Friday, September 14, 2012

Contextualisation of a Foreign Language

Hey Guys,

Due to the passing of my father I haven't been able to write any new articles recently. So today I want to get back into it.

Sitting here with a nice mug of Cafe Latte I figured I should go over some more 'teaching basics' just for those out there who are still trying to fill in some gaps in their teaching.

Ever thought that the language you were teaching/facilitating in class just didn't seem real for the students?

I think we have all at some point in time or another been in such a situation. 'Making the language real' as it were can also be explained as 'contextualisation' putting the language into context. This is particularly important because as you know sometimes the exact same phrase or word in different contexts can have a completely different meaning. So making sure there is always a clear context for the language to fit in will assist the learning in approximating language use in a more natural environment.

The British Council defines contextualisation as:

"Contextualisation is putting language items into a meaningful and real context rather than being treated as isolated items of language for language manipulation practice only. Contextualising language tries to give real communicative value to the language that learners meet. The context can help learners remember the language and recall it at a later date. Learners can use natural learning strategies to help them understand contextualised language, such as guessing meaning from context.
Teaching the language used to give advice by looking at problem pages from teenage magazines gives the target language context.
In the classroom
Contextualisation can be as simple as providing an example sentence that uses a new word, or as complex as preparing a telephone role-play to practise functional language."

We can contextualise language through the use of:

-Games and interactive activities
-Storytelling, dramatisation, singing
-Student presentations and projects
-Themes or topics in the activities
 -Realia like post cards, brochures,objects, menus, etc.

With any of these the point is to contextualise the language with "real world" themes or topics.

An example would be to bring a map of a foreign town and a list of places they could see, it would be best to get a real map from perhaps a tourist/information booth and laminate it so you could use it for many classes. Perhaps when friends are going overseas you can request that the "oleh-oleh" (souvenirs) they bring back for you are tourist booklets, maps, menus and brochures in the target language, theses can all be used as realia.

The activity with the map could include practicing directions, likes and dislikes and/or making suggestions. You could also include an internet research project where the children research a particular destination on the map and then share it with their friends.

There are countless other examples of contextualising language in the classroom and you'll often find that good teachers hardly ever teach a language without a context. So make contextualising language one of your TEFL 101s and don't let it slip your mind. The more in context, interesting and real the learning experience is for you students, the better result you'll get.

So good luck guys and keep on changing lives with the wonderful gift of a foreign language.




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