Real life learning
I was reading a “blog” on the Internet the other day about the lack of innovation in English language schools’ marketing materials, and teaching, for that matter. The author suggested that the same methodology at schools has been used for years with little innovation. As a guest at the annual British Council ELT Innovation Awards, I would have to disagree that the ELT landscape is unchanging, as new coursebooks and syllabuses seem to crop up with surprising regularity.
But the blog raised an interesting question for me as to how often language schools review the coursebooks that they use and how well they believe their teaching approach allows students to learn English (or any language). As we all know, language acquisition depends on the student factors such as prior experience of learning a language, aptitude, age, and so on but teaching materials and quality of teachers are also significant.
In my experience, however, the best way to really get a working use of a foreign language is to live in another country and keep testing your fledgling skills on the natives and this is a different consideration. Many schools increasingly try and incorporate “interaction” into their language learning programmes. High schools in Canada, for example, promote short language courses as an introduction to life in Canada and a venue for “meaningful interaction to make Canadian friends” (page 52).
Within the academic preparation sector, programme providers underline the better orientation that is attained by pre-university study and agents acknowledge that such courses “help young people fit into the different culture and language environment” (pages 26-30). Meanwhile, one-to-one tuition in a teacher’s home has been recognised as a speeded-up way of learning a language because constant opportunity to practise is afforded to the learner. We provide a list of one-to-one providers in Spain in this issue (page 33). Another good occasion to use newly acquired language skills is by teaming language training with sports, according to providers in Malta (page 35).
The end goals in our industry are to ensure that language learning, studying overseas and/or intercultural exchange (ie volunteering in Brazil, page 20) are achieved. Innovation for the sake of innovation is unwise but for those in the language training sector, blending effective language learning methods with real-life opportunities to interact will be increasingly expected in the future.