‘Academic’ style language teaching

I’ve noticed that when some people write about language learning, particularly those who encourage you to learn languages on your own, they often make disparaging remarks about the ‘academic’ style of teaching found in language classes. Apparently this style of teaching is boring, dry, focused on grammar and learning vocabulary, and/or has too few opportunities to speak the language you’re learning. I suspect these ideas are based on personal experiences which are generalised to include all languages classes.

My own experiences of language classes are quite different, especially the ones I’ve done in Wales and Ireland for Welsh and Irish, where speaking and listening are the main focus. The classes I took in Chinese and Japanese at university were more focused on reading and writing than speaking and listening, however there were some conversation oppportunities. At secondary school my French and German classes included some speaking practise, especially when I was studying for my A Levels.

What are your own experiences? Are you involved in teaching languages, or studying them? What methods and approaches are used?

2 thoughts on “‘Academic’ style language teaching

  1. From my point of view, one should have fun when learning anything. With this I mean, if you spend a lot of time on facebook, why don’t you set it in your language of choice? You’ll be learning little bits, and without realising. Do you play video games? Why not change the language? Your mobile phone. Your browser. Everything you use daily. It’s doing immersion even if people around you speak something else. You can also do weird things like stick notes on the objects of your house and write their names. There is no end to the things you can do to learn. And going to classes is just another one. If you like it, have time, money and it actually works, then go for it.

    “If you are not willing to learn, no-one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no-one can stop you.”

    Here’s a story of a Frenchman in the Nederlands who learned English by doing immersion: http://bit.ly/PUMFbW


  2. I was lucky to have three highly motivated German teachers who provided several opportunities for speaking the language inside and outside of the classroom. My college professor moved our class to the local coffee shop to encourage a more informal discussion type atmosphere. I think that some of the disparaging remarks come from an expectation that a formal class setting should result in a higher level of competency. However, the teacher ultimately has a limited time with the student, and, like any other course, time spent outside of the classroom is critical to learning a language.

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