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March 2016

Tips for Teaching a Foreign Language

Top tips for teaching a foreign language to students

In this column, so far, we’ve focused primarily on tips targeted to foreign language students and advice for learning a new language. Today’s tips, however, are for the teachers of foreign languages, those who are hoping to bridge the gap between cultures. Even so, these tips will also benefit students of new languages; after all, every disciplined student is also a teacher to oneself. So whether you are a professional teacher or a self-taught disciple, these tips should help you on your path to language education.

Expose students to as much of the language as possible

While this may sound like an obvious thing to do, it is not always utilized in classrooms. Limit the native language and focus on the target one in your interactions with your students. Even if they don’t know any of the target language, they can still easily learn simple classroom commands. Spend the first day going over some simple phrases that you can utilize throughout the classroom experience. (“I don’t understand” and “May I be excused to use the restroom?” are two invaluable phrases.) Sometimes the native language will be required, however your job as a teacher is to expose as much of the target language as possible, enabling your students to also begin using it as quickly as possible.

Get hands-on: Encourage participation with games

Learning a new language cannot be a passive experience; get your students involved utilizing games and role-playing. Grammar exercises can be turned into participatory games that encourage students to think on their feet. Role-playing is essential for recreating real-world scenarios in which students would use their language skills. If your students are a bit younger, using rewards can help foster participation and engagement.

Encourage activities outside the classroom

To effectively learn a new language, students need to be as engaged as possible even when outside of the classroom. Give your students the tools to practice beyond textbook homework by assigning exercises that require interacting with real people. For example, if you’re teaching Italian, encourage your students to visit the local Italian restaurant or cafe to order something in Italian. The idea is to expose your students to how language is used in the real world, while giving them examples of practical application.

Teach culture alongside the language

It’s not enough to simply teach speaking; students must understand the meaning behind the language. Unveiling the culture from which the target language originates is essential in helping the student appreciate the true depth of the words being taught. But culture should not encompass only traditional history but also that of the modern. Use the news to demonstrate the important issues of the day in the target language’s country. Political updates are also invaluable, as it provides a connection between the target language’s country and the students’ home country.

Use multimedia to enhance the learning experience

The problem most language students have after learning in the classroom is the inability to communicate effectively in the country of the language. We each know at least one person who studied many years of a language in high school, only to find him or herself incapable of ordering a coffee when it comes down to it. Often, this is because the student isn’t taught to think and speak in a real-world environment. In the classroom, words are often enunciated, sentences are complete, and the pacing of speech is often slower. Get your students ready for the real world by using television, film, and radio broadcasts. While novice’s will not come close to understanding what’s being said on such mediums, they’ll at least get a hint of how the language flows, how gestures are used, and how quickly native speakers converse.

What are your top tips for teaching a foreign language? If you’re a student, what are some of the good things teachers have done to help you in the past? Let us know on our Facebook Page, and be sure to “like” TELC English for more language learning articles!

Picture: (c) JackF, Fotolia