2. Building Language Awareness

Learning from the previous module of ‘1. Contextualizing Language‘, in ’2. Building Language Awareness’ we focus on teaching aspects or features of language, that is the formation of language through grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation within a given context while being aware (or mindful) to achieve better practical language use. In the past, teaching of aspects or features of language was taught through the use of rules, exercises, memorization, drill tests without much content or ‘context’ and without being aware of what is being taught; think of rote memorization which was not that effective. But when contextualized language is taught while specifically focused on awareness (or mindfulness) of learning language aspects or features, we exercise more effective language skills. This is because what when we are aware of what is being taught, we are making conscious and reflective effort of what is being practiced that student can use with purpose. Also when learning any language at first, obviously everyday practical language should be learned first and practiced throughout before advancing but all the while including slightly more difficult language aspects to learn that students are able to comprehend and use.

Making the leap to learn a new language while being captivated and aware is a difficult process for both the teacher and student. It includes the following characteristics:

  • Language used should be focused appropriately both situational and cultural that is understandable and easy to relate to. Sources of materials used should come from familiar and local content happening in the community or even events that effect the students globally. There are a lot of learning materials from the Internet. (Link)
  • Interactive participation is required so the student is driven to become conscious students doing the work to learn the language. Student reflection of the language taught is key into learning language so the student can think critically and analytically in the language.
  • Discussing the language and its form in terms of metalanguage: break down and describe or analyze language (grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation while in context). A discussion of the language details itself and  learning the strategies and techniques in language comprehension.
  • When focusing on the aspects of language, there are two broad approaches to learn a language, inductive and deductive
    • Induction is when the students through language use experience discover the “rules” of language.
    • Deduction is when “rules” of language of is taught at first and then through the use of the understanding of the language rules apply them.
  • A more technical example version of induction versus deduction. In induction, we gather data through observation to form a theory. A theory that can be used to predict possibility of outcomes. While in deduction, we proof a theory by conducting observations to confirm it. Whereby specific data collecting premises leads to a specific theory. A balance of the two approaches will help students formulate their own learning approaches and strengthen their own learning practices.
    • Induction example: Linda is a nurse. All nurses wear a hospital scrub uniform, therefore Linda is a nurse.
    • Deduction example: All monkeys are mammals, all mammals have hearts; therefore all monkeys have hearts.

Find a topic that can encompass full language use like world history and explore individual cultural diversity. Encourage students to talk about their background knowledge so they can relate to new topic information being discussed. You can use the students shared background similarities to help students work collaboratively and discover more content about each other and thus language itself. And while teaching contextual language, emphasis on all language aspects should be explored in terms of form and pragmatics: deixis, conversation, organization, presupposition and implicature in said social and cultural settings.

In the past, language was taught without much context. Thus, the language learned was basic, simplistic and limited. Taught through rules, exercises, rote memorization and drill tests. If language is taught within context while being aware of all language aspects explored, we can fully understand all aspects of language in whatever given situation.

Language is situational and goal-set driven and as language teachers we have know how we are teaching language to help direct students language goals and needs. There are a many variables to consider as each educational class setting is different. The type of language learning activities may or may not work with teens and adults as they do well with children. With that in mind, as teachers we must be aware ourselves of what English we are teaching and provide many different learning activities that explore each and every students needs and wants.