Becoming a Language Teacher Chapter 1


Okay, let’s get started with Chapter 1, which seems to me to be the best place to start this book. The title of the chapter is What Should I Know About Language Learners and Language Teaching Settings? In this chapter, we are going to have a look at different aspects about language learners that may affect they way we teach. Something to remember about teaching English is that it is kind of like selling a product. We are trying to sell English, and the customers are our students. We want them to buy our product, and to do this, it is helpful if we can know more about our students and their needs. Let’s have a look. Here are the main topics we are going to have a look at in this chapter. My goal is to keep each of the videos in this series less than 15 minutes. So my explanations are going to be quite brief and concentrated on the main points. I expect you to watch this video a few times and read the text so you will be fully prepared for class. So the first part looks at the difference between a second language and a foreign language. In class, I’d like to have this discussion. As you read through to page 7, I want you to think about the difference for students studying in a second language environment and those studying in a foreign language environment. Think about it, take some notes, and be prepared to share your opinion in class. So basically, the difference between a second language and foreign language depends on whether you would use the target language, that is the language you are studying, in daily life. So, if you were studying English in the United States, for example, and after class you went to buy an ice cream, you would probably speak English as you bought that ice cream. That would make it a second language environment. However, if you were studying English in Japan, and went to buy an ice cream, you would most likely not use English. This, therefore, would make it a foreign language environment. So if you were studying French in Paris, would this be a second language environment or foreign language environment? …… It would be a second language environment. On pages 5, 6, and 7, we can see a variety of acronyms and terminology used in discussions about teaching English. Although all of these are important, I would like you to especially remember the following terms. There are a few here, so I suggest you take a screen shot to help you remember them. First, we have ESL and EFL. I explained the difference between second language and foreign language in the previous slide, so you should be able to understand these two easily. Next, there are three similar situations. The first, bilingual education, is easy to understand, because language content is taught in both the student’s first language, or L1, and the target language. Submersion & Immersion may be a little more difficult. The main difference, however, is whether the learner is receiving support or not. In the case of submersion, there is no support. With Immersion, teachers realise the student’s L1 is not English, and therefore gives assistance to the student. Next, we see two acronyms related to teaching. First, TESOL looks at how to teach ESL and EFL, and ESP refers to concentrating on teaching English to students who will use it in specific situations, such as nursing and tourism. Finally, we have world languages. English does not just belong to native speakers. These days, many researchers claim that the many varieties of English are acceptable. Some researchers, however, tend to disagree. This is an interesting topic of discussion and I would like to cover this in class. What do you think? Should ESL and EFL teachers consider many varieties of English in their
classes, or just concentrate on one? In the next part, from the end of page seven through to page 18, we look at the factors that affect learners and the way they study. First, there are Affective Factors, which look at the students’ feelings, Cognitive Factors, which consider the way students think and process language, and Metacognitive Factors: the way students control their learning. Let’s have a look at these a little more closely. So we start with Affective Factors, in which there are two main ones described in this textbook: Attitudes and Motivation, and Anxiety. Obviously we cannot cover these in much detail, but there are a few things I would like you to remember. Within Attitudes and Motivation, we first see instrumental motivation, which describes students who are motivated for reasons such as passing a test, or earning more money. On the other hand, integrative motivation refers to students who study in order to make friends with people who speak that language, for example. We also see intrinsic motivation, the drive that comes from within yourself, and extrinsic motivation: motivation that is influenced by some outer force such as parents and teachers. Although instrumental motivation and extrinsic motivation seem similar, as do integrative motivation and intrinsic motivation, they are slightly different. We should also be aware that in the past, intrinsic and integrative motivation seemed to more effective, but now, researchers are more interested in the level of motivation rather than the type. Finally, for this half of the slide, we have Autonomy, which is a situation where students take charge of their own learning. There are five excellent tips at the bottom of page 9 and top of page 10 that discuss how to increase your students’ motivation. I suggest you remember them. Then we have Anxiety. It is no surprise that Anxiety is discussed in this textbook, because the author is very very well known in this