Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Monday, April 18, 2005

Tips From EFL Press

by AJ

Just found an excellent article on the EFL Press website, titled How To Be An Effective EFL Teacher

Two points that jumped out at me:

"Don't neglect useful vocabulary teaching.
The building blocks of language are not grammar and functions. The most essential thing students need to learn is vocabulary; without vocabulary you have no words to form syntax, no words to pronounce. Help your students to become vocabulary hungry."

Absolutely. The jargonic way of saying this is "language is grammaticalized lexus, not lexalized grammar". In other words, if you've got the vocab, you can communicate... even it its with mangled grammar. But if you've got a ton of grammar and very little vocab, you are out of luck.

Unfortunately, most "conversations" textbooks and schools get this backwards. They are heavy on grammar and light on USEFUL vocabulary (ie. authentic vocab as used by most speakers). Most schools are obssessed with "grammar points"... they insist, for example, that students answer in complete sentences. Of course, no NATIVE speaker answers in complete sentences (most of the time). So why force EFL students into this unnatural pattern?

Also, because their student focus so much on grammar, grammar, grammar,... they have very limited vocabulary. Thus, they can spit out the pattern in class... but can't carry on even the simplest conversation outside of class.

"Don't neglect the teaching of listening.
It is the opinion of many ESL experts that listening is the most important skill to teach your students. While listening to each other and to the teacher will improve their overall listening ability, this can be no substitute for listening to authentic English. As much as possible, try to expose your students to authentic English in a variety of situations. The best way to do this and the most realistic is through videos. Listening to audio cassettes in the classroom can improve listening ability, but videos are much more motivating and culturally loaded."

Amen!! Drs. Ashely Hastings and Brenda Murphy note that listening should be the first skill developed. There are many reasons for this, but one is extremely practical: students need listening comprehension to function in the classroom and outside of it. Its quite hard to conduct a class when the students struggle to understand your directions. And its difficult for them to USE language that they cant hear and understand.

I also wholeheartedly agree with the comment on videos versus audio tapes. See the Focal Skills link for more info on using movies in an EFL (or any foreign language) class.