Why We So Often Fail

It’s the end of year time for many students and teachers. Time to sum things up. Time to set some goals, reflect, start fresh in the new year.

But we have to ask ourselves and be honest with ourselves, as teachers.  When it comes to English language class or any language class – are students really “making the grade”?

Yes, dear parent. It’s true.

Let’s be honest, so many students study so many years, getting so many passing grades. Yet they fail in the biggest school of them all – LIFE.   They leave school and can’t function in English on the job or in a university or out on the town. Why? We’d love to hear your own view and opinion in the comments.

And let’s be really, really honest – this applies too, to so many online learning sites/platforms. We don’t have to name them (du*l***o, r*s*t**s*o*e, *ox*, etc ….. will do) but you know them and that they don’t cut it.  So many students feel like this …

So again why? 

Let us make a few points regarding why so many teachers, so many language learning platforms, so many students fail. We’ll even use a few examples from our competitors, just to really hit home.

#1.  No reality.   Language is something we learn in the real world. Teachers need to bring reality into the classroom.  Language is learned while doing it and every day, every moment is game day.

Online learning should also be “real” and authentic.  Not much of that around, out there. Reading pre-fabricated news articles, listening to a canned voice and answering phony questions – is that real?

Reality needs a face, a person, motion, something created outside of education and with people communicating not to teach you but to “REAL”ly communicate, to exchange information and meaning.

#2  Too much control.  Yes, language learners need to learn the skill of dealing with language “in situ” that they don’t understand. Great language learners, take reality and go with what they know … they run with it. We call this “ambiguity tolerance” and the only way to get better at it is by diving in, dealing with authentic language and getting comfortable with what you don’t understand.  Otherwise, you get these boring classrooms, online sites and students feeling like this.

and you end up feeling like this ….

and sure, they try to fool you, teachers and UX designers. They feed you candies, points and rewards. But you know the truth and reality which is really, you ending up like this ….

#3.  Too much translation.  Too much grammar.  We don’t learn when we are constantly focusing on translating the language or focusing on form and how to put things together.  A little when necessary but too often the whole lesson and even the whole approach of a class or online learning site is translation. And when combined with grammar, we get something that is broken, doesn’t work – grammar translation was discredited years ago but people are still making millions $$$$ and selling this snake oil. For example, do you think this approach works????

Students don’t come to teachers or pay money online to learn grammar nor to help translate boring sentences.

They pay and come to class to learn, to acquire a skill.  That skill is learned only on the feet. By doing, by being immersed in the real world of language which is used purposely.

4.  It’s boring.  Students are always going to turn off from boring content, no matter how you dress that lady up. Keep it real (point #1), let students learn at their own pace and choice (point #2), focus on immersion not translation (point #3) and you get = engagement, student motivation.  There is no other way. 

It’s all about providing quality authentic content. Immersion and just providing enough support so students will be able to help themselves but still be in the water, swimming, learning to swim…..


Also published on Medium.

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