Teaching languages to adult learners
Thread poster: diana bb

diana bb  Identity Verified
Lithuania
Local time: 21:28
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
Aug 4, 2004

Hello Kim and all,

first of all, it's really great to have this forum in ProZ.com. Thanks, Kim and Magda!

As I was reading the welcome messages, I came across a topic that I found interesting and relevant to me, and not only to me. Teaching languages to adults - that's the one. I saw Kathy was interested, and Kim, too. How to keep a class that meets once a week interested and motivated enough to attend to the end of the course? How do mainstream teaching materials relate to adult learners? How to approach the fact that often enough the learners in one group turn out to be of different levels of achievement? And, I guess, many other topics.

Not to be lost in the 'welcome' thread, I am opening this thread and hope it will be of interest to many.

Best regards,

Diana


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Kim Metzger  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 13:28
German to English
Teaching languages to adult learners Aug 4, 2004

diana bb wrote:

Teaching languages to adults .... How to keep a class that meets once a week interested and motivated enough to attend to the end of the course? How do mainstream teaching materials relate to adult learners? How to approach the fact that often enough the learners in one group turn out to be of different levels of achievement? And, I guess, many other topics.

Diana


Hi Diana,
Here are a few thoughts on the topics you've raised. If I were planning a foreign language course for adults who would meet just once a week, I would start by asking a lot of questions about the students. 1. What is their level of proficiency? Beginners, intermediate, advanced? 2. What is their general level of education? High school graduates, college students, etc. 3. What kind of institution is offering the course? College, private language school, etc. 4. Why are the students interested in learning the language? For academic, technical, social, survival purposes? In other words, I would need to take all the possible variables into account before deciding how to set up the course. One approach would work well with beginning students who are getting ready to spend a vacation in the target language country, another approach would be necessary for advanced students learning the language for academic purposes.

If the students are beginners, scheduling the class to meet just once a week is far from ideal. They need constant reinforcement in the beginning phase. But if that's what a teacher has to deal with, then I would certainly want to use a program that integrates lots of cassette/tape exercises for the students to work through on their own between regular class meetings. A once-per-week class would make more sense for adults who are advanced students.

I think the best way to discuss the issues you've raised is first to define the group. We know they're adults, but what about all the other variables? How about giving us a hypothetical situation, describing the institution where the class will take place, the students who will attend, the kind of materials that will be available, the schedule, etc.

Thanks for starting an interesting thread.
Cheers, Kim

[Edited at 2004-08-04 16:36]


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Martina Silpoch  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 11:28
English to Czech
+ ...
Not easy Aug 4, 2004

to do - teaching adults, same class, different levels. Been teaching Czech in the US for quite a few years and dare to say no school prepares you for it. Watching old movies with one room schools for the whole village and poor confused teachers feels like home now:)But they did it and so will we!
A lot depends on their motivation and desire to learn the language. My students have a "reason". Either their ancestors were/are Czech, or they plan on going to live/work there, or they got involved with/married a Czech. Teaching individuals one on one is sooooo easy, as soon as you figure out what the students wants, what his learning and personal style is, you got it.
for the past 4 months I have a class of 12 adults, 2 hrs a week. A mix of retirees, college kids, young and middle aged professioanls . Some have a language base grandma used at home 50 years ago, some came equiped with the Prague slang Czenglish of the past few years. Some didn't even know a word. The "best" part is new students coming in. The class is not organized as a semester, it's a continuing version, perpetuum mobile, rotating doors. Very frustrating.
So - always have a bunch of interesting Czech materials (store brochures, magazines, leaflets, printouts from web sites etc.) to look at, read, work with for the advanced ones, while we go thru the alphabet with the newcomers. When the newbies need a break, oldies talk, newbies listen. Oldies also have a chance to explain things to newbies instead of me repeating over and over.They all know to have a couple questions about realia. Since most have a connection to Czech rep., they bring their "stuff" -letters, maps, whatever and we work on those.
Keep each activity to no more than 15 mins and make sure veerybody talks as much as they can. Plenty of games and exercises on the internet. It pays to be a little of a comedian and a show-of and make them laught at least few times. amazing how that channels attention:)
and always have plenty more material prepared than you plan on using, so you can adjust as need be. Keeping records of what you did is a must. They do remember everything the teacher said, promised to bring etc.
Bottom line - it's exhausting fun I would not exchange for anything and makes for great change of pace from translating.
Martina


