Teaching English to second language learners

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 »  Articles Overview  »  Art of Translation and Interpreting  »  Translator Education  »   Teaching English to second language learners

Teaching English to second language learners

By Yordanka Petkova | Published  08/31/2007 | Translator Education | Recommendation:
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Quicklink: http://mlt.proz.com/doc/1393
Yordanka Petkova
United Kingdom
English to Bulgarian translator
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The major teacher’s role in teaching English as a second language is to help students exel in the learning progress. He or she must focus his or her efforts on searching and creating effective methods and strategies to enhance students' learning so that they can overcome the difficulties or at least reduce them. The teacher must develop a creative, passionate and wise curriculum sparking student’s interest and curiosity as well as create a welcoming classroom atmosphere with the eventual goal of helping students begin to think and solve problems independently.
During my years of teaching experience I have realised a lot of difficulties that students come across. I will discuss some concepts of students' trials in order to clarify the teacher’s role in the learning process- “cognitive load”, “culture load”, “language load” and “learning load”. I will share some ideas from my expertise and try to give some useful advice. Some of them are theoretically presented or commonly used, others are practical.
Cognitive load- it refers to when students become loaded with the great number of new concepts embedded in a lesson. It also may occur if the teacher’s assessing of prior knowledge make them withdraw from participation in the learning process. It is critical that some teachers still consistently pick out skills and concepts that students do or don’t possess. Subsequently the teacher would need to fill in any conceptual gap as he or she tries to relate new concepts to life experience. Thus it becomes more difficult to get to know and understand these students. They'd better indentify knowledge that students gain or collect instead of discouraging them for a lack of qualities or competence. It maintains a positive spirit among learners or provides safe environment.
Culture load is concerned to the language-culture relationship in a meaning of a word determined by its use within linguistics and cultural settings, never the same in any two countries. English learners have to acquire a great amount of culture-language knowledge to understand a meaning, in other words, the cultural background that gives a word its English meaning. Additionally, the information conveyed in their textbooks and lessons is culturally embedded and sometimes can actually be offensive. Here is the teacher’s part to how he or she expects interactions to occur in a classroom- I mean when to speak, when to stay silent and when to raise hands. On the other hand, English learners are expected to determine classroom behavioral norms independently. These interactions vary from culture to culture and the teacher must help students reduce this “culture load”. He or she must treat learners with respect, not judge and try to build personal relationship with students and their families. A teacher must also use the information gained through these relationships to help learners understand and know about a foreign culture while still respects the culture of the student. Respect for students leads to further deeper and nurturing teacher-student relationship.
Language load- Another difficulty that I have realised students are stemmed is the large number of unfamiliar words encountered while they read a text or listens to the teacher or a classmate. This is the so-called “language load”. Following is- some practical advice to give how a teacher can reduce this load:
1. Rewrite or explain the text material
2. Break down the complex sentences into comprehensible parts
3. Make available several different texts which cover the same context but at different reading ability level
4. Model the social language and scaffold its appropriate use to help the learners assimilate or adopt it, use it effectively and move to more advanced level of English language acquisition.
Learning load or what a teacher expects students to do with English in learning activities.
The teacher must carefully consider the learning load of all activities involving learners, making adaptations and offering supports accordingly. Such strategies are:
1. Brainstorming- it is an activity that is oral and fast-paced with few visual examples and minimal clarification in the initial stages. If an English learner is embarrassed for following such an activity, teacher must let him or her alone participate.
2. The so-called “language bath”- this strategy is very effective when the teacher give the students to speak. It helps them develop their thoughts on a topic.
3. “Yearning goad”- intrinsic motivation, a drive to know and learn more. This must be cultivated by teaching whenever is possible, through topics of high student’s interest.
Conclusion: Any teaching occurs in a context of the social climate. The relationship between students and accompanying range of social behaviors has a major impact on quality of learning English as a second language and how well students learn overall. They cannot achieve on an unwelcoming hostile environment. A lot of them are made fun of when they try to speak English, so they end up silent and withdraw from participation. This further interferes with their learning and achievement. So the teacher is the one who must continually focus on such students. Moreover, all aspects of the teacher’s part consolidate in his or her endeavor to enhance learner’s interest and facilitate learner’s learning. This makes them avoid being apathetic, unmotivated and resistant to learning.

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