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Teaching strategies and methods. How to help trainees empathise with an unknown foreign language

It is very impressive how considerable and supportive an Unknown Foreign Language teaching method turns out to be.
The aim is to help trainees empathise with foreign language learners who encounter a new language for the first time. Although learning a new foreign language is never easy, just as babies learn to produce language by hearing and repeating words or sounds, students are similarly exposed to this practice of listening to learn a brand new language.
This is how the classes should be organised.
Since the first class, students encounter new basic vocabulary such as numbers, greeting people, how to introduce themselves and also how to use the third person specifying gender and subject pronouns.
Doing that just through listening skills as students are not allowed to take any notes.

From the second lesson, the teacher allows students to take notes. This significantly helps students to understand and remember the new vocabulary and above all the pronunciation of the words. At this stage, students also learn how to spell numbers, the different grammar rules for masculine, feminine and neutral adjectives, nationalities, countries and how to ask people where they come from.

During the third lesson, students learn how to make questions and more lexis such as feeling adjectives and professions.

Finally, the last lesson’s main aim is to introduce students to formal and informal forms of speech, to practise pronunciation, and to increase their knowledge of vocabulary related to food and drinks. It also gives students practice of functional language, speaking skills in real-life situations (for example how to speak in a restaurant).

Students must always be encouraged to interact with each other.
As a teacher, it is fascinating to learn how useful and important teaching methods are:
how to make students feel comfortable in the class and how to help them understand the language through communicative skills. In my opinion, the most effective methodology is the use of gestures and mimes which enable students to comprehend what the teacher wants to say even if students do not understand the foreign language.
Moreover, the use of teaching aids such as a teddy bear, combined with group activities such as Bingo, the improvisation of a party or being at a restaurant, are all activities in which students are involved in a context that provides them with functional language in an everyday scenario, and enable them to communicate freely.

Everyone can learn any unknown foreign languages entirely from scratch and after only few lessons they will manage to speak, even if it is just at a basic level.
The most difficult part may be to understand some sounds which are not part of your first language. (For example the English th sound which does not exist in Italian.)
Overall, this teaching method approach could be helpful and productive. It provides students with a first experience and understanding of how a foreign language student may feel learning an unknown language and how challenging and stimulating it is to start learning a new language.

Also, you can learn some techniques that will help you improve and that you will use in your future classes. In conclusion, I would say that this approach could help teachers understand the importance of being a communicative teacher, above all if your students do not have any or have a low level of knowledge of the language studied.

Written by
Roberta Muratore – JUMP Team