Sometimes we may be so immersed in getting the task of English done that we miss important opportunities to connect with our learners on cultural levels, levels that can enhance students’ learning. This short blog post will discuss the benefits of incorporating students’ native language (L1) and culture in the class, and I will give a personal anecdote or two about how doing so helped me in my teaching context.
The short answer to this month’s blog topic, “is it really worth making the distinction between ‘native English speakers’ (NES) and ‘non-native English speakers’ (NNES)”, is no; the issue, however, is much more complex than a simple one-word response. Undoubtedly, the English language continues to occupy a predominant role in the world, serving as the language of access to important pools of knowledge for many developing countries. They utilize this knowledge in order to empower their citizens and advance their countries forward.
We are always trying to 1) figure out how something works, 2) why something went wrong, or 3) what might happen if we tried something a certain way. It’s in our DNA, and we can’t help it! In teaching a language, our inquisitive nature manifests everyday when we investigate how the language works, how to use the best teaching techniques, or how to understand why things we’ve done in the classroom may not have gone as planned.
In fact, I often explain to my students that the keys to a language are grammar and vocabulary: knowing the rules to make meaning and knowing the words to express meaning. Having a large vocabulary is of no avail if a learner cannot piece words together to make meaning; TADA, here enters grammar. As Ellis (2006, pg. 101) states, “Grammar has held and continues to hold a central place in language teaching.” So then how do we teach it effectively in English class?
Deductive grammar learning vs. inductive grammar learning
Millions of students all over the world are learning English, and while it can be fun and rewarding, it can also be challenging and humbling. Language acquisition is a monumental task, and it takes courage to overcome the linguistic hurdles, especially in the early stages. One strategy students utilize to help with learning English is occasionally using their native language (L1). But as teachers, we are tasked with making sure students are learning English, not excelling in their L1s. So how do we manage their use of L1 without interfering with their acquisition of L2?