The Challenge of Teaching English

Nowadays, it seems clear that the goal of teaching English as a foreign language is to foster the communicative ability in the students. Not too long ago, Harmer’s Presentation-Practice-Production model seemed to be the best way to teach grammar and communication, yet lately great emphasis has been placed on the Production stage, as it has been suggested that the inductive way of teaching grammar gives students the chance to be exposed to language or to attempt to use the language above their level of knowledge, which is both challenging and motivating. It shows students what they can do, increasing their confidence, and what they still need to work on to be better performers.

Guided discovery is a new concept that puts more emphasis on the intellectual abilities of the students, on their abilities to work out for themselves the rules of the language, out of a context offered by a skillful teacher. Using grammatical structures first in the input, which is used by the teacher in order to show and exemplify meaning in the context, creates a need for the students, a need that has to be filled, in order to become communicatively competent.

Practising English grammar through communicative activities is like sneaking grammar into the lesson and getting the students practise it without realizing they are learning it.True communication cannot be achieved without the help of grammar, so we need grammar in order to communicate purposeful and meaningful. However, grammar cannot exist by itself, it needs vocabulary and pronunciation, which are achieved through reading and listening, and it also needs productive skills like speaking and writing as a means of conveying meaning. It seems that all skills are interconnected and have to work together for the purpose of successful communication and integrated lessons, in which all skills are practised, are the way to follow.

Incorporating grammar into communicative activities adds variety and lots of opportunities for students to practise the language. Besides the published materials, choosing good resources like digital resources, authentic materials and realia help students acquire the real language, the language outside the classroom that makes them English speakers.

On one hand, communicative activities are the way to develop fluency. On the other, practising grammar develops accuracy. However,  by bringing together grammar and communication,  we put students in the situation to use and improve permanently their use of the language. Our offering them the chance to personalize the language helps them develop their own way of learning, draw on their interests and needs, make use of their abilities and take into account the different personalities that make up the heterogeneous class – aspects that have been all too often neglected by our language teaching syllabuses.

Where does the future of language learning head to?  It seems that the end of online learning is nowhere near. Nor will it replace the traditional methods of teaching/learning foreign languages. At the same time, communicative classes are likely to enjoy an increasing popularity. Teaching English today requires innovation and creativity from the teacher’s side and the wide variety of resources available to us can assist our teaching of grammar while providing a relaxing atmosphere in the classroom and, as a consequence,  increasing the effectiveness of the process.

It seems that a new role that teachers assume nowadays is to enlarge the students’ horizons and make them realize that grammar is not only an abstract theory but also practice and fun. It is also important to motivate students through oral communicative activities that involve both their productive skill and receptive skill of understanding. They have to be taught to listen as well as to speak, and speaking correctly will definitely increase their confidence and initiative when taking the language from the controlled environment of the classroom into the outside world.

The goal of grammar teaching is to enable students to carry out their communication purposes. As Ellis considers, “grammar instruction should take the form of separate grammar lessons (a focus-on-form approach) and should also be integrated into communicative activities (a focus-on-form approach)” (Current issues…, 103).

Student-centred communicative activities enable students to acquire interpersonal skills besides grammar and language, thus preparing them for real life situations, as by applying an inductive approach the students increase their knowledge and level of all skills.

Following all the above mentioned points we can conclude that a successful English teacher nowadays has to focus on:
1. practising English grammar through communicative activities to increase the students’ performance of all skills;
2. using active and interactive methods in teaching and practising grammar through communicative activities to impact school performance;
3. practising grammar for the purpose of communication  to increase both the fluency and accuracy of the students’ language;
4. practising grammar through communicative activities to develop interpersonal relationships and good conduct and
5. addressing the students’ needs and interest through communicative activities that incorporate grammar structures in order to increase their motivation and interest in learning English.

Ellis, Rod. “Current issues in the teaching of grammar: An SLA Perspective” TESOL Quarterly 40.1 (2006): 83-107. Print.

prof. Simona-Dorina Aldea

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