Teach English in JinshAnwei Zhen - Shanghai Shi

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1st Language vs 2nd Language Acquisition?If you can speak english, you can teach english?. Although that may ring true to some extent, being an effective EFL teacher depends on much more than just knowing the language. It?s important to understand how language is acquired. In this article we will explore the differences of how we learn our first language versus learning a second language, and look at the importance of incorporating the natural sequence of language learning into teaching a foreign language. This topic in itself is quite extensive; we will merely touch on how one can begin incorporating it into the EFL classroom. There are four basic skills involved in learning a language: listening, speaking, reading and writing, naturally acquired in that order. When learning our first language, we are continually listening to the language from the day we are born. All day, every day, we are inundated with our native language. We hear the language and listen for many months before beginning to speak it. After much listening, we slowly begin to mimic the sounds we have been hearing. Our first attempts at producing language are done quite naturally, without regard to the many mistakes made. Our first words are, for the most part, mispronounced, our first sentences, incomplete and grammatically incorrect. This does not, however, keep us from speaking. We are continually encouraged by our parents and caregivers until we finally produce the language correctly. As we learned to speak our first language, we learned grammar in a natural way, our vocabulary slowly expanded as our need for more words grew. Our language was acquired in context. Everything we learned revolved around the circumstances that surrounded us. We only began learning formal grammar rules years later, as well as the ability to read and write. These skills were only acquired once we began school, after having mastered our listening and speaking skills. A second language is acquired in a totally different way. When we learn a second language, we are very much aware of it, it does not come naturally. The 4 skills of language learning are often presented to us all together, overwhelming us at times. When learning a second language, we find ourselves needing to learn numerous vocabulary words at the same time, they are not acquired slowly, or on an as needed basis, as when we are children. We find ourselves needing to relearn grammar and language structure, and our access to the language is usually limited to the classroom, slowing our learning process. Another major difference in learning a second language is that we are often embarrassed when making mistakes, leaving us reluctant to speak. As children learning a first language, our mistakes are often viewed as cute. We don?t worry about being ridiculed or misunderstood because of them. In order to make language learning more enjoyable and more effective, we should consider applying the natural sequence of language learning when teaching EFL. I realize it?s impossible to completely ignore reading and writing for several years, and I am not proposing that we do. However, I do believe our focus should initially be on listening as much as possible, and teaching our students to correctly produce the english sounds. Because we cannot be with our students 24/7, we must encourage them to listen to english daily, providing them with plenty of listening material. We should encourage our students to begin listening to english initially for 30 minutes a day, slowly building up to 2 hours. This listening does not have to be all at one sitting, but the time can be divided throughout the day. The important thing is to listen every day. We should be encouraging our students to not only listen every day, but also to practice speaking english every day, even if that means having daily monologues with oneself. Learning to speak a language can be compared to learning to play the piano. Being able to read the notes on a written page and even knowing how to locate the notes on the keyboard, does not make you a piano player. It is only after many long hours of practice that you are able to master and play it in a way that can be understood and enjoyed by you and others. Therefore, if your desire is for your students to learn english well, within a time frame that does not discourage them, make sure they get plenty of practice in and out of the classroom. (Reference: Teaching english Language Learners by Kendale Moore)