PRINCIPLES OF INTERACTIVE LANGUAGE TEACHING , WILGA M. RIVERS
Principle 2: Language learning and teaching are shaped by student needs and objectives in particular circumstances
Student needs and objectives are not just personal. They are shaped to a considerable degree by societal pressures, political exigencies, and parental expectations influenced by these two. Social forces and community-wide perceptions, whether reflecting reality or merely hopes and fears, exert a largely subconscious influence on what are perceived as individual choices. One such subtle influence is that of perceived career opportunities for the language learner; these change over time, as economies and political alliances shift in emphasis, and this affects demand for particular languages. Another influence is the growing importance in public perception of certain speech communities at a particular point in time: Should our students be learning Japanese or Chinese, for instance, instead of German; or Spanish or Italian instead of French? Is it pointless and time-wasting for English speakers to learn any other language at this particular period of history when students all over the world are clamoring to learn English? Despite any rationale we may present, it is factors such as these that are influencing student decisions and attitudes. From another perspective, should we be emphasizing oral skills, or are reading and writing of growing interest to our students in this age of the Internet and the World Wide Web? What about listening and cross-cultural skills in an age of so much mutual misunderstanding? These are some of the kinds of decisions that confront us, which can only be resolved in a particular context.
It is imperative in the present period of rapid change that language teachers study carefully the language learners in their classes _ their ages, backgrounds, aspirations, interests, goals in language learning, aptitude for language acquisition in a formal setting, and opportunities for language use outside of the classroom (see Principle 10) _ and then design language courses and language teaching materials that meet the needs of specific groups. "One size fits all" is not applicable in our work. A needs analysis must come first, before decisions are made on orientation and content of courses, and this will affect the way the language will be presented and the types of materials that will be incorporated. Such a needs analysis must be repeated in each new circumstance, and also as cohorts of students change in what may seem to be a stable context.
In all language teaching decisions, the question Who? (Who are my students?) precedes What? (What kind of course or learning materials do they need?), and these two determine How? (What approach and which techniques are most appropriate in this situation?)
Corollary 2.1: Language teaching and course design will be very diverse
The days of a monolithic approach to language courses, imposed on all learners, is well past (or should be). As students change and their perceived needs and objectives change, so will the content and techniques of language courses. Sometimes language programs are set up as a series of discrete units on grammar, sound production, development of reading skills, or written composition, thus tearing apart the seamless garment of language. Study of sound production is integrally related to syntax, which can be of no use without semantics and pragmatics. Cultural expectations affect syntactic and lexical choice, as well as sound and kinesic elements These things are best learned and practiced together in use.
Founder of “Five Flowers” to simple and comfortable in the 1940s. This is perhaps the earliest modern casual wear.Living language courses should be designed with primary attention to content, while allowing for the development and consolidation of relevant language skills. Written language can be improved through reports and articles on political and economic developments in a country where the language is spoken, or through correspondence (most likely electronic these days) with someone who knows that country intimately. Classes can now be twinned easily across language groups and geographical areas to work on joint projects via computer and modem. Sounds can be practiced through drama, the reading and writing of poetry, or production of radio or video programs for community access broadcasts. The literature and intellectual ideas of other cultures have always attracted language learners. Travel narratives, biographies, case studies from the business or legal world, environmental and conflict-resolution studies are other candidates, the latter often introduced through simulations that involve the students actively.). One could go on endlessly brainstorming possibilities. Language is a vehicle that should not be driven around empty.
There is no need, as has so often been the accusation, for language courses to lack intellectual content. As language teachers we are fortunate in that any kind of content (philosophical, literary, scientific, commercial, aesthetic, or cultural) is appropriate for a language course, so long as it provides opportunities for contact with and active personalized use of the language. Wherever there are enough students for diversification, several parallel courses should be offered at each level, allowing for student selection of content and approach. Should such diversity not be possible for logistical reasons, different contents and approaches should be available as the student advances through the language sequence. Students from abroad who will be proceeding to specialized studies in their new language need a different kind of help; if they come from very different educational systems they frequently need guidance in giving oral reports and reporting on experiments, as well as in the formal requirements of writing papers, searching databases, and drawing up bibliographies. In many institutions it is possible for teachers of language to cooperate with teachers of other disciplines by providing tutorials in the study of documents and other textual material (aural or written) that are available only in the language they are learning; in yet others, language teachers prepare language learners for internships in career-related fields in a country where the language is spoken. In some settings it is appropriate for whole courses of specialized subject matter (history, economics, cultural studies) to be taught in the language or for language learners to be incorporated in ongoing subject-matter courses along with native speakers. Care should be taken in such situations to see that students, when first confronted with studying a high level of subject matter in their new language, are provided with a backup of language assistance, so that they do not feel overwhelmed and fall back on desperate dictionary searching and mental translation into the first language. Such a traumatic experience often sets language learners back considerably in their progress and destroys fragile, newly developing skills of natural expression in their new language.
Content of relevance to the life, interests, and future career of the student brings the language alive and sparks motivation to use it actively. Let us be imaginative in devising course content and learning activities to meet the needs of all comers, so that students learn through doing _ through using the language in intellectually and socially demanding ways.
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