INTERACTIVE LANGUAGE TEACHING
WILGA M. RIVERS
As fashions in language teaching come and go, the teacher in the classroom needs reassurance that there is some bedrock beneath the shifting sands. Once solidly founded on the bedrock, like the sea anemone the teacher can sway to the rhythms of any tides or currents, without the trauma of being swept away purposelessly. It is fun to sway to new rhythms, but as we ourselves choose, not under the pressure of outsiders who do not understand the complexities of our situation. Teachers need the stimulation of new thinking and new techniques to keep a fresh and lively approach to their teaching, but without losing their grip on enduring truths of learning and teaching that have proved to be basic to effective language experiences.
I have tried to distill this central core, as I see it, in the form of Ten Principles of Interactive Language Learning and Teaching, which attempt to capture in simple language what teachers in different approaches have found to be the essential facilitators of learning. These basic principles provide teachers with a yardstick against which to evaluate new proposals as they appear _ to help them delve beneath the surface features of exciting new theories, techniques, and learning aids, to separate chaff, exciting as it may be to play with, from the germinative grain, and to decide how much of their established practice can be sacrificed to the new without loss of learning efficacy. With this firm foundation, teachers are liberated from group pressures to yield unthinkingly to whichever winds of change are sweeping through their professional field at a particular time, and are empowered to develop and strengthen their own ways of proceeding in relation to the needs and individual strengths of their students in a particular context. They may find new trends fully consistent with their basic philosophy and enthusiastically endorse them, or, not being fully convinced, they may prefer to pick and choose from what is proposed, selecting what is compatible with their own approach and rejecting what they do not see as conducive to effective language learning in their present situation. In this way the teacher is in control, making his or her own decisions, which will vary with changing circumstances, experimenting judiciously and observing in practice what is effective and what is not for his or her own students.
An explication of the Ten Principles will help the teacher distinguish between what is fundamental and what is expendable. These principles are elaborated as principles of teaching and learning because the two activities are viewed as two aspects of one reciprocal process: the teacher's work is to foster an environment in which effective language learning may develop. In so doing the teacher experiences what Seneca observed, namely, that "while we teach we learn."  The teacher is a learner and the learner is a teacher. In the words of an old proverb the person "who is too old to learn is too old to teach." This reciprocal relationship is vividly demonstrated by the use in a number of languages of a single verb form to express the concepts of both teaching and learning. In French, for instance, we can say: Elle apprend le poème; je lui apprends le poème (She learns the poem; I teach her the poem), and the same usage is found in some dialects of English. The relationship between teaching and learning is well represented by De Saussure's metaphor of the piece of paper: if you cut into one side, you cut into the other. It is this interactive approach to teaching and learning that is basic to the Ten Principles.
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