How much of the native language is necessary?

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How much of the native language is necessary?

Unread postby Gabriella » 22 Feb 2012, 05:27

How much of the native language is necessary to become a TEFL teacher?

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Re: How much of the native language is necessary?

Unread postby sally » 23 Feb 2012, 11:28

I think knowledge of the native language really depends on the level of the students you'll be teaching. When I did the CELTA course, we were told not to use the native language of the students so as to encourage them to use English as much as possible from the beginning.
This is all very well with A2+ students but it's a real challenge with complete beginners. The same goes for age: children will generally respond much more to the challenge of knowing very little English but adults might not. In these cases, I think knowledge of the students' native language would be a huge advantage.

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Re: How much of the native language is necessary?

Unread postby amayr » 02 Mar 2012, 22:40

I would argue...none!! Even for absolute beginners. I teach English to students from all over the world, many of whom are at a pre-beginning level, and I definitely can't speak most of their languages. Pictures, picture dictionaries, flashcards, realia, and any other authentic materials are extremely important aids, but it is actually better if you don't speak any of the learners' language. It is challenging and requires a lot of prep, but one nice thing about teaching beginners is that it is mostly just tangible nouns and verbs, all of which can be acted out or displayed quite easily. I think it gets harder around the high beginning level when you start dealing with intangibles, concepts, and tricky grammar. But it is still possible and, in my opinion, actually preferable.

That being said, one huge advantage of knowing your learners' native language is that you can use it to help you explain English in terms they will understand. A very simple example: in Mandarin there is no difference in the pronunciation of the pronouns he, she and it. So, when I'm teaching these for the first time to my Chinese students, I point this out and emphasize the ridiculousness of calling a man "she" and vice versa, so that they realize that this is something different that they will have to pay close attention to when speaking English.

However, I am a strong advocate of using your knowledge of foreign languages only to help augment your teaching of English, and not to actually translate or use it in class.

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Re: How much of the native language is necessary?

Unread postby jezinspain » 17 Jul 2012, 16:01

Agree with amayr. I teach 6 and 7 year-old Spaniards. Without my (basic) Spanish I would often be lost.
Girl asks me, 'How you spell litoldo?'
Me, 'Tell me in Spanish.'
Girl, 'Perro pequeño.'
Me,' L-I-T-T-L-E, D-O-G.'
Happens all the time...

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Re: How much of the native language is necessary?

Unread postby BrianGrover » 08 Nov 2012, 20:55

Use of the students' native language in the classroom by the teacher is verboten, imho. Some teachers will argue that doing so improves efficiency but what it really does is rob the student of a small but not insignificant chance at real communication. That's instead of a lot of the pretend -- and not very realistic -- stuff that we often foist off on our students such as role plays and stilted, textbook dialogues.

By translating or acting as a bilingual dictionary you are simply training the students to tune out English whenever it occurs and wait for the explanation in L1: a self-defeating exercise if ever there was one.

There's one exception. One of the first things I teach students is the phrase: "What's _______ [mean] in English?" This gives them the security of a crossover point. At the same time it provides an opportunity for a meaningful mini-discussion on-the-spot.

Let's take the example above. The student says "What's Perro pequeño in English?" I would say "Gee, I don't know [even if I did]. What's it look like? Is it big, small [lots of gestures; knowing the language can help frame the questions but the students need never know that]. Student says and gestures "small." Then get some absurdity into the conversation: "Is it a fruit? A banana [gesture little banana]? An apple [more gestures]? The resulting laughter will set everyone at ease. You can try other adjectives [soft/hard,] Some more silly misdirection, introduce onomatopoeia: "Is it a car?" [gesture and sound out a horn beeping. Pretty soon you are going to get the equivalent of a "woof! woof!" and a tail-wagging gesture back. "Oh you mean a 'dog.' A 'little dog.' Can someone spell that for me?" At that point communication has been successful. Don't worry about wasting class time. The other students will be all ears: ENGLISH ears.

Worry about milking every communicative opportunity to the fullest while building in small moments of success.
Brian Grover

Truth or Dare for English Language Learners
[Nominee: 2012 ELTon Award for Learning Resources]

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