Teach English in TiAntang Zhen - Yongzhou Shi

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We live in an ever changing world which is becoming smaller, more connected. Communication is faster and more diverse than ever. Computers, cell phones and social media have increased the speed of communication and therefore the need for people to be able to respond quickly and the language that has become synonymous with international communication is English and thus the demand for learning the language is increasing at a constant rate. But though people may have the need, they may lack confidence to fully take on a new language. It is different to learn a new language at a young age or later on in life. In both cases, though, for beginners and sometimes even for more experienced learners, there is a language barrier that needs to be broken. So, how do we break it so students can efficiently communicate in English? When we learn our native language, we are fully immersed in that language. It surrounds us from the minute we are born and our brains begin making associations immediately. We don’t put much thought into it. It just happens. The same occurs with children who acquire two or more languages simultaneously, in the case of parents who speak different languages. When you are thrown into a situation of full immersion, much of the same process occurs. You are surrounded by the language and the need to put the language into practice is greater, therefore you will risk more and attempt to speak. Opportunities abound. You become highly aware of the language around you and out of necessity, start putting it into use. In a classroom situation you will not be able to replicate full immersion authentically, but the same principle of listening and putting into practice can be achieved by trying to create the most authentic situations possible. Initially though, basic English should be explicitly taught. The first need in order for communication to happen is vocabulary, a repertoire of words to use. Eliciting and pre-teaching vocabulary at the onset of class provides students with a reference from which to communicate throughout the lesson. However, even after having achieved a certain level of vocabulary, it is not uncommon for students to feel uncomfortable and uncertain about speaking. It is important to create an environment which is lighthearted and fun, in which students, both young learners and older learners, feel at ease and comfortable enough to practice, and secure enough to make mistakes. A successful teacher is able to adapt to the needs of a variety of personalities and learning styles. Working with students on a one-on-one basis, teachers only have one student to think of at a time, but in a classroom there are many to think of. It is important to evaluate the needs of all students, and to ensure that you, as the teacher are meeting those needs. This will help maintain motivation for learning. As a teacher and language learner myself, I have become acutely aware of the importance of making mistakes and the gradual move from teacher correction to self-correction. But how do we make the process less painful, especially for more self-conscious learners who feel insecure about speaking and making mistakes? Role play is a great tool. Role play brings a real life situation into the classroom. While initially the roles and their spoken parts will be provided by the teacher, eventually, as students gain confidence and increased vocabulary, they can begin to create their own role plays. It is important for the teacher to gradually pull back from typical teacher centered, lecturer approaches and take on more of a facilitator approach, providing more and more opportunities for students to actively practice what they learn. In a single lesson a teacher can easily wear different hats, moving from lecturer, to facilitator, to observer and/or tutor when students are actively engaged. Games are a great choice to help break the speaking barrier. They provide a great range of possibilities to practice English in a fun and non-threatening way. Adaptable to different content, games can be used as warm ups or as practice or even student created as a means to apply and show what they have learned. The internet is also always a source of fun. There are online games and a world of English activities to choose from, where students can practice individually or alongside other language learners. Music too, is fun especially for younger and teenage student. Real life documents, faxes, company reports, newspaper clippings and other material can be sourced from the internet. These are authentic resources that make learning real. Social media, which was touched upon at the beginning of this essay as one of the reasons for the surge in English learners, is a source of practice. Students can and have become involved in many ways, from silent readers, to active participants in discussions and forums. Social media can easily be included in the language learning repertoire of older and business English learners , but not so for younger learners, as there are age limitations and safety measures in place for their use. The latest technological advances have proven to be great allies for students and teachers. Many teachers send students quick mini assignments over messaging systems. These are fun and short enough that business English learners can take a few minutes out of their busy days to complete them and respond over the same system, creating dynamic and useful practices. It is important to be aware of the appropriateness of interactions, being time and content sensitive and respecting the teacher/student relationship. Social media interaction conditions should be pre-arranged in order to avoid possible misunderstandings. It is possible tobuild confidence in students by creating a positive and immersive environment in which students are given ample and varied opportunities for speaking and risk taking, with the secure knowledge that making mistakes is acceptable and also an inherent part of learning. The focus should be primarily on the learner, making learning simultaneously functional and fun.