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November 2018

Tips for Becoming a Better Language Teacher

Follow these tips to improve your tecahing quality

For the majority of this column, we’ve focused on tips for students who want to learn a new language. It would, however, be unfair to ignore the other side of the learning spectrum: teachers. By focusing on the best tips for students, we can, in turn, identify great lessons for language teachers on improving the efficacy of their courses. Today we’ll take a look at tips for becoming a better language teacher.

Create an immersive learning environment

Immersion is the best way to learn a new language, which is why travel is so important. Language teachers can create an immersive language environment by speaking primarily in the target language starting as early as possible. While this may be more difficult for students in the very beginning, it’s an ideal way to jumpstart language learning and reducing complacency in the classroom.

Creating an immersive environment goes beyond learning exercises. Everything from pre-class roll call to student-teacher requests ought to be delivered in the target language. With full immersion, students can be made to feel as if they’re studying in the language’s country.

Get students speaking immediately

Languages were created to help us communicate with one another, and we learn languages so that we can write and speak. Textbooks provide lots of knowledge, but it’s all useless unless we can put the knowledge into practice. This is why it’s a great idea to start using the target language as early as possible.

A good teacher will get students speaking immediately, even if the phrases are simple and short. Greetings and common phrases are good starting points, as they are useful for travel, giving students the immediate sensation of making progress. Students ought to start introducing themselves in the target language with fellow students, building their conversational skills a class at a time.

Use a variety of tools beyond the textbook

It’s discouraging when a teacher sticks too religiously to the textbook, because students can easily become bored or wonder why they are even in a class at all. Textbooks should be used as a supplementary guide to the teacher’s overall learning curriculum. Compliment textbook knowledge with other media and methods.

Role-playing is a particularly good way to encourage students to use the target language. There is a balance, however, in designing a role-playing exercise that’s effective but also expedient on time. For example, having performances in front of a class can be fun, but it also takes up a lot of valuable learning time. If time is indeed a factor, and it usually is, opt for group exercises that can be done all at once. In other words, at no time should any student be passive.

Encourage mistakes

Ironically, one big error committed by many language teachers is that they punish mistakes, albeit inadvertently. Language mistakes committed by students should be nurtured and corrected with care. Inspire students to try, and encourage them to make mistakes. Through mistakes we learn much faster. The more embarrassing the mistake, the more we’ll remember the error.

Mistakes most often occur when a student is unprepared, just as they occur in the real world. We often memorise scripted responses to common scenarios, such as ordering at a restaurant. A skilled teacher can put this habit to the test by changing the scenario to one that might require a new response. Any mistakes committed by any particular student ought to be discussed briefly and examined by the whole class, so that all students can benefit as well.

Are you a language teacher or a student who has taken courses? In your opinion, what makes a great language teacher? Let us know your thoughts on our Facebook Page, and be sure to "like" TELC English for more articles on language study tips!