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Aktivizacn� met�dy vo v�ucbe cudz�ch jazykov by e788dz6


									Activating Methods in Foreign Language Teaching

Alica Harajová, Slovakia

PaedDr. Alica Harajova, PhD. lectures at the private University of Visegrad in Sladkovicovo,
where she is a secretary of Language and Communication Institute. She teaches German for
specific purposes at the Faculty of Social studies with majors like Public policy and Public
administration, Social work and Law. Her professional interests and research are related to the
implementation of multimedia and e-learning in the teaching process of students who do not
major in foreign languages. E-mail:


Activating approach in the process of foreign language teaching
Examples of activating techniques


The work of Noam Chomsky ´ Syntactic Structures´ (1957) had a considerable influence upon
the development of linguistics in the 20th century. Two parallel tendencies might be observed.
On one hand, we have Chomsky´s notion of inborn language competence that represents
a basis for effective language acts (i.e. performance). On the other hand, there is a tendency to
shift the attention from behaviouristic views upon language functioning to cognitive points of
view. Rather than paying attention to structural properties of language, an emphasis was put
on various language performances and communicative skills, being activated in numerous
communicative situations. Activating methods, especially interactive group work have their
firm place within communicatively oriented methodology. These can be used at all
proficiency levels, form beginners to advanced students.

The article deals with various types of activating tasks in the process of foreign language
teaching. Special attention will be paid to activating methods that proved to be successful,
when teaching foreign language for specific purposes, especially at the upper-intermediate
and advanced levels.

Activating approach in the process of foreign language teaching

On the contrary to the teaching of non-linguistic subjects, foreign language teaching is not
accomplished through lectures. Language knowledge and communicative skills are not stored
like intellectual property within our memory as in the case of other subjects. It is essential for
our language knowledge to be operational, i.e. it can be used in new learning and
communicative tasks. It should be used as a tool of interpersonal communication in real social
situations. That is why, foreign language learning is realised through exercises, which include
active participation in teaching process. Then the question is: If active participation of
students in foreign language learning is a kind of prerequisite, how come that we speak about
activating approaches in the field of foreign language didactics?
In order to define the content of this notion, we will outline its individual constituents.
Inductive approach towards language structures: induction of grammatical rules on the basis
of operations with linguistic material,

Exploratory technique towards lexis acquisition: knowledge of semantic meaning from the
context, creative ordering of lexical subsystems,

Interpretational technique when understanding texts: hypothetical propositions regarding the
structure and content; verbalizing visual materials,

Simulation technique to develop productive communicative skills and strategies: simulation of
authentic communicative situations and intentions, very often in the form of role plays,

Interactive approach towards the solution of complex communicative situations,

Project work to introduce real, outside world to the process of teaching; information on
culture with subsequent creation of communicative performances,

Contrastive approach to understand intercultural differences: to develop the ability to
decipher social connotations of verbal and non-verbal behaviour, when being involved in
a communication with foreigner, training of sensitive and adequate reaction to it.

It can be concluded that activating approaches are those that stimulate students´ learning
through active participation and activation of cognitive processes, not only through mere
reproduction of given rules. Another feature of activating approaches is that the major activity
should be on the part of the learner, whereas the teacher has the role of a manager. He/she
manages the teaching/learning process, supporting the student when it is necessary.

Examples of activating techniques

Inductive approach towards language structures. Students induce rules on the basis of
operations with language material. This technique is implemented when acquiring
grammatical rules. The main idea behind is that the student will familiarize himself/herself
with the text, and then explicit dictation of rules occurs. On the basis of a given text, the
student formulates a rule. Then this rule is being verified by means of grammatical exercises
taken from course book. In the third part, students think about other potential uses of this
rule. The fourth part is a stage when the student is asked to apply grammatical rule within
a new language material.

Exploratory approach towards lexis acquisition: to know the meaning of words from the
context, creative ordering of lexical subsystems.

