Revolutionizing Foreign Language Teaching Methodology: Why ESA Was The Best Thing I Learned About in My TEFL Course
2019-05-28 Elizaveta Pachina Alumni Experiences
The best thing I have learned from this TEFL course is that teaching methodology is no longer dominated by the framework of translation/grammar-based learning, but newer, more holistic methods are starting to be used by teachers, such as the ESA method.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Leslie H. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Considering Language Structure
Grammar/translation learning primarily uses the practice of finding equivalents of the students’ language in their target language. One of my main criticisms of this method is the auto-translation it encourages in students. Instead of looking at a sentence and automatically grasping the meaning, the inclination is to translate it into one’s first language in order to understand what it means. There is always a barrier between the student and real fluency. The student learns a great deal about the language but would have trouble using it.
Fortunately, as I have learned while taking this course, there are many other methods being pioneered by teachers around the world. These include The Silent Way, Communicative Language Teaching, and PPP (Presentation, Practice, and Production). While all have their benefits, it depends on the particular teaching situation as to which is the best. There are, however, some main points that should be focused on when teaching, such as the need for students to be exposed to their target language as much as possible, the need for students to be able to discover language for themselves, and the need for input from the instructor.
A New Methodology Learned
I was very pleased to learn about the teaching method that this course focuses on. The ESA (Engage, Study, Activate) method, developed by Jeremy Harmer, works on the knowledge that students need motivation, exposure to language, and the opportunity to use it. It provides a great deal of flexibility with various formats (Boomerang, Straight Arrow, etc.), while also providing structure for lesson planning. All ESA lessons include sections that encourage students to speak with each other and the instructor through elicitation and group activities, as well as opportunities to learn and practice language rules. Worksheets and flashcards have their place within the lesson but are not dominated by them. ESA lessons encourage students to actually use their target language, not just learn about it. If more teachers used similar methods in my country we might have a much higher foreign language fluency rate.
This brings me to my final point, which is the main reason why I singled this topic out as the best thing I have learned in this course. I spent the better part of the last decade taking French courses. These classes were always dominated by worksheets and translation activities. We might have spent five or ten minutes out of the hour actually speaking French. Only in the last couple of classes I took at university did I get to practice the language in any meaningful way. The result of this has been that I can read French rather well, but I would have a hard time engaging in conversation with a native. I always felt that my courses should have included a much larger practice component, but there was not much I could do about it. However, learning that the current trends in language teaching are veering away from grammar and translation gives me hope. I am very excited that, as a teacher, I will be able to give my students the learning experience I wish I had been given.
Also Read: Role of the Teacher: Jack of All Trades
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