How should we teach languages?


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Once I was told that there are more interesting lessons in English, but the lessons of Kazakh and Russian are almost the same. At that time I realized that these words might have a true line in our context. There is a debate about teaching the Kazakh and Russian languages among education professionals. As a person, who came through primary, secondary, and undergraduate levels of education in Russian and English, I am not as proficient in Kazakh as I wish. The reasons for that could be numerous. I would like to elaborate on one – teaching methods.

Remembering the lessons of English, where I was motivated to learn and participate in activities, it was a different situation when the time comes to talk about Kazakh and Russian language classrooms. Mostly, teaching methods of Kazakh and Russian include learning something by heart, reading and retelling, memorizing words and grammar, writing essays, etc. A Grammar Translation Method (GTM) prevails. Grammar Translation Method is not an inadequate method; the outcome could be fantastic if mixing it with other approaches.  There is no diversification of methods and techniques which could motivate students to learn a language, even unconsciously. As it turns out, some students learn a language for the sake of getting marks.

It is not the same situation with lessons of the English language. They inspired me, and I wanted to become a teacher of English. When I had been studying in a Pedagogical Institute, we had a course dedicated to different methods of teaching English. For instance, instead of the stated in the previous paragraph meaningless tasks, teachers may add case studies, surveys, pair and group projects, jigsaw activity, role play, problem solving activities, interviews, skits, diverse games, and many other interactive tasks. I understood that there are many of them to use in a classroom. Why do not teachers of Kazakh and Russian adopt some of them during classes?  I also came across one chapter from a book “Methods and Approaches of English language Teaching”, which could serve as a basis for all language teachers. It consists of the explanation and usage of 18 various methods and approaches in the English language classrooms, including GTM.

I believe if teachers of the Kazakh and Russian languages use diverse methods of teaching, it could help solve some difficulties appearing with a lack of proficiency in these languages. Many sources about teaching methods are in English, but I am ready to contribute in translating and sharing it with willing teachers. The idea for this blog post takes roots from my own experience. I would like to know if you have ever faced with this problem. Have you had the same experience or not?

5 thoughts on “How should we teach languages?

  1. Thanks, Ayana. You’ve managed to complete the blog-writing requirement for this course. I appreciated your post, not only because I’m an English teacher, but because I’m interested in how teaching English in Kazakhstan may affect the ways Kazakh and Russian are taught. You aren’t the first person I’ve heard who wishes all foreign language classes were taught in more interactive, varied, and engaging ways. A couple things I wish you would add/change about your post:
    1. I think you could add a few key examples of the types of lesson activities that create that interactive, motivating environment. You talk a lot in general terms, but not as much in the specific.
    2. “Once I was said…” (told?)
    3. “I can say that”.. This is a weak phrase that doesn’t communicate much. Here’s my rewrite of that same sentence, combined with the next: In my mind, English lessons are directly associated with games, skits, and challenging interactive tasks that motivated me to learn and participate. Unfortunately, Kazakh and Russian language classrooms are associated with the drudgery of memorizing words and grammar and writing endless, meaningless essays.
    What is different?



  2. Dear @ayanairis,

    Thank you for this thoughtful post on teaching languages. These consequences mentioned in you blogpost came from the Soviet legacy. However, time is changing. The great focus in today’s world of teaching should be made on teacher training. It is possible that some language teachers are not aware of different methods or approaches to be used in classrooms. Teacher trainings should be organized in a way of systematic learning that consider various contexts. I had the same experience in Kazakh language classes. And the reason was teacher training and school funding.

    Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks Ayana! Your post sheds light on an actual issue. I agree with you, English teachers at generally tend to be more flexible in terms of methodology. My English teachers at school also motivated me to apply documents to foreign languages faculty. However, as Maira says, the situation with the Kazakh and Russian language teachers is gradually changing. As an example, my sister is a teacher of Kazakh at state school, and she always tries to make her classes more interactive and student centered. And she says that many of her colleagues also apply various teaching approaches not only to ‘show off’ in open classes. But the problem is that majority of so called ‘skillful’ teachers with more than 20 years of experience tend to maintain old-school methodology, you know. And again, I agree with Maira that teacher training courses will do their job, because my sister and her colleagues learned new approaches exactly there.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear Ayana, thanks for raising this issue! I agree that the teaching methods of Kazakh language are not updated and diversified compared with English language teaching. I suppose there are some reasons behind this :English ideology is prevailing in the world that the language is associated with much more symbolic and material power. The importance of learning the language is emphasized and at the same time, abundant investment as well as resources are allocated for learning English language. However, the methodologies have been developed for English learning can be learned, adjusted and applied into Kazakh language teaching. I agree that this would be fantastic idea of corpus planning in the promotion process of Kazakh language learning.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you Ayana for your interesting post!
    If I share my experience of learning languages, all three languages were taught with the usage of GTM. I studied German as a foreign language, and I guess that was still a consequence of the Soviet time when German was considered as L3.What a teacher asked us to do is only translating. She managed to point to those students who were far or less good at this language, while others did their own business. We were even happy that the teacher did not touch us. In the Kazakh and the Russian language classes, the focus was on grammar and we did a lot of grammar exercises that led to no result, considering that I was bad at Humanitarian subjects.

    Liked by 1 person

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