Language Class: Things We Teach NOT to Do in School that We MUST Do
Language classes are unique. If you teach languages, you know that things are just different in our classes. So many of the things that traditionally we’re conditioned to do in school are the exact opposite of what we want people to do in our classes. If we treat our classes in a really traditional way, we will never create proficient and successful speakers of a target language. Here are five things from traditional school conditioning that are actually vital for a successful foreign language class.
Don’t talk during class. We want to produce people who can speak new languages, and they will never do that unless they practice. And they’re probably going to get the vast majority of their practice in our classes. We have to spend the majority of our time doing communicative speaking activities in order to create people who can speak out in the world.
Don’t talk to strangers. While we would never want to see our students get into a bad or a dangerous situation, I think it’s really safe to say that we do want them to talk to strangers. That’s exactly what we’re teaching them to do. We want them to be able to talk to people from all over the world and from all walks of life. While they need to be able to do that with good judgement, we want them to build the skills to communicate with people effectively all over the world.
Don’t make mistakes. I think this is probably one of the most difficult ones to get over. I think oftentimes, we see students in our classes who are very smart and they’re very hard working, and they don’t like making mistakes. But you’re going to do this in a foreign language, and you will never ever be perfect at it. You will never ever be able to get to that “perfection” without making a lot of errors. They have to be encouraged. And yes, while we want them to make few errors (the fewer errors you make the more effectively they can communicate), we definitely want them to not be shy about making those errors while they communicate. At the end of the day, it’s all about being understood and understanding other people. They’ll never get there if they’re too afraid to make mistakes.
Stop playing. I think this one is really interesting because over the years, I’ve had so many people tell me that they didn’t really understand what I was doing with playing all these games in my class (not my students or parents). They’re all prompts. These are all opportunities for people to understand and speak languages. They work! And you know what? Learning new languages can be really hard. You need to make it fun. It requires a lot of attention and a lot of focus. There are so many fun games that get people understanding grammar, vocabulary, structures and speaking and listening. You need to be playing games in a language class as you’re learning more often than not.
Take yourself very seriously. I think this is putting all of these different things together. While it does take dedication to learn a language, you’ve got to be willing to do all the things we talked about before. Make errors, talk, take risks, talk to new people, have new experiences, and play. This couldn’t be more true than in foreign language. But also, while these black and white fill-in-the-blank books and exercises in vocabulary are all important, it’s just as important to do real life fun things in a language class. Watch movies, greet people, do crossword puzzles, listen to music, go out, make new friends-this is how you really learn a language. It’s not just going page to page in a book.
Looking for more for your language class? Here’s some resources for fun class activities.
5 Weeks of Low and No Prep Fun–get the free guide here: https://reallifelanguage.lpages.co/language-lessons-5-weeks-of-low-and-no-prep-fun/