How languages should be taught

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: April 16, 2019

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Submitted: April 16, 2019

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If you've ever studied a foreign language, you probably know it's not something that happens overnight. It takes time and patience. The place people usually have the possibility to study is school, surprisingly. That's obvious, but in my opinion, you're not going to learn a language if you listen to someone talk about grammar for couple of hours a week. It takes more than that, and the change is easy to start in the classroom.

When learning a language, the most important thing is vocabulary. Sure, grammar is important, but vocabulary comes first. No one really cares if you end up asking things like "the restaurant where?" because while it's not grammatically the best sentence, you get the message through. Fucking up a few proverbs or prepositions isn't going to get you in trouble and people will understand you.

That's what the learning should be based on. Of course vocabularies are taught and repeated but it's usually just that. The class goes through a list of words, does maybe a few exercises and that's it. Repetition is key here, as you usually have to use a certain word several times to remember it. There are several ways to use it: oral or written exercises and everything you can think of, really. In my opinion, it's more effective to go through the words together as a group and then discuss. If the vocabulary at hand is business and economy, have the students form groups and discuss these topics. Have questions or opinions for them and make them form their own views, discussing them together. It helps with remembering the words, puts them in context, lets students form sentences and actual dialogues with each other and they might actually learn something they didn't know about business or economy in the process.

I find it most effective to use the language. Using it in class is great, and I've never understood language teachers who speak to students in their native language. No. You should use the language that you're teaching them. If they don't understand everything, then explain, but there is no use in saying "your homework is to read these pages" in English if you're in Spanish class. Have students use it as well. If they have a question, they should use the language they are studying. Speaking that language is the best way to learn how to pronounce difficult words, as there is no way anyone will learn that without speaking.

Another thing I wish teachers would tell students to do, is use the language in their free time. As I said, it's hard to learn a new language if you only use it a few hours a week. It can be quite easy, honestly. Listen to music or podcasts in that language. It doesn't matter if you don't understand everything, as long as you don't give up on it. Watch movies or TV shows in that language. Maybe have subtitles in your own language or then the language you're learning. You can even combine two foreign languages. I do that, as I usually watch something in Swedish, I have the English subtitles on or vice versa. Try reading in that language. You can start with something simple, like comic books or children stories. I did that with English and a year later I started reading novels in English. It's an easy way to learn and once again, it's okay not to understand every word. That's what Google is for.


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