As the first international worldwide communication tool, English is now depicted in various aspects. The Shakespearean language seems to have lost most of its poetic, dramatic and sophisticated shape to be now spoken, written and quite often damaged by millions of people everyday.
So when it comes to teaching it, one question raises:
What English is to be taught and how?
It obviously depends on the context.
Now that American speakers have led English speakers in terms of number, the first question is “which English should prevail internationally?”
International Standard English seems to be the “Newspeak" George Orwell had imagined back in 1942, which he had defined as “fuzzy ideas and a lack of logical thinking”.
Based on this, teaching English seems both easy and challenging.
It is obviously easy to teach English when English spoken songs, movies and commercials are invading the market.
“You wanna learn English: just do it!”
Just by turning the radio on, your children can sing you a "I wanna f..., but you already know" all day long. Is this the English we want to transmit? Probably not.
The other challenging part is to raise interest when teaching foreign languages. Based on this, here are a few tips to have your students love English:
1. Get to know what their personal environment is made of in order to match their expectations – this is what we call “empathy”
2. Have them work on themes related to their personal life and major. For instance, students in Sociology might be interested in such themes as “The impact of new technologies on relationships”, studying of the impact of communication tools like Facebook, text messages, the Messenger etc
3. Have them find the academic aspect of a language no longer painful but useful. For some topics of high interest to them, i.e. the activity of Secret Services, you can find audio source documents on the BBC website with a high academic level of language and a very interesting content
4. Teach grammar based on jokes and on their own mistakes – they must feel the real purpose of learning a language
5. Work on pronunciation with song and movie audios and use famous acronyms to have them memorize the alphabet, eg. "J like D.J.", "G like G.I.” etc
6. Have them be the actors of the class and participate as much as possible through discussion groups as they are expected to do in business – a language is learnt mostly by being spoken
7. Have them listen to English in an active way: they should try and understand the songs they hear everyday on the radio, watch movies in English and travel, travel, travel
8. Find native speakers from another continent to come and share their experience in your class; what about learning English with an Australian, an American, a South African or a New Zealander? Kind of exotic for a European student, isn’t it?
9. Always remind them of the fact that any human being of this earth can potentially learn any language no matter where they were born.
10. Finally, just love what you do and they’ll probably love what you teach.
Sylvie Mathis, Freelance Translator, University Teacher & Journalist