Academic journal article Utrecht Studies in Language and Communication

Language Teacher Education Models: New Issues and Challenges

Academic journal article Utrecht Studies in Language and Communication

Language Teacher Education Models: New Issues and Challenges

Article excerpt

1 Introduction

Language teacher education is a broad and ever-broadening subject. Globalisation and the increasing mobility of the world population have led to a surge in demand for language educators. At the same time the increasing linguistic and cultural heterogeneity of Western society, the growth of English as a lingua franca and the evolution of new digital systems of knowledge creation and diffusion highlight the need for a rethink of language teacher education. Existing models need to be adapted and new models developed in order to deal with the new teaching and learning situations and new forms of access to knowledge which now exist.

In this chapter we look in detail at language teacher education models. First of all we look at language teachers themselves; we briefly discuss the specificities of language teaching and the nature of the subject taught. We move on to look at existing language teacher education models and then to explore the assumptions upon which they are based. Finally we discuss how these models are evolving and need to evolve in order to deal with the specific challenges of education in the 21st century.

2 Language teachers as a professional body

2.1 Language teaching in the 21st century

- The contexts

21st century language teachers work in a wide variety of contexts. Within public school systems language educators are involved both in teaching foreign languages and in providing second language assistance to students whose home language is not the official language of the national education system. Universities worldwide employ specialists in English for academic purposes and scientific writing and there is a growing call for professionals qualified to teach specific subjects such as law or medicine through the medium of a foreign language. A huge variety of private language institutes around the world provide courses for individuals or groups of all ages and levels, whilst many international businesses employ language specialists to give direct training to their employees.

- The knowledge

The knowledge which the language teacher needs to communicate to his or her students will clearly differ according to the situation within which she/he teaches. In certain very specific circumstances students may only need to learn very particular lists of vocabulary or expressions, or may only need to learn to read. However, most learners will need to use their new language within a communicative context. It is the acquisition of communicative competence which makes learning and teaching languages different from learning and teaching other subjects.

- The specific skills

A language teacher needs to have a somewhat holistic approach. Whilst the building blocks of language can be learnt from a book, the acquisition of communicative competence requires participation in communicative contexts. It requires dealing with the language as a whole even when the language is not yet successfully mastered. Language learning implies risk taking and making mistakes, it is learning by doing. The language classroom therefore needs to be a non-judgemental space where students feel free to try to express themselves without fear of losing face. It is rarely a silent place. The language teacher is responsible for creating this kind of learning environment and needs to feel comfortable managing interactive activities and encouraging the experimental expression of ideas. A successful language teacher has to relinquish the focal position within the classroom and take on the role of guide and facilitator. This requires a particular kind of teacher education model.

2.2 Language teacher education programmes

It should be no surprise that the world of language teacher education is almost as varied as that of the language teachers themselves. Teacher education opportunities range from short intensive courses, through university programs, at either undergraduate or masters level, to in-school apprenticeships and cover almost everything in between as well. …

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