While I am writing new posts for this blog I am asking myself the question:
What does it mean to teach a second language and how does technology support the idea of language learning?
Some might suggest that these are two unrelated questions, but for me learning languages, teaching languages, and technology go hand in hand. This article serves as the introduction to a series of interviews with technology representatives working with language teachers over a period of many years. I recorded these interesting interviews at the BeTT, educational technology event, in London, 2014. My readers, I look forward to publishing these language & technology ideas from those whose opinions influence the use of technology in second language learning.
Trying to answer the question I keep asking myself makes me think from a different perspective.
What does it mean to teach second language and how does modern technology supports the idea of language learning?
- Constant evolution of the teacher
I am a language teacher. Teaching is something about which I am passionate. It is in my bones. Many years in the classroom with students has taught me many things but the most beneficial skill has been learning a lot about myself and my needs for personal development. All my attitudes towards my teaching philosophy are influenced by this constant evolution of myself.
This constant evolution includes taking note of the changing world, the realities of the 21st century technology environment, the students who are growing up “digital”, and finding new ways of using the digital resources and devices at our disposal to teach languages in the classroom.
- Language education in different countries perspective
Different countries do have different education systems, different numbers of second languages taught at schools, different motivation to teach foreign languages. Motivation for language teaching and different attitudes are mirrored in the national curriculum. For example schools are more language focused in Europe where children start learning English. It’s massively important in European countries to learn English, there is no question about it. Every time you switch on the TV or go online you are bombarded with English language pop music and culture. In the UK the external motivator for teaching a second language isn’t naturally there to the same degree that it is in other countries. There is no obvious language you need to learn and that’s a challenge for language teachers. In Malaysia the situation is different. What most people consider as standard are at least three languages tought at schools. Make your own examples from your country and share them with us. These examples tell us a lot about the second language teaching motivators. They have a direct impact on the teaching methods and teaching attitudes of individual teachers.
Different needs for learning a second language influence the selection of digital sources and in some way influence the role of technology as a motivator. For example technology could be used in schools to give students a positive attitude toward learning languages, to learn the rules, and to explore other cultures.
- Languages are all about connecting with people
Does it make sense? The most important reason for using a second language is communication and communication involves people. We are learning grammar not to know grammar per se, but to communicate with people in a comprehensible way. We are not learning pronunciation to twist our tongue but to communicate in a way that people understand us. I can continue in this manner with other known language skills but I think you get the point.
The most powerful connection is the real one, and not the one simulated in classroom. Learning a second language without real connections is like learning swimming without water. But how can I expose my French learning students with the real communication far away from France or Canada? Yes, you know what I am thinking about, right? TECHNOLOGY. Combining computer classrooms, students devices, language labs with real-time conferencing software and fellow schools in different countries. That’s something that innovative teachers are using nowadays in language classrooms. Do you have an internet connection in your class and some digital devices? Maybe it’s time to find the proper cooperation with a school abroad?
There are so many good reasons to remember why we are teaching our students second languages, although it may seem to be obvious. It could definitely be helpful when picking up the right technology tools for our classroom. If you are using technology, ask yourself the question:
What does it mean to teach a second language? All the answers you get will help you to find the right digital device and “perfect time” & “perfect way” of technology supported language teaching.
Keep visiting us to listen the language&technology related interviews with technology representatives.
Veronika, trainer, passionate teacher, blogger, member of smartclasscommunity team