When I think of teaching, an interesting scene always emerges in my mind: At home a child stood in front of a small whiteboard, teaching her parents the Chinese phonetic alphabet she just learned in class. It was me at the age of six. This experience might be the seed that grew later in my life to inspire me to be a language teacher.
Language learning is never a piece of cake. It requires numerous hours spent on reading, writing, listening, speaking, and vocabulary learning. Besides hard work, successful language learning is promoted by motivation, the lack of which sometimes is an obstacle for language learners to overcome. At the same time language teachers should spare no efforts to create an interactive learning atmosphere, maximizing student-centered communication opportunities. In addition, in terms of ways of increasing teachers’ efficacy, technology does make a difference. As a language teacher, I should be aware of its strengths and limitations, thus enabling myself to properly incorporate it in language teaching and learning.
Language teachers have the responsibility to raise students’ motivation. In China, what really matters for college entrance examinations are total scores, so some students tend to go overboard on one or some subjects because they are good at or more interested in them, while at the same time they ignore the other particular subjects. This phenomenon is largely due to the lack of motivation. To boost and maintain students’ motivation, it is important to make good use of both in-class and after-class time. In class, based on my own experience, the use of authentic materials and task-based language teaching can stimulate students’ interest and motivation. The former may boost students’ curiosity in another culture, while the latter may prompt the students to be fascinated by practical uses of the L2, thus enabling them to have a desire to learn languages. For after-class activities, students can dub some movies or TV series, so that they are able to learn the language beyond the textbooks. They can also pick their interested topics to design their own English newspapers, prompting them to devote more time to completing the task.
I believe teachers using a communicative language teaching (CLT) approach can have their students better engage in class. Due to the increasing popularity of international education, more and more Chinese students are aware that communicative competence is playing a more crucial role in language learning. Just as Richard (2006) suggested, the role that teachers play in CLT is more like a language learning facilitator and monitor, rather than simply a passive knowledge transmitter. According to Nation and Newton (2009), compared with individual work, group work or pair work produces more negotiations among students. Richards (2006) went further to write that, “Fluency is developed by creating activities in which students must negotiate meaning, use communication strategies, correct misunderstanding, and work to avoid communication breakdowns (p. 14).” In this case I would like my students to participate in classroom activities based more on cooperative work rather than on individual work.
In terms of the technologies, the advent of various new technologies does greatly influence our life. I, as a language teacher, have also benefited from it a lot. However, language acquisition does not occur just because of the existence of technology itself. Rather, what really matters is the way of incorporating technology into instruction by teachers (Office of Technology Assessment, 1995). The use of technologies should reflect the teacher’s purposes and the students’ needs. Take writing classes for example. In China we have really big classes for language teaching, so sometimes it is tons of work for teachers to circle all the linguistic and pragmatic errors made by students, which may not be greatly beneficial to students. Some online-writing-correcting technologies do solve this problem to a certain extent, like Pigaiwang, a famous and practical one in China. I can have my students upload their compositions to it before turning their papers in. Students can revise their writings based on the feedback offered by the website, thus making students better reflect on their writing skill and greatly increase teachers’ (that is, my) efficiency.
To sum up, teaching language from my perspective can be analogous to building a house. The motivation of students is the foundation of the house. The house will definitely be fragile without a well-built foundation. Language learning cannot be maintained without firm motivation. In addition, the design of a house should reflect the needs of the people living in the house, just like the way a teacher teaching a class should take students’ needs into account. Results of exams are valued by students, so I cannot completely throw form-oriented teaching away. However, I don’t want students simply to become skilled exam-takers. They should become competent language users too. That is why I would like to implement CLT into my language teaching. Apart from that, the incorporation of technologies in class is equivalent to different facilities in a house, which make our life much easier to some extent. However, the redundancy of these facilities will in fact complicate our life and distract our attention. The same goes for language learning; teachers should be aware of the purpose of employing a certain kind of technology in their teaching.
Nation, I. S. P., & Newton, J. (2008). Teaching ESL/EFL listening and speaking. New York, NY: Routledge.
Richards, J. C. (2006). Communicative language teaching today. Cambridge: Cambridge, UK: University Press.
Congress of the United States, Office of Technology Assessment. (1995). Teachers & technology: Making the connection. Retrieved from http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/ota/Ota_1/DATA/1995/9541.PDF