When it comes to learning a new language, a good curriculum is helpful, but a good teacher is vital. We as teachers and parents alike, might think we know what will work in the classroom, however, we sometimes need to sit back and view our methods, and our understandings, from the learners’ perspective. We are striving to create the best thinking minds by being the best mentor, guide, and knowledge source we can possibly be.
In order to do this, we cannot assume that learners are familiar with the new language we are teaching them. We need to find out what they actually do know – as well as how much they know of it, and then, focus more on any of the language gaps or barriers there may be.
In my experience, from teaching at a special needs school, I have come to realize that the biggest mistake we make as educators and parents, is to think that we are teaching children well enough when we are only teaching them in the language that we are familiar with. We need to pay more attention to the learners’ needs and how they are coping with our methods.
When language is a barrier to learning, I would suggest using images and other visual techniques. These are helpful because children do not easily forget an exciting, visually-stimulating image. We, ourselves, can reflect back to our parents always telling us that we don’t listen, but did it ever occurred to them that perhaps showing us what to do would have been a better option?
Teachers, this is a very beneficial tip to you. Do not always focus on learners’ auditory abilities but focus equally on their visual abilities. Put up posters in your classroom, show them video clips, make use of subtitles in their spoken language, and let them take part in role play. Remember – what we do now, is what they will take with them into their future.
As a parent you can use your child’s bedroom as an extension to their classroom by putting up educational posters (topics that are relevant to their current work) as well as reading and spelling aids.
In our country, it is important to be bilingual. We should aspire to knowing the grammar and vocabulary of both English and Afrikaans very well. If, as an educator, you are unsure of your languages, you cannot expect your learners to achieve what you yourself have not. Learners need to know the grammatical rules in order to apply them correctly to work and therefore they will have structure and build on that. If they know rules they are more motivated and gain confidence to try and attempt to speak, and write in that language. We need to make learning a new language as easy and fun as possible, then the learners will want to learn more!
Tips on learning a new language:
- Firstly, read a lot! Make it fun – magazines or interest articles are a perfect ways to start.
- Watch television shows, video clips and movies in the language you are trying to learn, with subtitles in your own language on, so that you can differentiate among the words.
- Surround yourself with people that speak that language, make friends with them and visit their homes as you will pick up words really quickly.
- Have a dictionary handy. An English-Afrikaans dictionary is a great investment.
- Technology- gain access to reading programmes and educational material that will make learning that much easier.
- If you plan on teaching or having your child learn more than one language – early is the best time for them to learn several languages.
- Make an effort and stay motivated. Giving up half way through your learning journey is just not acceptable, you need to finish what you have started.
- Lastly, read a lot! Reading activates quite a few areas in your brain and is very good for you.