There is No Best Method for Teaching English as a Foreign Language


T
his essay is written to fulfill the Academic Writing midterm exam. The writer chose one topic of ‘Is there the best method for teaching English as a foreign language?’ to be explored. The reason to choose the topic is by the concern of the writer’s teaching experience in having the better method for her students, thus the writer would like to know what the researcher thought regarding this issue. After reading some materials by the researchers, it concluded that there is no best method for teaching English as a foreign language for number of variables that involved in teaching context; the teachers, the students, and the method.
Over the years the quest of finding the best method in teaching English as a Foreign Language has been conducted by researchers around the globe. One researcher has found the best method while the other researchers made one to answer the dissatisfaction of the previous research as listed in a chronological order of each method’s development, from Grammar Translation Method, Direct Method, Audio-Lingualism, Humanistic Teaching Approaches, Communicative Language Teaching to the Principled Eclecticism. All of these efforts are intended to give the best way to fulfill the various needs of the language learners in mastering one new language. By such consideration, it is difficult to only use one method to teach English as a Foreign Language. Along with what Prabhu (1990, p.162) had said, “We do not believe that there is a single best method.” I will argue number of factors that support this statement. There are the teachers, the students, and the method that involved in deciding there’s no best method for Teaching English as a Foreign Language.
As an English high school teacher I’ve been struggling enough to find the most effective method to teach English to my students. By far, I haven’t got one. It was a never-ending effort in fulfilling the various needs of my students ranging in various level of understanding. I believe that the role of teachers of finding the method that suit their students’ needs is significant in helping them to learn the language. It is their teaching experience skill, their teaching style, and the various methods and techniques exposed by them that matter.
It is wiser for teachers to choose the method that relate to what our students’ needs and background. It is one of the insight knowledge that teachers have by the experiences they’ve got so far. According to Wright (2010), he said, “Experience has shown that the learning process is accelerated when learners are taught about the language and are guided and directed by competent, professional teachers.”Professional means the same as experienced, when teachers gain a lot of skill and knowledge, they will be able to adjust the various methods they have taught to the students and will understand whether those methods are suitable or not. Bell (2007) states,“ I think that teachers should be exposed to all methods and they themselves would ‘build their own methods or decide what principles they would use in their teaching. We cannot ignore methods and all the facts that were considered by those who use them in their teaching. We need a basis for building our own teaching.” (p.143).
Furthermore, teachers’ style and the method they used are supposed to go along together. Teachers tend to seek a method that has an effective classroom activity without considering much of their personality. In this case, for example teachers cannot use the Communicative Language Teaching method while they are not active enough to make the learners got engaged in the class or use the Silent Way while they are more likely to involve talking too much.
Besides teaching style, teachers should expose themselves in a various methods and techniques in teaching English as a foreign language. For having experienced various methods and techniques, teachers will learn which method is suitable to be applied in their teaching context. As in my experiences, back then I knew theoretically the method I learned in my university year but don’t know exactly the method works if it’s not based on the real teaching experience and I once adopted a theory that saying teachers need to exposed students in the communicative competence, that I abandoned my students to understand the grammar, as one of the important aspect in writing. This is like what Bell says, “Few teachers define methods in the narrow pejorative sense used by post-methodologists. Most teachers think of methods in terms of techniques which realize a set of principles or goals and they are open to any method that offers practical solutions to problems in their particular teaching context. (2007,p.141).At that time I was so confused, just following what others’ thought it is the best method. But again, for my experience in exposing myself in a various methods and techniques, I knew now that one method is maybe suitable for some learners but not for all learners. It is like what Prabhu (1990) says that there is no single best method is best for everyone, in other words that different methods are best for certain people in a different teaching contexts.
“How a method is implemented in the classroom is not only going to be affected by who the teacher is, but also by who the students are.” (Larsen-Freeman and Anderson,2011,p.x). The method offered by the researchers cannot be literally used without considering the learners’ needs. This is one of crucial importance in choosing one method to be used. The teachers cannot just think about what method is the most interesting and familiar according to them, instead they have to adjust the method to see it is suitable and effective enough for learners’ needs and background. Learners’ need is divided into two, the objective and subjective needs. A subjective need is when the needs come from inside of the learners while objective needs come from the environment or the authority. Thus, it is better to combine those two needs in deciding which method is suitable for them.
Similarly, not all methods can suit to the age and gender of the language learners. Example, given bySamaranayake (2010),
“When we are going to teach a group of young children aged 6-7, who are not cognitively matured enough to understand certain linguistic features of the target language, the best approach would be to use TPR which, according to Asher, is the fastest, least stressful way to achieve understanding of any target language. However TPR may not work with the adults or adolescents in the same way to the same degree as it does with young learners.”(p.5)
We cannot push every method to be applied to our learner since it will be wasteful and lessen the enjoyment of learning the English, the learners will show disinterest attitude towards it as happened in the learning process. Besides age, it gets more complicated when it comes to gender difference that can also determine of how teaching methodology adopted. Like in my experience that once I taught my students in doing the Silent Way method, when I ask them to think critically on the pictures I gave, most of male students could stay only in a short period of time that finally distract their friends.
Considering the notion as stated by Prabhu (1990,p.161) that “all methods are partially true or valid.”
It means that each of methods offered by the researchers is good for certain people and situation, we can say that there is no best method, but it doesn’t mean that there’s a worst method, since each of the method has its own weaknesses and strengths. Suggested by Samaranayake (2010), “teachers who subscribe to the pluralistic ‘view’ of methods can pick and choose from among methods to create their own blend, their practice is said to eclectic, and this is called principle eclecticism.” It is better for the teachers to adopt the principle of eclecticism where teachers can fit the method to the learner, not the other round. In my teaching, I applied the Communicative Language Teaching method with cooperative learning as a technique and tried to mix it with the Task-Based Language Teaching to my students, where I can focus both on the language competence and also the task completion that they can discuss and work together. It turned out that they feel more comfortable doing the task. This is important how the teachers take some of the advantages for the sake of their students’ learning process.
In conclusion, there’s no possible way to find the best method to teach English as a foreign language, returning to Prahbu’s (1990) statement that it is due to the different teaching context in a different situation. As a teacher we have to be really careful of deciding which method is relevance or effective in our teaching, based on our experience, and on our style of teaching. The students as the subject of the learning should also be considered on their needs and background, the gender and age. The method used should depend on the learners and the environment where they study. Therefore, we can get the best result of applying different method by those considerations.
References:
Larsen-Freeman, D&Anderson,M . (2011). Techniques & principles in language teaching (3rd ed)New York: Oxford University Press.
Rodgers,T.S& Richard, J. (2001). Approaches and method in language teaching(2nd ed).Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Prabhu, N.S. (1990).There is no best method-Why?.24(2),161-176.(in press) TESOL quarterly.
Samaranayake, S.W (2010, February 5). Which method is best in L2 teaching?.Retrieved from http://docstoc.com/docs/24568078/Which-method-is-best-in-L2-teaching
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