Teach English in EjinaqimazongshAn Sumu - Alashan Meng — Alxa

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My own experience in studying foreign languages has been somewhat scattered. I have studied a variety of languages, most to only a rudimentary level. These have included both modern and ancient languages, and I have found that my approach has differed significantly depending on whether or not a language is living. A dead language is studied primarily for reading, and this gives a much narrower (although certainly not easier) scope to the skills that must be acquired. A living language, on the other hand, is usually learned to be spoken and heard, written and read. Depending on which of these skills is most important to the acquisition of a given language, the methods of learning will differ significantly. Most of my time in learning foreign languages has been spent learning to read, although I have taken numerous language courses, particularly in Spanish, and studied abroad for a short period of time in Spain. I have found that the fastest and most effective method for acquiring reading proficiency in a foreign language is to emphasis vocabulary and the practice of authentic texts. This is especially the case for Romance languages, which have relatively simple grammatical laws, which can be learned without too much difficulty. Indeed, much of the grammar of such languages can be learned from reading practice. That said, however, grammar study remains absolutely essential, and the more explicit knowledge one possesses regarding grammar rules, the easier reading will become. So these three components – vocabulary, grammar, the reading of real texts – are the primary methods in gaining reading proficiency. I have found that the greatest weight should be given to reading practice, followed closely by vocabulary acquisition, and lastly by grammar. Learning strategies must be different when speaking, listening, and writing are desirable skills. I have found that learning to write is easily paired with learning to read, and perhaps the best method is to practice translating English texts into the target language, or to practice writing one’s thoughts in said language. Speaking and listening present a different challenge. In my own life, I have taken a variety of language courses that provide a space to practice speaking the language with other students. This often takes the form of games, or short exercises. While these can be a relatively efficient way to learn, it is often difficult to motivate students who are still shy regarding their elementary capabilities to speak with any kind of regularity. This difficulty grows in proportion to the size of the class. Banning the use of English during certain exercises is one method of dealing with this, as is performing such practice as a class, rather than in groups. Despite these difficulties, there is no other way to learn to speak a language besides practicing with other people, and so it is essential that such practice be a part of a class. Ideally, one would have access to a native-speaker with whom to converse, but this is a rarity. Of course, the more immersed one can be in a language, the quicker learning will take place, and so traveling to a place where the use of said language is necessary will be the quickest way to learn. Listening is of course practiced when one converses, but can also be practiced alone, utilizing media such as television, music, etc. In all of these activities, several meta-skills are necessary. For one, diligence in practice must be maintained. I have found that learning how to space study sessions at proper intervals (reviewing new information more frequently that information that is has been more integrated), to be extremely beneficial. General analytical skills are also necessary, for one must learn how to understand grammatical structures, recognize them in practice, and discern their meaning in relationship to the vocabulary and context. The most important skill, however, is undoubtedly memory. The use of flashcards, or similar review methods, is a necessity. I have also found that utilizing mnemonic techniques allows me to radically improve my capacity to memorize vocabulary, and to a lesser extent grammar, and therefore to speed up language learning dramatically. Learning visual techniques, loci methods, or what have you, is an incredibly useful skill to develop. In all, I have come to enjoy the very process of studying foreign languages, and that there are numerous underlying methods that can make language acquisition more effective and more enjoyable. These will of course vary depending on the skills that one is most interested in learning, but will always involve certain meta-skills that must be refined for learning to be most effective. Having studied a variety of languages in numerous contexts has given me a firm understanding of these techniques, and I continue to utilize them in my own learning. I hope that, given the opportunity to teach, I will be able to pass them on so as to make foreign language acquisition easier and more enjoyable.