Unfortunately, “can’t” “won’t” and “don’t” continue to be the most common words to resume the vision that most British have over language learning. The causes of this indifference are varied, but could be reduced to one: English is the universal lingua franca, and will remain like that for many years.
This brief article doesn´t pretend to analyze how we have reached to this situation, which caused it, or what the solutions are; that is another story and deserves to be told on another occasion. What I am looking to do is to share some of the lessons that I have learned through my six years as a teacher.
I trust and wish that some of them can motivate the lecturer and help him to transform his class into a more communicative, interactive, and above everything, fun and creative place.
1 INTERACTION AND PARTICIPATION
I firmly believe that the communicative interaction is the most appropriated method for my students because they confront real communicative situations that happen every day, but with enough guarantees.
Before the communicative approach, my students’ responded to some excessively rigid guidelines with barely any element of cohesion and, in any case, were very far from real communicative interaction. After the approach, the conversation was authentic interaction suggesting a completely different model with much more intuitive and spontaneous tasks.
The greater advantage of the communicative approach in regards to pedagogic speech is precisely the endowment of language teaching with a context and with intention.
I believe that dominating a language does not consist of learning the functionality of its linguistic system and all its possible combinations, but rather in the interaction and participation with other users, understanding that the most important function of the language is communication.
Over these fundamental principles, I have designed and planned all the curricular programs and activities that we put into practice daily in class with our students.
2 LET´S PLAY
Play is something innate to human activity; in fact, our genetic code is predisposed for entertainment. Six years ago – when literature barely existed about gamification in the language classroom – I started to apply, techniques and mechanics of games in my classes with the purpose of strengthening and stimulating the concentration, motivation, and effort of my students.
It is evident that human beings like to play, because it is fun, entertaining, and in most cases – although we do not realize it at the time – educational. For that reason, we have been playing games for centuries and will keep doing it in the future, to a greater extent.
I have not done anything but take advantage of the predisposition to play that we have by nature, and to create activities and dynamics that foster in my students the same positive fell that they experience when playing, and, you know what? They love to play!
3 COMMUNICATIVE APPROACH
Taking the communicative approach in my classes has to do with confronting the reticence by two kinds of students: those who come from cultures in which the professor is considered a transmitter of scientific truth and those who view their role as a passive agent of learning that limits himself exclusively to memorizing and repeating the presented ideas.
Passing through a teaching culture to a learning culture required me to redefine the students’ and professor’s roles, assume a conceptual change of teaching, overcome old prejudices, and venture in to invigorating learning in class by favoring the developing capacity of my students. Looking at it from this perspective and looking at the results, I have no doubt that the effort was worth it.
4 ACTIVE STUDENTS
In the traditional methods, the professor directly presented a series of problems to the students; the professor developed some linguistics needs and then provided the students with the necessary tools, capable of satisfying those needs and solving the presented problems.
Regrettably, this is a story well known by many of us because it has been the prevailing method in the teaching of language until the appearance of the communicative method..
The student, being a passive subject in the education process, was relegated to a role almost marginal in favor of the professor who occupied the principal role of the process. Changing this mentality of course is not easy and, requires a solid training on the part of the teachers and major commitment to the educational project.
Before, the professor presented the problem. Now I can present a problem, a task, or situation; but what I’m looking for is my students to confront each other with their linguistic necessities and find, through the materials that I provide, the tools that are going to satisfy those necessities: taking those that are useful and rejecting those that are not.
5 THE POWER OF COMMUNITY
The socio-affective component is key to a well-functioning program and, as you well know by your experience, it is not always easy to get.
The language classroom is a micro-space or a micro-world where, unknown people live together, each one of them with different worldviews.
Two of the aspects that as a professor I have put special attention on, are creating a good work environment and promoting the interaction between members of the group. We cannot force our students to take each other along but what we have to do, and is in our hands and between our obligations as teachers, is to try to make them respect and accept each other as members of a community.
How we cultivate the relations between the different members of the group, how intense they are, and the measure by which that contact is deemed fruitful, will all depend on the achievement of our educative objectives.
6 TASKS AND PROJECTS BASED LEARNING
The approach for tasks and projects requires a mayor commitment by all of us. That effort is compensated if we calculate the benefits that our students can achieve in their learning.
The student, developing interesting and motivating tasks manages to get the meaning of the statements and reaches the language from the activity, unlike what would happen with traditional methods, in which the activity would be reached through the language. This process will lead to a reflection on the use of the system that they have been using.
The learning method by projects allows the student to become an active agent in his training and contrasts with the passive role that the traditional methods relegated to him. Unlike traditional methods for language learning, this approach to tasks concedes wide spaces of improvisation and flexibility for students to solve the tasks or final tasks by their own means and abilities.
7 TEACHING STRATEGIES
I always motivate my students to assume major responsibility for their learning process. This way, the student will become a participative element of learning and will collaborate in an active manner with the professor, who, once –he abandons the monopoly of knowledge transmission – will adopt the role of coordinator, supervisor, or facilitator of learning.
It essential that the student is aware of his learning processes and the strategies that he uses, so he can achieve major efficacy in his learning and major autonomy from the professor.
The professor must understand the learning process from the perspective of the student, discover and have in mind the strategies that they already practice, show them others, teach them how they work, explain why and when they can be implemented and encourage them to discover by themselves those that work best with their learning style.
8 WHERE IS THE GRAMMAR?
It is understandable that many students do not understand how to learn a language. The most important thing is using it, doing things with it. That is the usefulness of language, communicating with the environment or with other users of the same system.
Communication between the professor and the students is essential and can be negotiated regarding what kind of activities are liked more or less by the students, thereby, trying to satisfy the linguistic necessities of every member of the group.
My students have accepted very willingly the method by tasks; precisely because most of them came from classes where the interaction with their classmates was practically null and where they limited themselves to completing exercises and filling unstimulated and impractical gaps.
It is true that this learning method has negative points and that it requires meticulous planning and activity sequencing by the professor for the right execution.
Despite this, and still recognizing that other routes of access to knowledge exist, I think this method is the more realistic and adequate for language learning