There are many approaches to presenting language to TEFL students for the first time. In the following articles we will consider a variety of different principles, all of which have their positive and negative aspects.
Forcing a ‘language breakdown’. By this, we mean the TEFL teacher guides students through a situation such that the student uses previously learnt language in order to arrive at a point where they fail to continue with the task because they lack the right language. So, the student suffers a breakdown in communication. By language, we could mean a grammatical structure (e.g. ‘going to’ for arranging future plans), lexis (e.g. vegetables on the context of shopping), or a function (e.g. ask politely for something to be passed at the table).
Here is an example. Let’s take the presentation of the structure ‘Which one?’ and the reply ‘This one’.
The TEFL course trainer sets up a simple sell/buy role play situation for a pen. The students have previously done this and carry it out with no trouble. Then it is repeated but when the seller goes to hand over the pen (it could be placed out of reach of the buyer), the teacher intercepts, and places several other pens of different colours and sizes with the original pen, offering a variety of choice. The teacher then intimates to the buyer and seller that it is unclear which pen the buyer wants. The teacher tries to illicit the question from the seller, hopefully creating the desired language breakdown. The necessary language (in this case ‘Which one would you like?’) is then supplied and the role play brought to a close, followed by the teacher highlighting the structure and continuing with the presentation from there.
The advantages to this kind of initial exposure to language are:
The students get an intuitive grasp of the target language because of being presented in context.
There is no need for translation.
The students have the benefit of seeing the language "in situ" and therefore its application, which in turn means it is relevant and meaningful task.
The introduction of the language takes place within an already familiar context, which reinforces and aids learning through association.
The learning impact on the S is greater due to experiencing the limitation.
The disadvantages are:
The students may misinterpret the situation, leading to confusion.
It is not always easy to contextualise language use to the point that we isolate the specific target language desired.
Posted on May 12th, 2017