Becoming a foreign language teacher doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and effort. First of all, one should strive to master the foreign language. And, as you probably know by now, learning a language is a life-long task. There are always new vocabulary words and expressions to learn.
The Advantages of Non-native Speakers as Teachers
There is no doubt that native speakers will always have a special intuition about the language. But a native speaker’s intuition doesn’t automatically translate into effective language teaching. As Dr. Garza points out, being a non-native teacher brings with it a set of special advantages too, namely the ability to understand the language learner because of personal experience. Moreover, non-native teachers make excellent role models for their students who may not believe that they can ever learn the target language (“I learned this language well so you can too!”).
Dr. Garza claims that a professional language teacher must be a life-long learner because languages and cultures constantly change. Have you already noticed changes in your target language—new words, new spellings, new genres? For example, the Internet has given rise to a plethora of neologisms and new language practices? What parts of the target language have you yet to master?
Communicative Language Teaching
The term “Communicative Language Teaching” (CLT) means different things to different teachers. To some teachers, it simply means a greater emphasis on the use of the target language in the classroom, and in particular, a greater emphasis on orality. To other teachers, communication entails the exchange of unknown information between interlocutors. And finally, some teachers understand communication in the most global, anthropological terms, that is, as a cultural-bond system for making meaning. Despite their various definitions of CLT, all the module instructors seem to advocate for a communicative approach.
Have you heard educators use the term “Communicative Language Teaching?” What did they mean by this term? Did you notice different emphases? What is your own definition? Do you teach for communication?
Dr. Abrams discusses Communicative Language Teaching.
Dr. Abrams emphasizes “real-life language use” in her definition of communicative language teaching. In her discussion, she takes the “speech event” as the point of departure for language teaching, rather than a discrete grammar point or a set of vocabulary items. Do you think that current pedagogical materials meet these criteria for “communicativeness?” In other words, how much information do pedagogical materials contain about the larger cultural context of communication?
Authentic Texts in the Foreign Language Classroom
Discussions about real-life language use often mention the role of authentic texts and authentic materials. Dr. Garza defines authentic language as “language produced by native speakers for native speakers to be consumed in a native environment.” But this leads to further questions about the appropriate use of authentic texts in a foreign language classroom. After all, the classroom is not to be confused with the “native environment.”Authentic materials present special challenges for beginning teachers and beginning students. Dr. Garza acknowledges that teachers must “manipulate and massage” authentic materials to make them appropriate for the classroom. What do you think he means? Choose an authentic text and specify how you would “massage” it for you own classroom.