Putting language teaching puzzle pieces together

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  • RUNNING HEAD: Putting Language Teaching Pieces Together 1

    Putting Language Teaching Pieces Together

    By Prof. Jonathan Acua Solano Monday, April 27, 2015

    Twitter: @jonacuso Post 155

    The classroom seems to be a great place to start ones language learning, but the

    fact is that it is never enough. Learning a second language is a complex process that

    involves an infinite number of variables that cannot be accounted for or even covered

    within the boundaries of a classroom. To succeed in his/her field, a language instructor

    needs to fully comprehend what learning entails: Understanding differences between the

    L1 and L2, the purpose behind a students desire to learn a second language, and

    comprehending what the teaching of a language encases.

    Since SLA implies multiple variables that directly affect the student as well as the

    teacher, the language instructor needs to know and understand the most relevant

    differences between the students L1 and the target language. Within a monolingual

    context in which students in class speak the same language, the teacher should know

    what some of the predictable linguistic situations are bound to happen in class are. Based

    on what is meant to be covered according to a course outline or curriculum-, they system

  • Putting Language Teaching Pieces Together 2

    in which the target language operates needs to be somehow explained to learners: its

    phonemic structure, the way discourse is built to convey meaning, the semantic

    differences that students can face if language interference comes along the way, etc.

    Knowing some of the variables behind language learning can make ones teaching

    smoother and more profitable for ones students.

    If variables are important when teaching and learning a foreign language,

    visualizing student motivation to acquire the target language is also a must. If dealing

    with adult learners, one gets to understand that they may have extrinsic motivation

    related to work readiness and/or performance. Helping students materialize those motifs

    can be a way to satisfy their learning expectations while they are sitting on ones class.

    On the other hand, learners can also walk into ones classrooms with a high intrinsic

    motivation to learn the target language. Potentiating their inner desire to master the

    language can also lead to profitable language learning that students can later on

    experience in their day-to-day life. Discovering those motivational pieces is also part of

    being a language teacher.

    Once the motivational puzzle has been put together, comprehending what

    language teaching encases is transcendental, too. The first important differentiation a

    language teacher must make is that language and communication are not the same thing.

    Regular dictionary definitions tend to confuse both terms since language incases

    communication, but also phonology, proxemics, phonetics, semantics, non-verbal

    communication, and so on. All of these elements cannot be put aside when a language

    class is planned; they must be included as part of the language learning continuum that

    takes place within the classroom every time one gets together with the students.

    Instructors necessity to profoundly comprehend what language and language teaching

    encompass is part of the multi-variable, complex process that acquiring a second

    language implies.

    SLA studies, theories, and teaching paradigms contribute to the understanding of

    what teaching and learning a language is. Ones understanding of the components of

    language will determine to a large extend how one teaches a language (Williams &

  • Putting Language Teaching Pieces Together 3

    Burden, 1997). By this time, one does not need to understand that one needs to become

    a master linguist (Williams & Burden, 1997); this simply makes one reflect upon the

    necessity of going beyond our pedagogical and/or andragogic training to explore what is

    involved in the learning of a foreign language, how linguistics fits into ones teaching

    beliefs and practices to benefit language learning in class.

    As outlined here, language instruction and learning also need to be backed up by

    some sort of methodology or theory of instruction. As pointed by Bruner (1966b 40-41,

    quoted by Williams & Burden, 1997), the theory instruction should include: 1) the

    necessary experiences to foster learning, 2) the ways in which knowledge is going to be

    conveyed for learners to grasp, and 3) the most effective sequence in which the subject-

    matter needs to be introduced. With all these elements in mind, one can become a great

    teaching practitioner with lots of fulfilled, satisfied, motivated learners.

    Williams, M. & Burden, R. (1997). Psychology for language teachers. Cambridge:

    Cambridge University Press.

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