An essential part of learning a language is the understanding of effective methods that can be used both inside and outside of the classroom. An essential part of learning languages is consistency obviously, see our post HERE, but it is also very easy to waste time on ineffective or outdated methods. So I have a question for both the students and teachers out there; how much do you talk about ways of learning in class? Don’t you think that it’s important for students to understand how they can best use their study time?
As part of classes I think it is essential for teachers to explain study skills and how students can take advantage of every moment they use a language in order to learn it as quickly and as well as possible. To learn a language a person must have patience, but more importantly they need the knowhow of how languages work and the best methods that can be applied to be able to learn them (HERE). We know that book learning and memorizing grammar structures is an awful way of learning, but do all of our students understand this? There are some fantastic talks about how we learn languages (see our last post) and I think the general ideas can be taken from these language experts and used in the classroom.
What I like to do is give a ‘study tip’ each class (I put it on the board in a different colour pen next to the objective). This can be something as simple as ‘think in English’ or ‘find a study buddy’. This should be incorporated into classroom activities to reinforce it and explained. Through this students normally get interested in the way we learn and try some of them out.
It is important that students see their own progress to feel motivated, a simple piece of advice that I like to use is ‘focus on what you know and what you CAN do’. When speaking it is really important for students to focus on the vocabulary and structures that they are familiar with to avoid going blank or thinking, ‘How do you say ________ in English?’. Thinking in English even from an early stage helps with this. Students can often fall into bad habits and start translating everything from the very beginning and this can be a tough habit to break.
Examples of study tips:
- practise speaking and pronunciation skills in the shower
- find a study buddy (HERE)
- think in English
- find what you love and use it in the target language (HERE)
- read in English (lower levels to read books they are already familiar with)
- watch TV in English and take notes of new vocabulary (things you have already seen in your own language)
- make and learn from mistakes (we learn from going out of our comfort zone)
- speak to yourself
- focus on what you know and build from there
- introduce new vocabulary little by little (HERE)
- context is everything
- vocabulary needs context to be used well (HERE)
As the teacher it is important to lead by example and demonstrate that you know about or have experienced the language learning process. As a Spanish speaker who began learning at 22 years of age, I can relate hundreds of personal experiences to my student’s struggles and I believe this is a great way to motivate them, I am also studying German with a fantastic language teacher on UPVERB. Teaching is more than just course material, we need to guide, help and motivate our students to ensure a successful learning experience. When I started out learning Spanish I didn’t really understand how language acquisition worked and therefore wasted a lot of time. Many students feel this way and they need to understand how to make the most of their time. Explain to language learners that they need to learn new vocabulary or grammar structures with context. Without context they are useless because they will not form part of the student’s ‘language database’ or ‘ language web’ if you prefer. When actually using language it is very difficult to recall learnt information without being able to relate it to a context.