I have been teaching English for nigh on 25 years in general and in state schools since 2005. In this time I have been wondering whether the way the course books teach the language is the best way – and, of course, anything I might say regarding languages is valid for all foreign languages but English teaching is the best documented. There have been many discussions about this: one the one hand we all know where kids learn their mother tongue, immersed in the language amongst people who love and care for this child, and how this stands in direct conflict with the school environment. The student, together with 20 or more others is stuck in an often uninspiring, unchanging environment (classroom), usually with one person paid to do the job, talking about things which may be of interest or relevance but probably not, for just a couple of hours a week. To be quite honest, it is surprising that anybody learns anything at all.
However, I fully recognize the need to find standardized forms of teaching which are mediated to student teachers as we are not talking about a niche-business here but something that, for example, every single child in Germany will be confronted with if he or she goes to a regular school. We are not living in a world of “one size fits all” and, meanwhile, I firmly believe that although the “standard” teaching methods may well be fine for many kids, it is not catching all of them. To be fair, the newer course books don’t do a bad job under the circumstances, considering they have a lot of “political correctness” to consider (each group of friends always includes at least one of each group of ethnic minorities and kids from intact and “patchwork” families (I do find the Anglo-German word for this concept much better than the English “blended families” which reminds me of soup).
Anybody who has taught year 5 (10-11 yrs old) kids in Germany, who have had a couple of years English at primary school, will know that they are totally enthusiastic about the language and raring to go and by the end of year 5, some will have lost that enthusiasm because we have started introducing them to rules, grammar and five tests a year.
Of course, this blog will also only capture the interest of those who are already interested in changing methods and mindsets but keeping the subject in the discussion is important as our methods of teaching English have to be as much in flux as the language itself – just a mere reflection of the society within which language is needed.