My purpose as a teacher is to help my students be able to use the language for communication inside and outside my classroom.
Desire is necessary to language learning. If students do not want to learn a language, almost nothing I do will make them learn. Therefore, part of my role as a teacher is to make learning enjoyable and to teach my students why learning a language is important.
Language use requires skill as well as knowledge. I want my students to be able to use their language. That requires both study and practice. Knowledge of the language is acquired through teacher instruction and individual study. Skill is acquired through frequent and repeated practice. Students can memorize mountains of vocabulary and learn every grammar rule by heart, but if they don’t practice writing and especially speaking with those rules, their knowledge does them little good in the real world. Techniques such as role plays and interviews for practicing speaking and listening, essays for practicing writing, and authentic reading texts suited to the level of the students are excellent ways to practice. Both my students and I must be prepared to review concepts multiple times in order for students to truly internalize them. Automaticity is the eventual goal.
Strategies are essential to language learning. Strategies can help students learn how to read, write, listen, and speak better. By teaching strategies, I can enable my students to improve much faster in the classroom, as well as give them tools to continue their language learning for the rest of their lives. Strategies that become habits are skills.
I believe that the basic skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing are all essential to learning a language. Each of the skills can help improve the others, so they should be integrated whenever possible. However, you simply cannot focus on a few and hope students can figure out the rest based on the one or two skills they learn. You cannot do what you do not practice. There are no shortcuts to learning how to use these in a foreign language; it takes hard work. Reading is learned by reading, speaking by speaking, and so on. However, students cannot do any of these things without first receiving instruction on how to do them. Therefore, I must first teach students how to use the skills, and then give them practice in class. Additionally, I will strongly encourage my students to practice outside the classroom as much as they possibly can.
Culture, pronunciation, and vocabulary also play an important role in the language classroom and should be taught. They all contribute to the basic language skills. Culture serves to expand students’ knowledge of the language, such as why certain words and phrases are used certain ways and what kind of language is appropriate in what situations. Pronunciation instruction helps the students understand and be understood. However, I think native-like pronunciation is difficult if not impossible for most adults. I must make sure my students know this so they don’t get frustrated if they can’t achieve native-like speech. Without a good base of vocabulary that students can recognize and use, they will have a very difficult time communicating. I believe that the teacher is responsible for explicit teaching of vocabulary in the lower levels, but by the time students are at the advanced levels, they should take responsibility for their own vocabulary acquisition.
Grammar should also be taught. Grammar is a skill that cannot fully be acquired by induction. As children, we are adept at simply absorbing language, but we lose some of that skill as we get older. However, our ability to learn rules and patterns compensates for that loss. I believe a teacher should use the target language as much as possible in the classroom to promote listening and speaking, but the teacher should spend some time directly teaching grammar, especially if the pattern is one that students are unlikely to figure out on their own. After teaching the grammar skill, teachers should try to use it often and encourage the students to use it often so they can remember it.