jueves, 30 de octubre de 2014
jueves, 23 de octubre de 2014
I first came to La Paz in January 2013 to participate in the UK Government's volunteering programme for young people, International Citizen Service. We had Spanish classes with Instituto Exclusivo, and for the first time I enjoyed learning a foreign language. I realised I had an opportunity to achieve my ambition of becoming reasonably competent in a second language and returned in January 2014 to teach English, learn Spanish and experience this uniquely diverse country once again.
Instituto Exclusivo is the best of the TEFL world for me. In the English department our students are mostly professionals in individual or small group classes or one-to-ones via Skype. There's also a real sense of community. My colleagues, the other English, Spanish, French and Quechua teachers, are more than just my colleagues, which is a great bonus to a workplace. I've had classes with three excellent Spanish teachers, and in the process learned a lot about how to teach. These are my tips for anyone just starting out in TEFL.
Don't simply beat people over the head with grammar
Even though it can be tempting at times. “He has, not he have!” In my first Spanish lesson, altitude sickness still wearing off, we didn't rehearse verb tables but instead hit the ground running and learned a simple introduction: My name is James, I'm a volunteer, I've been in Bolivia for a week and I enjoy playing volleyball. It stuck in my head, and now I try to make sure my beginners know they can master a useful phrase right from the start.
Make them talk
My second teacher began every class with carefully-pitched conversation practice, and kept the questions coming almost relentlessly. How was our week? How is the volunteering going? What do I think about x? What does my classmate think? Do I agree? Why? Why not? It was an excellent technique. She made it impossible not to practise everything we studied. I use this now with my English students – NGO workers, conservation biologists, engineers – who often don't have the luxury of being able to practise English in their daily lives, so it's essential that they use it in the classroom.
Let it sink in
When I returned to La Paz a year later I re-started Spanish with my current teacher. As the complexity of the grammar topics increased, I noticed the value of really clear, simple, logically ordered presentations and explanations. She gives me plenty of time to think and ask questions if I need clarification. I think one of the most important activities as a teacher is sometimes inactivity or, rather, avoiding hyperactivity. Not speaking too much, not reformulating sentences unnecessarily, not changing subjects too quickly and not trying to do too much in a single lesson. The language needs time to sink in. It's far better for your students to understand one thing well than many things badly. Achieving this is obviously the challenge, and it means knowing a topic inside out before you teach it, explaining something concisely but comprehensively before you practice it, and being absolutely sure your students get it before you move on.
viernes, 17 de octubre de 2014
El mundo se hace más pequeño y cada vez tenemos más contacto con gente de otros países, y otras lenguas es así que la comunicación entre las personas se ha vuelto tan importante, pero nada de esto sería posible si no existiera el instrumento básico de uso como es la palabra en sí misma, sin importar el idioma que se use la palabra será un conjunto de letras que darán un significante y un significado.
Ahora, imagina que no solo tratas de entender y mejorar tu vocabulario en tu propia lengua, sino que tratas de aprender una lengua nueva; es ahí donde vienen muchas preguntas a tu cabeza. ¿Podré aprender un nuevo idioma? ¿Va a ser muy difícil? ¿No voy a entender nada ni a nadie? ¿Nadie me va a entender?, etc. Todos esos miedos son reales y normales. Entonces cuando tomas la decisión de hacerlo aterrizas y entras en pánico, pero no es tan dramático como suena.
Desde el punto de vista personal, la experiencia de aprender una lengua nueva ha sido la entrada a un nuevo mundo, como pasar de una dimensión a otra con sonidos diferentes. Cuando decidí tomar este riesgo y responder estas preguntas por mí misma, sin que nadie me lo cuente o lo leyera en un libro, puedo decir que cambió mi vida.