Interpretational technique when working with texts, especially technical texts: hypothetical
propositions regarding structure and content, verbalizing visual materials. Since the 80´s of
the previous century, there has been an increase in the number of visual images in various
language course books. Activity with visually rich material is referred to as interpretational,
(Khadjehzadeh 2002, 150). Pictures and other graphical aids are used in order to
introduce special terminology. When acquiring key notions through pictures, tables, graphs
and diagrams, students read special texts rich in technical language, while various reading and
communicative strategies are being developed. These can be followed by other
complementary reading activities. Textual items that are not rich in language are used in this
conception as an introduction to individual topics. Similar function is fulfilled by diagrams.
However, these can be also used when developing functional communicative abilities, such
as formulation and defence of one´s point of view, searching for specific information,
description of structures, or description and presentation of structures and numerical data.
Activating task is also obvious in case of students´ predictions, when structuring the text. In
this way, students are searching for right words that lead them to a more careful reading and
comparison of their own expectations against a given text.

Simulation technique to develop productive communicative skills and strategies: simulation of
authentic communicative situations and intentions, very often in the form of role plays.
Authenticity of communicative situations and creative use of linguistic knowledge is
dependent upon the extent to which referential frame, structure and content are planned in
advance. On the contrary to artificially invented communicative situations, simulations are
such techniques which students can personally relate to, as the result of their previous
personal experiences. An example of simulation can be the following one: Friends want to
plan and prepare a birthday party. What do they need for that party? Who is going to bring
this and that? What should be the programme like? Who will be invited? What should be
taken into consideration (noise, neighbours)?

Interactive approach towards the solution of complex tasks. Notion interactive means that
students are led to complex language behaviour. When solving such tasks, students have to
make use of a variety of language knowledge, communicative skills and communicative
competence. Communicative situation, which students find themselves in, consists of more
steps that need to be taken within a group work. In didactics of technical language, interactive
approach is implemented when searching for decisions (Bolten 1997, 6). Widely used and
spread example of interactive teaching are case studies and role plays, aimed at the field of
business. Due to their level of difficulty, business role plays are recommended for more
advanced language learners.

Project work to introduce real outside world to the process of teaching; information on culture
with subsequent creation of communicative performances.
Interactive approach can be perceived as an umbrella term for all instances of project work.
However, when dealing with interactive tasks, a wide spectrum of speech acts performed
within group work can be included here. On the other hand, project work is aimed at
incorporating a piece of professional reality into foreign language teaching/learning,
simultaneously improving communicative strategies and building vocabulary.

Contrastive approach to understand intercultural differences: to develop the ability to
decipher social connotations of verbal and non-verbal behaviour, when being involved in
a communication with foreigner, to train sensitive and adequate reaction to it.
To develop and improve this ability, it is strongly recommended to adopt contrastive
approach, where students interpret a particular communicative behaviour on the basis of their
own cultural consciousness. The ability to react appropriately is extremely important during
business negotiations among partners, coming from various cultural backgrounds. Our point
of departure is the fact that each country within Europe has its own cultural heritage as
a result of its own historical development. Student analyses intercultural communication on
a video, deciphers social signals being included there, and he/she considers possible ways of
adequate reaction to the communication that is on the video, so that misinterpretation of
communicative intention does not occur.

Motivational methods and techniques support activity, creativity, divergent thinking,
imagination, fantasy and autonomous learning on the part of the student. They enable the
development of learning strategies, but affective factors are positively stimulated as well.
Activating and motivational methods might be time-consuming sometimes, but the result will
be more effective approach to studying, where it is far better to experience new phenomenon
once, rather than hear it twice. The final goal of any language instruction should be the
development of communicative competence. However, each country has its own spectrum of
conventions and habits that determine the flow of communication. Language output is to
a great extent a social behaviour. When studying foreign language, students should be
instructed to increase their cultural consciousness, they should be aware of cultural
differences between mother tongue and target language cultures, and they should understand
psychological aspects of communication. The aim of language education is a target language
user who has developed his/her language competence in all its respects, including cultural
sub-competence. In other words, language teachers have to develop communicative
competence of their students, and they should also shape their personality and social
behaviour as part of intercultural competence.


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The Methodology and Language for Secondary Teachers course can be viewed here.

The Building Positive Group Dynamics course can be viewed here.

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