This is one of those posts that I hope will continue to evolve through comments, contributions and discussion. It’s of course a very subjective list of 10 nagging EFL questions, so feel free to suggest other that are currently nagging you. I hope this post sparks some discussion and gets us all thinking about teaching, learning and languages in general.
So let’s start questioning:
- Are some students practically unteachable and unimprovable (if I may coin a new word)?
- Is there a certain, individual language plateau, beyond which no trespassing is possible, or can all students achieve proficiency level (assuming they work very VERY hard)?
- Are certain teaching practices universally better (e.g. guided discovery), or does it all depend on the student/group/mother tongue and culture? Are there any scientific studies confirming it?
- Do the students actually notice and get bored with the fact that some course books use only one approach (e.g. F2F and text-based guided discovery) as much as we teachers do (or at least I do)? Wouldn’t it be nice then to have a course book which would blend different approaches?
- Isn’t “Teacher, you see, I’m not good at languages” all too often a lame excuse? Or is it?
- It’s commonly believed that the younger you start learning a language, the greater your chances of actually learning it. But is there any evidence for that? (I don’t mean bilingual education or upbringing, but rather sending your 5 year old once or twice a week to a language school)
- Why do some nationalities (I don’t want to name names or point the finger, but you all know who I mean) find it so excruciatingly hard to get rid of their L1 accent when speaking English, and what could we as teachers do to help them?
- Speaking of which, what is “correct” pronunciation or “correct” grammar, and who says so? After all, languages continuously evolve and change, whether you’re loving or hating it…
- Do we learn foreign languages through overt and explicit teaching and correction, or do we pick them up as we go? Or maybe both? Or neither? And what does it mean for us as teachers?
- If we know (or we think we do) that some methods (e.g. audiolingual or direct method) do not work, why are they still so popular, and why are language schools which use them still flourishing?
PS: I actually wish I’d long ago compiled a list of 10 EFL questions that were nagging me back then. Perhaps right after I did the CELTA. And then a year or two later. Then before and after the DELTA. It would be great if I could look at them now to see what my worries, qualms and preoccupations about teaching were back then. But, well, better late than never.