• How to teach a language properly? My ex...

How to teach a language properly? My experience

Experience

I was born in Kenya (1976) and then I went to Italy (2004) to study and work, and shortly after I ended up in Spain (2008), for the same reason, where I live and work till today. As a Kenyan born I am fluent in both Kiswahili and English, the two official languages in Kenya, and for the second languages, I am equally fluent in Italian and Spanish as well. I would like to cite my experience in learning Italian back in Kenya (1999-2003) before going to Italy. The learning took place in a college and was taught by an Italian. I also used to spend most of the time with Italians.

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Approach and focus in the grammatical form

Direct translation (exercise on workbook) and working on the meaning of words using an Italian-English dictionary. Classroom grammar activities were mainly doing exercises, learning as much vocabulary as one could and listening to music CDs.

Effectiveness of the approach

Towards the end of the english course I could read texts, and utter some phrases and short memorised sentences but not real communication in the sense that I was unable to fully express myself or follow a real conversation. When it came to reading, I could get the general meaning of a text. However, in conversation, I could only understand some phrases but not the whole conversation. The approach was relatively effective for reading but not for communication.

Analyses and Critics

It would have been better to have some conversation practices rather than focus only on reading texts, doing exercises and sentence translation. Though I had some music CDs to listen to, I never had any audio and audio-visual materials for practising listening. I had direct contact with Italian native speakers with whom I could often practise Italian.

Become a tutor

Though I had learnt sufficient grammatical rules and sentence structures I was not in a position to communicate effectively. However, the good thing was that I did benefit from Italian native speakers (immersion) by getting a relatively good Italian rhythm and intonation.

At the end of my learning experience in Kenya which lasted for about 4 years, I would rather say that it left me half-baked. It only served as a base or foundation on which I would later construct my Italian communication competence sometimes later on my arrival in Italy.

In fact, while in Italy I did not have to start learning Italian from zero for I had a sufficient base. I only suffered for the first few weeks but after about three months I was able to cope up with my studies in the university using Italian as a vehicular language both for lectures and studies in general.

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Recommendation

I think the teaching of grammar and immersion should go hand in hand. For better results, one cannot do without the other and I think that to become an english tutor we need grammar in order to communicate effectively, but grammar by itself is not sufficient for communication in a natural way and using a second language for communication in real situations.

It would be necessary for one to create learning conditions and an environment that facilitate language immersion so that language can be learnt in a stress-free natural way.

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