To me, language is only a tool, albeit a very useful tool for communicating with others. And as with any tool, the only effective way to learn a language is to use it to communicate. A language cannot be taught well by requiring students to memorize long lists of words or rules, which are quickly forgotten. This is not to say that it isn’t occasionally necessary to drop back and focus on a point of grammar and spend some time practicing syntax or discussing semantics, but for the most part, pragmatic communication is the shortest route to learning the ins and outs of a language.
I have had the most success while in a content-based language class where the students needed to learn the language in order to understand some content, such as mathematics or creative writing. They are forced to use the language to communicate with their peers and their teacher about the subject at hand.
In teaching, I try to find ways to engage the students and get them out of their comfort zones as well as out of their seats. We put on plays or debates or discuss fictional stories and newspaper articles. I have found that I must keep myself involved as well: If I’m not having a good time, then my students are not having a good time, so my classes are generally a lot of fun, and the students learn quickly.
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