by Matt Murray
Teaching a language successfully depends on more than being an expert in the language. Language experts don’t always make good teachers. Language proficiency is a prerequisite but there are other characteristics that are essential when teaching a language such as the ability to make a connection, passion, creativity and patience.
Connecting with your students on a personal level creates a relationship and that relationship becomes a catalyst that helps their language skills to grow. You need to show your interest in them and what’s important to them. If you do so, you create an environment in which they feel comfortable and motivated to grow.
Mutual respect and trust allow them to move out of their comfort zones and able to take risks in expressing themselves without the fear of being criticized for making mistakes.
If you understand more about them, you can find ways to link the language to their lives in a personal way. They may learn better in audio, visual or even kinetic ways - using videos, images and games could achieve more.
When students participate, they tend to learn more. Studies have shown that quiet, passive students don’t learn as much as those who are asking questions and participating actively.
You need to identify the quieter students and work on drawing them out. There’s a skill to personalizing the learning environment and being able to cater to the specific needs of each student. It helps if you discover what a student enjoys doing most.
Students are far more likely to learn when they’re having fun. This may involve incorporating some apps and tech and doing more hands-on activities.
Students can study grammar and ace tests but they have to learn how to actively use a language. A great teacher will not be satisfied until students have become comfortable using a language instead of just studying it.
When your students see your lessons as uninspiring or boring, you will battle to get anywhere with them. You need to spark their interest in learning the language. One way to do this is to show them how it can be of benefit to them in their daily lives.
Find creative ways to make your classes stimulating so that students don’t feel they’re doing the same thing time after time. One way to do this is by getting them to imagine starting their own business and using a free logo design or logo maker to make a logo for it.
Students are more inspired when they believe they can succeed. Encouraging and praising them can help to allay their doubts, frustrations and insecurities. If you see a room full of confused faces, you need to slow down and ask them where you lost them.
Explain that you know what you’re sharing is difficult, validate their feelings and tell them they will get it in time. Learning a language is difficult and without some encouragement and patience, students can lose hope.
Teaching methods have changed with advances in technology. You need to embrace it if you want to create a more relatable and enhanced classroom. Using only a blackboard and textbooks is not enough to keep students engaged anymore. Don’t be afraid to use internet resources, role play, videos and more to get across your topic in an engaging way.
Ultimately, being a successful language teacher encompasses far more than language proficiency. Enthusiasm, passion, creativity, patience and other characteristics are essentials in the classroom of a successful language teacher.
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