Monday, March 12, 2012

How to get 100% Success in Teaching a Foreign Language

Hi Guys,

Continuing from the last post "Questioning Our Preconceptions on Education", what can we achieve after we question our preconceptions? The answer of course is a world of opportunities but what I'd like to focus on today is the benefit that language teachers can get.

CS to BS:

CS to BS means "current situation" to "better situation" to bet a better situation we must first examine our or our current situation. Here's the CS:

  1. To be able to speak another language you must be able to speak using another language (sorry for stating the obvious)
  2. It is common in most schools around Indonesia to have students graduate from studying English for 9-12 years without even being able to speak English confidently
  3. The excuse floating around is that this is okay because they can still pass written tests and are therefore building up a good background knowledge of the language
  4. Having a good background knowledge of the language but not being able to speak yet is what we call a "false beginner" being a false beginner after 9-12 years of studying a language is not good enough, to say the least
  5. Some students come out of the system being able to speak the target language well. Many say this is showing the system works, I say those students are linguistically gifted and have great internal motivation to succeed. Having a 10% success rate is not to be bragged about.
  6. There must be change!
  1. Language is perhaps the only subject in which we can claim to be able to get a 100% success rate. Not every child born on this earth will be competent in Mathematics, nor will they be great in Geography but all human beings can speak a language (unless of course they have some severe disability). Even those who are not able to speak or hear, can use sign language. So everybody can learn a language, if everybody can learn a language, everybody can learn a second or a third language, we have this ability inbuilt in us at birth.
  2. All we need to do to get this kind of success is set the correct standards. For the first few years (or at least until the students get past not being able to speak) books and paper based tests should not be used. This is setting many students up for failure and does not instill confidence in students. You should not ask a Second Language Learner to work on literacy skills straight away just as you would not ask a baby to learn their mother tongue from a text book either!
  3. If we focus on speaking and listening for a year using a brain friendly approach our students will be able to speak. It may take a few sessions a week but they will speak. This means in one year we will achieve more than what others do in 12 (this is not to say reading and writing wouldn't be used but it just wouldn't be tested or focused on). This means that our students WILL graduate speaking another language, ALL our students, not that shabby right?
  4. This opens up a world of possibility for language instruction. If it is possible to get a student to an upper-beginner level in a foreign language in 2 years (being confident to speak and explore the language afterwards by themselves) this means after Primary School (SD) all students would be able to speak three foreign languages to an upper-beginner level.
  5. If students graduating Primary School have an Upper-Beginner level in three languages and feel confident with foreign languages this means they could fine tune one or all three of these languages in the next 6 years on Secondary Education. More than enough time to work on literacy skills (especially if they are making a transition from Bahasa Indononesia which is also a Latin Script language or being able to read Quran which is a good enough background in Arabic literacy to kick start the next 6 years).
So in conclusion with only a slight change of mindset and a few new techniques up our sleeve we can achieve grand possibilities in teaching another language. How about for other subjects, what small changes could we make to achieve similar grand results? I think there are probably a few, but let's leave that till another day to discuss.

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Until next time - Let's Change some Lives!
Kindest regards,

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