The number of teaching methodologies for foreign languages is more than I care to count. Everyone claims to have a better methodology than others.
I have taught using several methodologies but by far the one I find the most effective and the one that to me makes the most sense for language acquisition with kids is one in which there is NO TRANSLATION.
Think about it. When you are a baby learning your first words, is someone translating words for you? More likely than not they are holding up a bottle and saying “bottle” as opposed to saying “bottle” is “botella.” Or with your older Spanish students. How many times do you have to tell them not to translate because what makes sense in Spanish doesn’t make sense in English?
It’s natural for us to translate when it comes to learning a second language because we are putting it into context with what we know. But after going through a training with the language goliath Berlitz, and picking up a few phrases in Russian within five minutes simply by not translating, I was sold.
If we can nip this translating habit in the bud, our students will be much better off when they grow up.
So how do we teach English without translating?
If you haven’t noticed, I am a major fan of flashcards. Why? Because kids are sponges and most of them don’t yet have an urge or desire to try and translate. They have an incredible capacity to remember new words, and using pictures and objects is the best way for them to learn.
These are a foreign language teacher’s absolute best friend, other than flashcards obviously. My three year olds are like little parrots, so when they’ve heard “line up,” “sit down,” “let’s go,” or “put your shoes on” enough times, they memorize them and start ordering each other around in English. Make sure you are using consistent language for all of the routines in your class, whether it’s “Take out your notebooks,” “Pass out the papers,” or “Separate into groups of ____.” You’d be surprised by how many things we do in our classroom that are routines.
Trying to explain how to complete an activity in English to low level students can be beyond frustrating. But part of being a teacher is acting. We are actors, we are clowns, we are over-exaggerators. Either do the steps of the activity yourself while you are explaining what to do, or grossly exaggerate with your body and emotions. For example, if your kids have to cut and glue something, grab scissors and do it right there as a model, or mime all of the actions. It can take a couple of times for your low level students, just remember to be patient and fight the urge to translate!
This may seem obvious, but it can be easy to go over one piece of English grammar, think the kids have more or less mastered it, then move on to the next grammatical structure. When creating your lesson plans make sure you are layering what you’ve done prior within the new topic. For example, after covering the simple past and moving on to the past perfect, warm up with a few exercises of simple past and try to incorporate simple past questions or exercises with past perfect ones.
I’ll say it before and I’ll say it again, the key to anything in the classroom is consistency. Be consistent in the language you use and the routines in your classes and the kids will know what to expect, and you will have set them up for success.
What is your preferred ESL teaching methodology?