Language learning, contrary to popular belief, is more complex than simple memorization and repetition of vocabulary or regurgitating grammatical structures. There are ways to optimize the acquisition of English so that the teacher and student together make the most progress in the time available. Indeed, there are entire fields of study dedicated to how to learn effectively. Here are a few of the popular methods to teach English in the modern world, backed up by research and real-world application:
- Total Physical Response
This method is popular among teachers of younger learners. With the Total Physical Response (TPR) method, students learn through action. For example, the verbal command “give me your pencil” is accompanied by the act of handing the pencil between hands. In this way, the action becomes associated in the mind with the word, which strengthens retention. Also, this TPR method can encourage younger learners to remain engaged throughout lessons, which can be a problem in children and people with shorter attention spans.
- Communicative Language Teaching (CLT)
CLT works best with students whose primary goal in learning English is to communicate thoughts as accurately and easily as possible. This method focuses much more on speaking and listening rather than reading and writing. Also, grammatical acquisition is secondary. Any texts that are used are usually from the “real-world” rather than textbooks. This method is much more “open” than others, relying on free-flowing conversation for language learning rather than learning the intricacies of the language.
- Lexical Approach
“Lexical” is the academic term for “vocabulary”. As such, the Lexical Approach focuses on teaching the most important and frequently-used vocabulary of English first, working downward so that the most obscure vocabulary is taught last. In addition to single words, “chunks” of words that often are spoken together like “heavy rain” or “big problem” are taught as one “unit”. These are called “collocations”. The theory behind the Lexical Approach method is that learners gain the most out of their education by learning the most important lexical items first.
These are just a handful of the multiple methods that TEFL teachers can employ to benefit their English learners. It is important to note that, although these methods are distinct from one another, they are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Experienced TEFL teachers can blend a variety of methods together depending on the students’ ages, goals, special circumstances, the teacher’s personality, etc. In most TEFL courses, many methods are explored.