A New Approach Every Decade
It seems with every decade a new approach or theory of English or other foreign language learning comes into vogue. Keeping up can be daunting, even exasperating for TEFL English teachers worldwide. Each of us has our own environment and particular situation in regards to materials, facilities, time constraints, knowledge, training, skills and abilities among other venues. Let’s not even talk about administrative demands. Despite these, there are some commonalities. Our EFL / ESL learners all want the same thing in varying degrees – to develop English language skills.
So first, let’s consider some ways people can learn new information or develop new skills and abilities. Regardless of currently accepted approaches or theory some aspects are staple and constant. There are, essentially, nine ways students learn new information or develop new skills. These key methods are:
Observing someone else, then copying their actions
We all know this one. It made millions for Arthur Murray and numerous other dance instructors. We watch, and then we try until the movements are fluid and natural looking. It takes two to Tango in more ways than one. Ever watch an infant? As you coo and talk to him / her, they watch your mouth intently. Later, they’ll try to mimic you and other speakers. It works, of course. After all, YOU can talk quite well now, can’t you?
Practicing doing something on our own
Actually, I learned to play rudimentary chess this way, practicing by “playing” against myself for hours on end. Many fishermen learn and develop their skills using this method as well. For language learning, students could try using CDs, tapes, videos or mimicking speakers live, on TV or radio.
Having a personal instructor or trainer
From learning to skate to getting a Black Belt, this is a preferred method for many physical skills. When learners attend a formal class this method is being incorporated too.
Taking a course from a knowledgeable person or source
For study and learning of abstract knowledge like the arts, language or music, most people would tend to use this method. At some point or another most learners do attend a class in the target language, especially in the USA, England, Canada or Australia where English is the first language of the people.
Keep trying and failing until the action, sequence or information is “acquired”
Whether growing a new business or learning to ice skate, this is one way, albeit a painful one at times, to learn a new skill. In acquiring speaking and listening comprehension skills, learners need to continually try and “fail” in the production and comprehension efforts.
Following guidelines or instructions on how to do something
Want to build your own computer? Assemble a model plane, car or boat? Hit a straight drive or bowl a 300? Most likely you’ve used this method with electronics or in assembling a toy, a framework, and a piece of furniture or something like a tent. In a language pronunciation segment, learners follow speech reproduction guidelines to improve their sound production accuracy.
Think about each of these methods or approaches and I’m sure you’ll come up with some skill, ability or knowledge you obtained using several of them. You’ll likely also note that different types and kinds of skills required different approaches on your part. You likely tried to learn something in one way, failed, and then tried another approach or two successfully. So keep learning. Keep growing and Good Luck.