1 Errors

Are there errors in the language of either the teacher or the students?

2 Error correction

When grammatical errors are made, are they corrected? By whom?

3 Genuine questions

Do teachers and students ask questions to which they don't know the answer in advance?

4 Display questions

Do teachers and students ask questions they know the answers to so that learners can display knowledge (or the lack of it)?

5 Negotiation of meaning

Do the teachers and students work to under­stand what the other speakers are saying? What efforts are made by teacher? By the students?

T eacner/student interactions

In the following excerpts, T represents the teacher; S represents a student.