No solo decidí aprender un idioma de manera repetitiva o memorística, sino que descubrí que las personas expresan mucho más que simples palabras al momento de comunicarse, expresan una posición, una creencia, un sentimiento, etc. La verdad es que nuevos pensamientos e ideas son creados cada minuto en todas partes y no están siendo traducidos instantáneamente. Las personas no solo queremos comprender el significante de una palabra, porque para eso podemos usar un diccionario sino que queremos entender un significado, es decir; la imagen mental, el concepto que representa y que puede variar según la cultura.
Así creció mi amor por las palabras, tanto que hicieron que me convirtiese en capacitadora de mi propia lengua. Ahora tengo la experiencia desde otro punto de vista y creo que poner a una persona ante una lengua nueva le abre la mente a un mundo diferente.
Además dentro del aprendizaje de un nuevo idioma se podrá trabajar con la integración de elementos culturales que ayuden a adquirir una competencia intercultural y así los estudiantes podrán comprender el contexto general de un nuevo idioma a través de las palabras. Claro que existen varios estudios en relación a este tema, la interculturalidad dentro de la enseñanza, pero lo que tratamos de hacer aquí es proponer una visión nueva y fresca de enseñanza basados en estos principios. De poder compartir no solo el conocimiento teórico con nuestros estudiantes sino también la experiencia de interculturalidad desde nuestra región.
martes, 7 de octubre de 2014
From Student to Teacher
When I first arrived in La Paz, Bolivia, I was pretty much alone. My Spanish was not great and I felt very lost and confused. I was here for work and only knew my boss. So I decided to sign up for Spanish classes. I was fortunate enough to notice the large “Learn Spanish” sign marking the excellent location of Instituto Exclusivo and signed up for classes. I thought this could be a great opportunity to learn Spanish, meet people, and discover more about La Paz. After an online test to figure out my level, I was ready to begin.
I was feeling a little nervous when I walked into school for my first day of class. I didn’t know what to expect. But the atmosphere inside immediately put me at ease. Everyone greeted me, somehow knowing me by name almost instantly. I was offered tea or coffee, water, free wireless internet… This was where I wanted to learn Spanish.
Then I met my Spanish teacher. She was incredibly easy to talk to. We chatted about what I wanted to learn, how I wanted to structure my Spanish classes, in order to get the most out of my individual classes. I had never had a learning experience that was so perfectly tailored to me.
I began to look forward to my classes, coming early, staying after, just to hang out on the very comfortable couch and watch the people of all ages from all over the world come and go. I was always welcome here.
After a couple months of private classes, I learned that another student who was about my level was looking for a group. That sounded like a great idea. So we began group classes with another teacher, who was just as wonderful as my first teacher. In these group classes we were able to debate, to learn grammar, to chat, to learn Spanish in a new and exciting way. And more than that, we became great friends. We explored La Paz together, went out for meals, and practiced our Spanish even outside of school. She left La Paz after a few months but we keep in touch and hope to see each other sometime somewhere in the world.
Around this time, I needed a job. And the Institute needed English teachers! So I went through training, learned how the school works and how to structure my classes to best fit the needs of each student, and began the always changing, always interesting, always challenging job of teaching English classes.
I have a wide variety of students. Here in La Paz, I teach adults and children, advanced classes and beginners. I have students from Bolivia as well as Spain and I adapt my teaching style, material, subject matter, and process for each student. I also teach English online through Skype. I had to figure out a completely new way to teach in order to serve students from Brazil to France to Taiwan.
I have a great relationship with my students. I think one of the most important things when learning a language is to feel comfortable speaking it. So I try to make my classes a relaxed environment where students can chat, write, listen, and learn. I love the combination of teaching my students and at the same time learning from them.
The number of interesting people I have met here at the Instituto Exclusivo is unbelievable. I love talking to people from all over the world, learning about different cultures and ideas. Some pass through quickly, only staying a week, while others stick around for a month or two.
I was supposed to leave La Paz in March, almost 8 months ago. I decided to stay because I love this city, I love the people I’ve met, and I wanted to experience life here for a little bit longer. Instituto Exclusivo has played a large part of my life in La Paz and I cannot imagine my experience without the things I’ve learned here, the time I’ve spent here, and the people I’ve met here.