Alternative English Teaching Methodologies

Manila Bulletin, May 26, 2010 | Go to article overview

Alternative English Teaching Methodologies


Over the last six to seven decades, a wide range of approaches to teaching English has evolved.

Some have endeavored to capture the way primary English speakers acquire the language as very young children, i.e. by absorbing the language around them - free of direction or formal instruction and in the absence of imposed grammatical rules.

Others have focused on the learning processes of self-discovery and trial and error, with practice and exposure to varying language situations being the keys to accuracy, fluency and confident competency.

New learners of English who live in English-speaking environments, are seen by linguists and educators as having a significant advantage. Surrounded by the language and confronted continually with everyday English language situations, they can readily put the additional language talents into practice in practical, real-life and relevant circumstances.

In sharp contrast, for the vast majority of new English learners, those benefits are usually not available. Instead, learners living in their native countries, where English is not the first or an official language, are faced with a huge learning journey that can take in excess of five years to successfully complete.

While some of these learners may have the opportunity to use English in their place work or study - or with, friends - the exposure to English for so many is limited to their daily or weekly English language classes at an educational institution.

Regardless of where the English language instruction occurs, be it in an English-speaking or "native-language" country, the "natural language acquisition" desired and espoused by some linguists is impossible to completely replicate or imitate in a classroom environment, despite valid attempts by some practitioners.

The reality is that while "self-discovery", "learner-centeredness", "task-based learning" and "natural acquisition" are valued elements of any teaching process, the role, the expertise, and the involvement of the teacher should never be dismissed or undervalued.

The ultimate decision and choice remains with the education provider generally and the individual teacher specifically, based on the perceived English language needs of the learners.

Over the next few weeks, English Is Power will briefly explore a range of teaching methods that are used to impart the English language. The decision as which method is best will often vary from classroom to classroom - from age group to age group - skill level to skill level - teacher to teacher and even from culture to culture.

The competent, experienced teacher knows that often the secret to successful teaching is to be able to draw on the positive attributes of different methodologies and apply them when required in particular learning situations. …

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