field. Generally, humans don’t want to be embarrassed, and we tend to feel anxious when are limits are tested, and we think, for example, people may find out we are not as smart as they think we are, or we feel we might be laughed at. This especially happens when learners of a language speak in front of native speakers. The idea of willingness to communicate suggests we should look at anxiety and motivation together, because students who have high anxiety, are less likely to be willing to communicate. So how can we reduce our students’ anxiety? There are nine great tips on page 12. Make sure you read through them and keep these ideas in mind when you start teaching in the classroom. Do you have any further ideas? This is another point I’d like to discuss in class. How can you tell that your students are feeling anxious about English, and how can you lower that anxiety? Next we move onto Cognitive Factors, which refers to how humans think. This can be divided into two main parts: Language aptitude and Learning Styles. Language aptitude considers students’ natural ability to be successful language learners. Some people just seem to have an ability to learn languages. There are tests to check whether you or your students have high language aptitude, but these are rarely used these days, except by researchers. We also have Learning Styles, which look looks at different ways humans learn. Our textbook gives a few ideas at the top of page 13, but I really encourage you to look at Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. If you scan the QR Code on the screen here, you can find an interesting article that explains different intelligences humans have. Based on these, you can discover different ways your students learn. It is also important to think about whether your students have a field-dependent learning style (or field-sensitive as it is called in the United States), that is do students look at language as a whole, or do they have a field-independent learning style, where they concentrate on the smaller details of language. There are many cultural aspects that may affect these learning styles. One of the biggest challenges for language teachers, or any teacher for that matter, is to meet all the learning styles of their students. On page 14, you can see five useful ideas for helping students with different learning styles. Make sure you read through them and consider your own similar ideas. Finally, we have Metacognitive Factors. ‘Metacognition’ can be quite a difficult word. The simplest way to explain it, is that metacognition is thinking about the way we think. The author of our textbook also defines it as ‘how and what learners think about the learning process.’ Here, we are keeping it simple, and looking at metacognition in two parts, Beliefs about Language Learning and Language Learning Strategies. First, we see that learners have many beliefs when it comes to language learning: how languages should be studied, the difficulty of learning another language, who is good at naturally picking up language, and what makes a good language teacher. Some students may have unrealistic beliefs about language learning, such as becoming fluent in a language simply by listening to a CD while driving, and it is these kinds of students that often feel more anxious in their learning. There are some valuable hints on page 16 to help you and your students develop realistic understanding of language learning. Second, we have Language Learning Strategies. I believe that one of the major goals of language teachers is to pass on strategies for learning from your own experience. That is why I often suggest that assistant language teachers who come to Japan from abroad should study Japanese and feel free to use it at their schools so they too can share ideas with students. There are a few different kinds of strategies discussed in this part of the text, and I would like you to read up on them all. I especially want you to consider, however, that as language teachers, we need to share both Direct Strategies, that is strategies related to, for example, how to memorise words more easily and practice speaking, and Indirect Strategies – assisting students in the organisation of their studies, and so on. Do you have any examples of direct and indirect strategies for learning from your own experience? Think of a few, take some notes and let’s talk about them in class. The last couple of pages of the chapter briefly look at cognitive development, that is, how the way the humans think changes over time. We see that in early adolescence, humans tend to lose some of the ability to learn language. We also see that for learners under the age of 11 or 12, it may not be best to use grammatical explanations in teaching. We’ll talk more about cognitive development in the next chapter. We also see a short piece about Identity and Language Learning. We see that as well as issues related to cognition, there are also psychological and social changes that affect language learning. These will be covered in more detail in Chapter 3. Also, we read here that culture, both your own culture and that of the language you are studying, greatly affect learning. We cannot really become successful learners if we don’t understand the culture of the language we are studying. So that is it for Chapter 1. To prepare for class, I suggest you watch this video a few times, with and without the captions. Also, take some notes about the discussion topics I gave you in this video. This will help you participate more, which will make the discussions much more interesting. See you in class.

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