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Theories in Teaching English Students

This article was adopted from Zhao Xiaoyuan paper (2006), this paper discussed the current trend in ESL reflects about the theories and method basis we learnt in my ESL history and principle class at the University of Memphis. The paper is divided into 11 sub areas according to different trends in ESL. But this posting contains 5 areas only, for the others just wait my next posting.
         1. A focus on learners as active creators in their learning process, not as passive recipients.
Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) regards the communicative competence develops depending on students’ inner element. In a communicative class, the traditional teacher’s role as an instructor diminished. Teachers are not regarded as a “knowledge disseminator” but to help the students in their learning. Nevertheless, student should be the center of the whole teaching and learning process.
Another point about this is: Robert Sternberg has also been shaking the world of traditional intelligence measurement. He identifies a type of intelligence as experiential ability to engage in creative thinking, combing disparate experience in insightful ways. (Brown 2000: 94)Therefore, learners should be regarded as an active reproducer of the knowledge and practice the knowledge, but not just passively accept everything the teacher said. In L2 language teaching, teacher should use the student-oriented teaching method in order to bring out the best of students’ development. The study on learner as active creator reflected Sternberg’s intelligence hypothesis.
         2. A focus on the learner's language and what it may reveal about the language-learning process.
The research method of Second language Acquisition is the study of the learners’ language, in other words, it is the study and analysis of inter-language. Inter-language is the output language after the learner start to learn a second language and before the learner can well command the second language. It is between the goal language and the mother tone. It has both the figure of mother tone and the goal language. The study of describes interlanguage through contras tic analysis and error analysis answers the question of how human acquires a language.
         3. A focus on communicative language teaching and the components of communicative competence.
When American experts start to criticize the Audio-lingual Method (ALM) and its theoretic basis, British linguists also doubted their SLT theories. They start to notice the emphasis of language teaching should be on the communicative competence/ability instead of mastery of structures in consisting with Chomsky’s linguistic competence theory.
The term “communicative competence” was coined by Dell Hymes (1967, 1972). According to Hymes, account sufficiently for the social and functional rules of language, communicative competence is that aspect of our competence that enables us to convey and interpret messages and to negotiate meanings interpersonally within specific contexts. It is raised based on Chomsky’s “rule-governed creativity”. It is distinguished from linguistic competence and emphasizes more on the functional and interpersonal competence.  It reflected the theory of input and interaction and communicative strategies (Communicative strategies deal with the receptive domain of intake, memory, storage, and recall and reveal the acquiring process through communicative strategy.) Since language is used for communicative purpose and has the influence of a community, it is reasonable to teach the language in a communicative way.
Besides, in the community learning, each person lowers the defense and open to communication. And through the interaction in the community and more practice and feedback, one can achieve a better result in the learning.
Communicative approaches are centered on using language to learn and learning to use language but not just learning language or learning about language. Its ultimate goal is to gain the students enough ability to communicate with the language. Nevertheless, to gain the language ability requires a lot of effective language input and interaction in communication. In class, students are put into some communicative scenes and gain the communicative competence trough means of listening, speaking, reading and writing.
The major component of communicative competence is the grammatical competence. That means to correctly understand and express an utterance semantically. It also means the ability to wording and phrasing.
         4. A focus on language function as well as on language form.
The theoretic basis of this focus is the functional approach. The generative rules that were proposed under the Nativistic framework were abstract, formal, explicit, and quite logical, yet they dealt specifically with the forms of language and not with the deeper functional levels of meaning constructed from social interaction. On the functional level, development is paced by the growth of conceptual and communicative capacities, operating in conjunction with innate schemas of cognition. On the formal level, development is paced by the growth of perceptual and information-processing capacities, operating in conjunction with innate schemas of grammar.
We have already learnt that the acquiring of a language is not just an imitation of the surface form but the reproduce of the deep structure related to meaning and function. Over the years, linguists have focused so much on analyzing the form of the language in order to interpret the surface form and structure to get it through to L2 learners. However, it is equally important to dig the deep language structure with meaning and function in communication.
Communicative Language Teaching holds the view that the meaning of language includes 1. Semantic meaning (the meaning on dictionary). 2. Pragmatic meaning including functional meaning, etc. Therefore, to pass the language to learners, it is equally important to focus on function.
         5. A focus on an interactive mode of communicative classroom instruction, one that fosters creative interaction among and between learners.
The interactive mode of Second language classroom is based on the environment teaching. We have already learnt that language acquisition is not just an imitation of the surface structure, but the process of reproducing the deep structure of the language. The deep structure has to do with the meaning and environment of the language. Trough communicative mode class, students can learn from the environment to creatively and actively reproduce the deep structure in them.
Language is a communication device, learning a language requires an effective input and interaction and a form of communicative competence in order to gain the language. Therefore, it is quite reasonable to make the class become an English speaking and reproducing environment.
Interpersonal intelligence is also of obvious importance in the communicative process.  This intelligence is also increased through communication and it affects you ability to use the language to communicate.

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