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Human cognition makes us special because thanks to it we could distinguish ourselves from the remaining living being and consider us unique specie. This is due to human cognition possess a group of mental processes which enable us to develop our mind and achieve a wide range of information that will help us to solve problems, make decisions, think and know how to apply our knowledge to different situations (La flecha: tu diario de ciencia y tecnología, 2008:unpaginated).
However, we should bear in mind that we are talking about a cognition that must be developed and that is in this process in which education and teaching have an important and explicit role in society. (Part of what Drives Bad Bookkeepers: Train Wrecks looking for a place to happen, 2010, p. 2)
Taking in account all the above explained and referring to a famous quotation of David Hume (1711- 1776): "The sweetest path of life leads through the avenues of learning and whoever can open up the way for another ought, so far, to be esteemed a benefactor to mankind", I could realize that being teacher requires not only patience, but also the ability to pass on their knowledge creating curiosity and motivating students through several types of methodologies and assumptions and more regarding language studies, which is what this essay is based.
Methodologies depending on learners.
As we all know each person is different and therefore, deciding which methodology, known as a complex of behaviours in a teaching context, motivated by at least some theoretical ideas about learning or which is the same, theory and practice tasks put together (Rodgers, 2001), is the most suitable for every student is a complex task. Nevertheless, we tend to adopt similar behaviours to other people when we are working within a group that depends on our own goals and that could sometimes help teachers use one learner style and strategy or another (Harmer, 2007:88).
According to Keith Willing, an educationalist, the four learner categories are: convergers, conformist, concrete and communicative learners (1987, cited in Harmer, 2007:88).
My own experience.
The whole world has changed throughout history; it has been developing in relation to important events and discoveries that have not left indifferent to the learning process. In fact, I have been able to experience as a communicative language learner a considerable evolution of mechanisms that teachers typically used since I started my studies. I divided them up into:
Teaching methods depending on languages.
It could be thought that the acquisition of foreign languages should respond to very similar learning systems. Nevertheless, the route of their development are closely related to the impact of our mother tongue on the rest due to similar linguistic structures (Myles, n. d: 7). My point is that my language teaching methodologies have been mixed in regard to languages which I have studied.
The most common used method during my language learning has its origin in the nineteenth century and it is based on teaching languages through explanations of individual points of grammar and translation exercises. It is a deductive approach (that goes from the general information to the more specific hypotheses). It is called Grammar-translation method and I had to learn three different languages using it: English, French and German.
Under my point of view, it is a rather incomplete method because languages are treated in a reduced context. Secondly, it does not result in practice speaking and thirdly, it takes accuracy as the main object of interest to communicate, which is completely erroneous (Harmer, 2001: 63).
Audiolingualism comes from the direct method and it is based on a continuous process of repetition that engenders good habits in language learners. It is an inductive approach (that goes from the more specific hypotheses to the general information) and I have used it to learn English and French.
Personally, I think that it is an old method since it still relies upon accuracy. Consequently, we cannot be creative enough or get an idea of real-life communication (Harmer, 2007: 64).
The 3 P's lesson shape is a teacher-centred procedure which tries to help us learn grammatical rules after knowing, practicing and producing a contextual language. My English and German teachers used it, although I believe that it is a very organized method. PPP does not allow us to analyse what we are saying because of the immediate production.
In my opinion, teachers should not make an excessive use of it or they would have to choose a different trilogy of teaching sequence elements, such as ESA or EAS (Harmer, 2007: 66-67).
Another learning method that I have experienced is focused on the transfer. I used it while I was studying French as a result of some similar structures between it and my own language (Spanish) including tenses, vocabulary and forms. I also have used transfer between English and German to understand different meanings, similar linguistic structures and some tricks of pronunciation that I was able to use in English, but they were more difficult to me in German.
In my opinion transfer can sometimes be positive. We would have to consider two important points: when the borrowing of a structure leads to a correct form and the context in which we could use it (Myles, n. d: 10).
Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) includes communicative activities towards student-centred learning. The most important goal of this method is to teach student to face real-life communication using meaningful tasks. We could divide it up further according to the grammar:
Weaker CLTïƒ grammar is still considered a strong point in order to communicate information.
Stronger CLTïƒ it is known as task-based learning. Grammar played a secondary role and the most important task is the communication (Caswell, 2011).
I could experience this method when I arrived at Edinburgh, not only in English language, but also in German. To be quiet honest it seems to me an appropriate inductive approach that gives us the opportunity to correct ourselves, pay attention to our utterance and speak languages fluently. Nevertheless, a language teaching cannot be solely based on CLT because accuracy is also important.
Finally, I would talk about the lexical approach method. In recent years its use has been growing since we should learn to communicate as of word combinations and a minimal grammar, too (Caswell, 2011). I have seen it during my stay abroad (for instance, in micro-teaching lessons) and as far as I am concerned it could be useful at the beginning of learning to encourage us to produce formulaic expressions and avoid the production of calques.
Teaching methods depending on countries.
I would also like to mention that in regard to the described methods which teachers have used in my learning process, I realize that there are some differences between countries. My point is that, in my case, I have been able to use new learning method during my stay in Edinburgh, such as TBL, CLT and the lexical approach that I have never used before in Spain. I think that the reason of it is quite simple: they propose as main aims different skills. While in United Kingdom, teachers firstly focus on communicative lessons that they will integrate fluency and accuracy at the end of the cycle, in Spain learning languages process is basically based on grammar (accuracy is also very important), but then it can be more difficult to get fluency or a good pronunciation without improvising speech practice. Another important difference is that here teachers speak during their lessons in the language which students have to learn while in Spain (at least in my school) teachers use our mother tongue. I think that it is wrong because we cannot develop our listening and comprehensive skills, as well as not to represent a real situation.
In recent years there has been a growing recognition of the importance of electronic evolution that has caused a huge effect on all our spheres including the learning process. Virtual education, within a learner-oriented environment, allows us develop skills, knowledge and new perceptions of the world promoting life-long learning principles.
I have observed how technology has been introduced in my language learning since a few years ago through the use of fixed data projectors, interactive whiteboards, overhead projectors, computer and tape recorders. They are all new learning resources that are represented at the bottom of the technology pyramid (Harmer, 2007: 175).
They lead to discover new routes for learning, among them different ways of showing, listening, composing and finding out. For instance, last year I began studying German by means of a new website called Daf- Collage. It offers analysis tools in order to help us to organize and put in order our new acquired knowledge of German and a generator of exercises that facilitate teacher's work (Universidad de Granada, 2012).
The truth is that it helps me to analyse some fixed combinations, word formation, structures and my own strategies due to analysis tools are divided into five different categories such as:
Lexical fields: substantives, verbs, adjectives and others.
As we can see, there are so many different factors included in our learning process and they could determinate our variability in route, rate and outcome of the acquisition process. In spite of the fact that it cannot be accurately predicted, it is being treated and studied to enhance as much as possible the education system. However, we should keep in mind that the last decision is up to ourselves and the interest, the enthusiasm and effort that we devote to it depending on our needs.