As language teachers, what can we do to keep our students’ motivation to learn a language alive? When the magic moments of the very beginning of a language course are over, students begin to see pitfalls and difficulties in front of them. The enthusiasm of the early days seems not to be enough for overcoming the complexity of learning a language.
A mistake I used to make is to give my students what they thought they needed: more analytical work on the mechanisms of the language and more formal learning about the grammar. Big mistake. Thanks to Suggestopedia I finally understood how to look at the matter from a completely different perspective.
What can we do to keep the fire burning, then? In this article I’m going to share with you some ideas coming from Suggestopedia. You can apply those ideas regardless of the language you teach and the method you use.
My personal experience in keeping alive my students’ motivation to learn a language
Time ago I was running a suggestopedic language course (for beginner level students) and I got stuck because I could see some of the students were getting tired. I wanted them to solidify the few grammar points and the lexis we had covered. At the same time, on one hand I didn’t want them to get bored. On the other hand, though, I could sense they were looking forward to formalising what they had been absorbing. “Alright,” I said “let’s give them what they want: grammar.” Did I solve the problem? Not. On the contrary, they got lost in the grammar maze, feeling confused about all the different grammar rules and exceptions. I thought I needed to stop that nonsense and to put it right. But, how?
I called for help! I had a meeting with my mentor, an experienced suggestopedic teacher. Here below are the 3 lessons I learnt from her during that conversation. The great news is that those 3 lessons apply to any type of language course.
In my opinion, All language teachers ought to bear in mind those precious insights, regardless of the type of course they are holding, or the target language they are teaching.
The 3 lessons I learnt from Suggestopedia about how to keep the motivation to learn a language alive
Tap their creative resources in order to build confidence
In not-suggestopedic courses this means to extend and to enrich the globality phase of the course (find out what this means in THIS post). The students need to reconnect to a global understanding of the linguistic material they are offered. They need to consolidate their confidence. They can do that when they watch, read or listen to compelling input they can get the gist of. It’s not time for them to delve into the analysis of the new input. On the contrary, they need to get overwhelmed by new input as long as they are asked to get only a general comprehension about the new input. No pressure for analytically getting deeper into the details. Not now, not yet.
Increase the peripheral stimuli, support their peripheral perception
While you increase the amount of material (videos, texts, tracks, tunes, dialogues, scripts, etc.) and you carry on with the “globality” phase on one hand, on the other hand you need to support them with more visual aids. In THIS post you can find out more about how to use visuals to support the peripheral perception. The whole point is to make sure they can go back to the key, new input whenever needed. You really want them to feel surrounded by visuals.
If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants. Isaac Newton
Finally, give them more art and aesthetics
Think about the language you teach: what are the most prestigious examples coming from that culture, in terms of artists, writers, philosophers, inventors, and so on? Who are those “giants”? For instance, for the English language and culture, Shakespeare is one of those giants for sure. Ask yourself: if those giants could come back now to teach their language, what would they teach? What would their message be? It will be probably about the beauty of their language. Stay with the beauty, then. And feed your students in beauty: show them paintings, read poems, listen to music, share quotes. Remind your students this, to put it plain: learning a language is much more than learning about how to ask for a stamp in a postoffice! Use those pieces of art to introduce new material in the globality phase.
I wanted to share with you the 3 lessons I learnt from Suggestopedia when it comes to keeping alive the motivation to learn a language. One final tip: remember, if you are not enjoying your students, you’re teaching too much!
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