How to teach a foreign language effectively: 4 essential tips
What’s your preferred teaching method when it comes to languages? What can you do to make lessons more engaging and productive for your students?
Let’s face it, being a language teacher is highly rewarding. Not only do you get to travel and further your passion for a language and its culture, but as a language teacher, you can also give these special gifts to your students.
You might say that being any kind of teacher has similar benefits. However, there’s something especially remarkable about imparting language. In doing so, you open up perspectives and broaden horizons so your students can travel the world, explore different cultures and open dialogues with people from completely different backgrounds. For your students, it can turn into a lifelong passion, a career, or a relationship.
So what are the fundamental pillars of language teaching? How can you improve your teaching so your students develop their language skills better?
Read on for our essential tips for effective language teaching.
Tip 1. Learn about different approaches, methodologies and techniques
Do you tend to teach French by focusing on grammar and vocabulary acquisition? Do you place an emphasis on spoken communication? Or do you provide task-based learning exercises?
One size doesn’t fit all and over the years our understanding of language education has evolved. Being a teacher is a continual learning journey – there are always new things to discover and put into practice in classroom situations.
For instance, here at the French in Normandy school, we offer courses that cover different methods. Some of the most popular ones include:
Approche neurolinguistique (ANL) – The Neurolinguistic Approach
The Neurolinguistic Approach has been developed based on an understanding of the parts of the brain associated with language acquisition. You can read more about it here.
You can see what this teacher had to say about it:
Technologies de l’information et de la communication à l’école (TICE) – Using new technology in the classroom
This method incorporates the use of new technology in teaching. The classrooms here at French in Normandy are almost completely paper-free these days, and teachers can learn how to introduce different kinds of technology into their lessons effectively with this course.
Discipline Non Linguistique (DNL) – Non-linguistic discipline
As well as providing exposure to the language, teaching another specialist subject through language provides a specific focus for language learning that can be very effective.
Tip 2: Go beyond textbooks and embrace modern media
Almost anyone learning a language today spends a significant amount of their time looking at screens – especially the screens of their smartphones – and using apps. Making use of this and other new technology to aid language teaching means your students can use media they’re familiar with and increase their immersion in the language in different contexts.
This can take many forms. It could mean posting, sharing and encouraging conversations in the language on social media platforms, or using their favourite boxsets as the basis of an exercise. It could also mean using tools like quiz and competition apps to ‘gamify’ learning and further motivate your students.
Tip 3: Find a variety of ways for students to immerse themselves in the language
We can all agree that immersion in the target language is essential for language learning. However, this doesn’t have to mean a conversation with a native speaker. While opportunities to have those conversations should be available to students on as regular a basis as possible, why not encourage your students to immerse themselves in other ways that match their interests?
While literature can work for some, others prefer music and listening to lyrics, others films and boxsets, and others may prefer to learn vocabulary while cooking. Help your students use their hobbies to maximise their exposure to the language outside the classroom.
Tip 4: Create a safe and positive learning environment
Having the confidence to make mistakes – and the opportunity to discuss and learn from them – is absolutely key to language learning.
How you structure your lessons and how you provide feedback has an enormous impact on your students’ sense of security, and whatever your preferred methods are, if your students are to improve, they need a space that’s free from judgment and safe enough to make any mistakes, knowing they’ll be seen only as an opportunity to improve.
Explore our resources and improve your language teaching
We all remember good teachers of any subjects, but language teachers are perhaps on another level. Through language learning, you gain the satisfaction of mastering grammar and the ability to recall the
right word or phrase for a given situation. But you also open the door to new culture – through film, literature, etc. – and new relationships too.
The buzz and increased confidence you feel when you can speak a language fluently with a native
speaker is hard to beat. Whether it’s the teachers who help you unleash the joy of uncoding and discovering books by great authors in their original language or the ones who help you make sense of
using the subjunctive, the language teachers who really help you stay with you for life.
While every teacher brings something of themselves and their own experience to teaching, these tips can hopefully help you provide an even higher quality learning experience for your students.
If you’d like to explore the subject in more detail and read other articles on teaching foreign languages, you can browse all our related articles.
Our French teacher training courses are designed for teachers from around the world as well as for teachers in Europe who wish to take part in either a French language programme or a methodology programme via the Erasmus grant.
In addition to the different methodologies, all our courses help teachers develop skills and confidence in a number of essential areas, including how to motivate students and keep their attention, how to establish a class dynamic and make the most of interactions in the classroom, and how to respond to specific learning needs within groups.
If you’re looking to develop your teaching skills and would like to find out more about the teacher training courses on offer here in Rouen, Normandy, you can get more information here.