What's Your Teaching Style?

For those of you interested in Spanish classes or tutoring, I would call my teaching style personalized eclectic. Eclectic is defined as selecting what appears to be best in various doctrines, methods, or styles. I then personalize my method to match your learning style, goals, interests and strengths. In my Masters in Teaching English coursework, I studied the major teaching theories and have used various methods and styles throughout my career. I continue to read up on the latest findings to take advantage of cutting edge research.

During our first get together, I seek to understand your needs and reasons for learning Spanish. I ask questions about your learning style, past learning experiences (both good and bad). Then I choose what combination of book, program, method, etc. will move you most quickly down your Spanish learning path.

The three main learning styles are visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Speaking simply the three learning styles mean: 1. For the visual learner, you need to see things written down for it to stay with you;

2. For the auditory learner, you hear sounds distinctly and can easily remember a song tune or lyrics;

3. For the kinesthetic learner, you like to learn by moving and possibly acting out things.

This is just a very general explanation of learning styles. I have seen that most adult learners are visual learners. This is in part because the education system that we were raised in had the emphasis on visual learning and linear thinking (logical steps, cause and effect). Linear thinking is both culturally influenced and what one's natural learning style can lean towards.

Language teaching methods, approaches and techniques have gone through many phases and even cycled through styles over the years.

Early language teaching methods were based on linear thinking such as the "Classical Method" which taught language such as Latin by teaching its grammar rules and practiced by doing written translations. Not much speaking was involved. One would read in English, translate the words in their heads or look it up, and then write it out in the new language.

Things moved on to the Direct Method which Berlitz uses a lot, where only the foreign language is spoken. From this came the ideas of "language immersion." The drawback here for the bare beginner is figuring out where each word begins and ends. It just sounds like a stream of "rata-tat-tat." (See my article on Spanish Immersion programs) Then came a method known as the Audio-Lingual Method. This included lots of speaking practice, students would have to memorize dialogs, and the teacher was much like a conductor who would lead with a phrase and have all of the students repeat the response together. Repetition is a good component of learning Spanish, but this method became rather tedious and parrot like for the student. What if the right phrase wasn't spoken to trigger a response?

Now I'm going to jump to present day language teaching. With new technology, teaching very specifically to the audio and visual learner has made self-study very accessible. Computer based learning systems such as Rosetta Stone can seem very attractive, and may make a good tool in combination with other elements of Spanish learning.

Language is human communication and so I believe it is optimal to have a human teacher, tutor or self-study consultant. With an actual teacher you get immediate feedback to your questions and doubts. Am I pronouncing this word correctly? When do I use "bien" instead of "bueno"?

More modern methods try to combine the learning styles in their method. There is TPR (Total Physical Response)and even TPRS (Total Physical Response Storytelling). These use actions and interactions with the teacher in repetition to learn the foreign language. This can work well in combination with other methods.

As you can tell from what I said above, I believe in having an actual teacher to learn Spanish smart. Live and personalized communication is at the foundation of my teaching style. Communication takes place when you understand what I'm saying. So I will use English at the beginning stages of learning. I am not a native speaker of Spanish(though I've been told I have near native fluency and accent). I think this helps make me a good Spanish teacher because I have been in the learner's shoes and understand the way an English speaking mind may perceive Spanish. I can give you insights as a fellow learner who has gone down this path before. I can give you tips on how to learn Spanish smart; avoiding the pitfalls and taking the most direct path to your goals.

When I studied Spanish at the university level, I actually learned more from my native English speaking Spanish professors than from the native Spanish speaking teachers. The English speaking teachers could better understand my grammar struggles and help me build bridges from English to Spanish. For those who feel a need to know "WHY it is said that way," often a native Spanish speaker can't answer those questions. A teacher who is a native speaker of English with a good grammar background, can field these type of questions.

So when I am asked about my teaching style, I am more inclined to ask, "What is your learning style like?" From there I will shape a course of study for you that will help you attain your language learning goals.

Send me an email through my Contact page if you would like to talk further about working together on your learn Spanish smart journey. Contact page if you would like to talk further about working together on your learn Spanish smart journey.

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