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Patricia Lucanera
Local time: 15:28
English to Spanish
+ ...
Teaching adults Aug 25, 2004

H Diana, Kim and Martina,

I´m very happy to see this new forum and I also think it´s really very interesting. I´m a sworn and literary-technical-scientific translator but besides my work as a translator, I started teaching English in companies 18 years ago, and I´ve never stopped. I think that teaching adults in a working environment is a very challenging and rewarding experience. I don´t now how much of a "teacher" in the traditional sense we are, Í like to think of myself as a communicator, somebody who helps adults through the learning process, who has to have a pragmatic approach and help them get results as soon as possible because they need it for their jobs. And you have to create a friendly, relaxed atmosphere, because, especially in companies, they have more than enough pressure in their daily work, they don´t want to come and deal with pressure in the English classroom too.
I agree with Martina, you have to be a bit of a comedian and make people laugh, I think humor is a very powerful way of communication, I use it a lot and people react very positively, they tell me that coming to the class cheers them up, and this is really good.And yes, it´s a break from translating, you talk to people and exchange ideas, (and you don´t get a crick in your neck!)
There are many aspects to talk about, this is just an introduction and I hope we can all share our views and experiences.

Let´s keep in touch
Pat


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Kim Metzger  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 13:28
German to English
Serenity, Courage, Wisdom Aug 26, 2004

Pat wrote:

(I) like to think of myself as a communicator, somebody who helps adults through the learning process, who has to have a pragmatic approach and help them get results as soon as possible because they need it for their jobs. And you have to create a friendly, relaxed atmosphere, because, especially in companies, they have more than enough pressure in their daily work, they don´t want to come and deal with pressure in the English classroom too.
I agree with Martina, you have to be a bit of a comedian and make people laugh, I think humor is a very powerful way of communication, I use it a lot and people react very positively, they tell me that coming to the class cheers them up, and this is really good.



Diana
How to keep a class that meets once a week interested and motivated enough to attend to the end of the course? How do mainstream teaching materials relate to adult learners? How to approach the fact that often enough the learners in one group turn out to be of different levels of achievement?

Martina

So - always have a bunch of interesting Czech materials (store brochures, magazines, leaflets, printouts from web sites etc.) to look at, read, work with for the advanced ones, while we go thru the alphabet with the newcomers. When the newbies need a break, oldies talk, newbies listen.
Oldies also have a chance to explain things to newbies instead of me repeating over and over. They all know to have a couple questions about realia.

Bottom line - it's exhausting fun I would not exchange for anything and makes for great change of pace from translating.

Hi Diana, Martina and Pat,
I think the Serenity Prayer from Alcoholics Anonymous can help teachers too:

"God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the Courage to change the things I can and the Wisdom to know the difference."

Martina and Pat have given us some great advice and a few useful techniques. Most of all, they've got the right attitude: they are enthusiastic despite all the challenges they face. That's the only way to be a successful teacher. I once taught a beginning German class twice a week at a Mexican subsidiary of a large German company. On the first day I had 5 students; 8 students showed up for the next class; then some dropped out and others joined. Some students were pulled out in the middle of class because they were needed to handle a task in the company. Some of them had already had some German before and others had never taken a foreign language in their lives. Challenge after challenge. You risk boring the fast learners if you go too slow and losing the others if you go too fast. What do you do about the ones who missed the last class?

Martina mentioned one technique that can help in situations like these: create groups in which the more advanced students can work with students who need to catch up.
Groups also help the teacher go easy on the grammar and the technique allows the students to use the language as much as possible by talking to each other.

Try a student-centered classroom instead of a teacher-centered classroom. In other words, the traditional method where the teacher stands in front of the class dispensing wisdom and teaching grammar might not work in some situations (many new foreign language teachers would say it doesn't work in ANY situation).

So to teach successfully under difficult conditions, you must be flexible and as Martina and Pat have said, you must have a sense of humor and make the students feel comfortable.


[Edited at 2004-08-26 02:44]


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