Teach English in Changan Zhen - Ankang Shi

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The constant use of the target language (TL or L2) in a modern foreign language lesson is believed to be crucial when teaching and learning a second language. The idea that exposure to the target language will help pupils learn has been supported by several linguists and their theories, for instance, in the BBC Horizon documentary A Child’s Guide to Languages(1983), Stephen Krashen’s ‘Input Hypothesis’ affirms that: We acquire language in only one way, when we understand messages...what we now call comprehensible input, we acquire language when we understand what people tell us, what is said, not how it said but what it is said. Furthermore, teachers should think and wisely choose the kind of activities that are going to be used and judge possible reaction of pupils as “we can anticipate the probable effects of an activity...and quite deliberate construct a controlled interactive lesson” (Alison and Halliwell, 2002), in order to be aware of their possible behaviour. Also, if pupils are engaged in the task and practising the L2 at the same time, they will not have time to misbehave. Furthermore, some parts of the lesson should be taken advantage of by the teacher as a way to make pupils speak in the target language, for instance, the register. I have observed in my practice how the register can be used for the pupils to answer in the target language, and if they do not reply in English, the teacher waits until the pupil gives the right answer. This works as every pupil has the opportunity to say something in the TL and they are creative sometimes by using new phrases or expressions, and taking this register only takes less than five minutes. I would improve that by asking the pupils to reply with something we have seen in the previous lesson. We should also be aware of the behaviour of the teacher as a model for his or her pupils; so the way the teacher acts is relevant, for instance, if there is a distraction in the class such as pupils looking through the window or a bee coming in the classroom, just defuse the situation using the target language, maybe by talking about it for one minute and keep going with the lesson. Encouragement, motivation and rewards are key points. Every time that a pupil uses the target language we should reward him or her rather than focus on punishment as Kohn (1999) states –based on Skinner’s behavioural theories–that: “the best way to get something done is to provide a reward to people when they act the way we want them to”. Then, we can say that respect work better than fear. Personally, I have seen a system of semi-material rewards in my placements that really engage young learners: they get points when they make a great effort with the language, or when they try hard. They accumulate these points to get ‘VIVOS’: an interactive programme where you can buy things paying with those ‘VIVOS’. As they have a stimulus to work, they try their best in the target language. Having observed several classes and having compared with the knowledge acquired in this course we can say that using the target language in the classroom is crucial to second language acquisition, and its use also contributes to developing pupils’ communicative skills. The TL should have and central role and be approached properly in the English language classroom as well as being the main means of communication. The role of the teacher is essential in this process as he/she is the model for pupils in every sense (e.g.: behaviour or use of language), so there should be a commitment taken by educators in implementing the use of the target language. We should also have high expectations in our young students, as well as creating a good learning environment in which young learners feel secure, confident and safe and the TL is effectively and adequately approached, so they can progress. Teachers should be able to promote opportunities to use the TL in the classroom and encourage pupils to communicate. Hence, it is important to create original and varied activities as well as take into account cultural aspects of the subject to motivate pupils using the TL. Finally, it is crucial to be able to promote the use of the target language in the classroom for real purposes of communication and makes the language more attractive and link it with something real: “we learn language, and in doing so we also learn socio-cultural behaviours and the cognitive skills for living as a fully operational human being” (Grenfell 2000:7, in Green, 2000). Nevertheless, there is a lot to do in classrooms as the target language is not being used as much as it could be by teachers and by students. We need to find approaches to improve and promote this use. In conclusion, I will take into account all the aspects raised and strategies discussed in this course to encourage learners of English to use the target language in the classroom in a spontaneous way, which is a challenge for all of us.