When I was thirteen years old, I had an opportunity to develop my English skills in Sydney, Australia where I attended the King’s School, Parramatta, for four years from 6th grade to 9th grade. Living and going to middle school in Sydney had a great influence on my life, particularly on my interest in English as a second language. Upon returning to Korea, I observed with a frustrated fascination my friends in high school struggle with EFL learning. As I tried to help them improve their English, I made up my mind to become someone who can help others learn English, and devoted myself to the field of language studies and L2 teaching.
The most fundamental reason for many people to learn language is to communicate. Even though it is a natural process for one’s native language, it is a mind-boggling process for second language learners. My teaching philosophy is based on the belief that education is not just about ‘transmission’ of knowledge from teacher to student, but rather about creating conditions in which students can learn for themselves. My favorite line is, “If the teacher is indeed wise, he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind” (Gibran, 1991, p.76). Such humanist sentiments well displays my ideal teacher’s role in second language classrooms.
As an educator, one of my principal responsibilities is to foster teacher-student rapport so the class can work together cooperatively in a spirit of friendliness and harmonious creativity. From my own experience of learning a second language, affective dimensions of language learning factors such as intrinsic motivation and anxiety tend to play a vital role in L2 acquisition. I had hard time learning English when I had fear talking in language class but I was able to overcome it and succeed in learning English when I found comfort and fun in my foreign language class; I was intrinsically motivated. Moreover, it is very important not to ignore socio-cultural aspects when it comes to language learning and teaching. I believe we, as teachers, should respect learners’ identities and backgrounds and take advantage of the diversity in our classroom.
In addition, I believe interaction and motivation play one of the most pivotal roles in L2 learning. According to Long (1981), modified input and interactions that L2 learners most encounter are the ones that lead to meaningful learning and facilitate second language acquisition. In other words, through interaction learners will be more exposed to comprehensible input, which then can lead to meaningful learning of the language. However, in order to facilitate learners to have active and meaningful interaction, learners’ own desire to want to learn the language is necessary. Brown (2007) also states that the intrinsic motivation principle is the strongest reward that a person can have since it stems from their own needs, wants and desires, and it is self-satisfactory. For this reason, language teachers need to develop classroom materials that can satisfy their students’ own needs, wants and desires. However, it should be notified in here that even for those who are highly motivated to learn a second language at first, their motivation might not sustain. Dornyei (2000) points out that the mental process changes over time depending on various internal and external influences that the individual faces, which implies the necessity of teachers’ endeavor to assist the students in maintaining their motivation.
Corresponding to these components of learning are CLT and TBLT language teaching approaches. CLT has been widely recognized as one of the best pedagogical approaches all over the world for second/foreign language teaching. According to Brown (2007), CLT is an accepted paradigm that emphasizes real-life communicative properties of language focusing on “all of the components of communicative competence” (pp. 45-46). In a similar vein, TBLT also has been well-recognized by second language teachers not only for its efficiency and effectiveness, but also for its practicality. TBLT puts the priority in meaning and task completion where learners are led to negotiate meaning and engage in communication to complete the task. Even though some learners may not be used to these teaching approaches because of their past learning experiences and socio-cultural reasons, I believe such practices should be fostered because it would help restructuring their interlanguage skills (through negotiation and meaningful interaction with focus on form) and introducing autonomy (through real-life activities that matches the learners’ needs) into the learning process.
In addition, it should be emphasized here that communication is a mutual process. When there is a speaker, there is a listener; writing is nothing but ink on a piece of paper without a reader to absorb it. As a production value, many language teachers and students stress more on developing speaking and writing abilities. However, it is my understanding that there is no good writer and speaker who has poor reading and listening abilities. It is in this sense that I strongly suggest integrating skills in teaching second language. On top of scaffolding instructions for productive knowledge, I recommend extensive reading and listening approaches for receptive knowledge that are well-known techniques for developing fluency, comprehension and motivation towards language learning. With the right interesting materials that fit the learners’ proficiency levels, they will experience a new world of language learning pleasure. According to Day and Bamford (2002), extensive reading is “a key to unlocking the all-important taste for foreign language reading among students” (p.136).
Last but not least, I believe course materials should reach relevant and obtainable goals by inviting meaningful interaction in classroom. In other words, classroom activities should facilitate the learner to act primarily as a language user, and not as a language learner. The activities that learners do in the classroom should be related to what the learners are supposed to be able to do with the target language in the real world. In this case, technology can be very useful tool because of its easy accessibility with authentic materials.
I believe my role as a language teacher is a facilitator and mentor who is democratic rather than autocratic, and fosters learner autonomy through the use of CLT and TBLT approaches and by acting as more of a resource than a transmitter of knowledge. In the end, my goal of teaching a language is to help the learners to appropriately communicate in an unrehearsed real-life interaction and to satisfy their needs and wants.
Brown, H.D. (2007). Teaching by Principles: An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy. White Plains, NY: Pearson Education, Inc.
Day, R. R. & Bamford, J. (2002). Top ten principles for teaching extensive reading. Reading in a Foreign Language, 14(2), 136-141.
Dörnyei, Z. (2000). Motivation in action: Towards a process-oriented conceptualization of student motivation. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 70, 519-538.
Gibran, K. (1991). The Prophet. Pan Books. Long, M. H. (1981). Input, interaction and second-language acquisition. In H. Winitz (Ed.), Native language and foreign language acquisition: Vol. 379. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences pp.259-278. New York: New York Academy of Sciences.