How a Polyglot Can Help Us Become Better Language Teachers

“You’re so young! You have so many years ahead to learn more languages!”

~ 86-year-old Kato Lomb to her 54-year-old friend

I bet you heard the name of Kató Lomb.

If no, shame of you.

The chemist who spoke 16 languages fluently. One of the first simultaneous interpreters in the world. The author of the bestselling book How I Learn Languages.

And a polyglot who will help you (and me) become a better language teacher.

She managed to learn so many languages in times when there was no Skype, no online tutors (Gosh, I would be unemployed there!), no CDs with voices from native speakers…

Her ten commandments of language learning are worth remembering for students. But it’s interesting to note that teachers can consider these tips from Kató Lomb a method to improve teaching techniques, ease the process of language learning for their students, and become successful online educators.

1. Learn a language every day

How it can help a teacher: If you don’t teach every day, make sure to break homework into small tasks for your students to spend 10-15 daily on completing it. It can be reading a text, learning new words, repeating them, listening to a song in the target language and making a vocabulary of unknown words from it, etc.

Don’t give a time-consuming homework. Your students will learn everything by all means, but they are more likely to forget this “everything” once you give the next homework to them.

2. Create a lesson algorithm

How it can help a teacher: Sometimes, even your earnest pupils lose a desire to learn languages. So, the best decision is creating a lesson algorithm that would let them take a little break and motivate them to continue learning.

Do not force students to spend hours learning new words or doing exercises. If you see them bored or demotivated, listen to some music in a class, or discuss something interesting with them. It will take 5-10 minutes and not harm your time management, so you will back to the lesson with a clear conscience.

3. Remember the context

How it can help a teacher: We all know that context is everything, and it’s much easier to learn collocations, not separate words. So, always give your students new phrases to memorize.

For example, the expression “strong wind” will help them remember two words at once, and one will automatically recall the second one in their memory.

4. Write in and use ready phrases

How it can help a teacher: When you learn new words and phrases with your students, ask them to write them in. First of all, it will help them remember faster and better; secondly, it can make them love writing; and thirdly, it makes students able to use those phrases whenever they can, as they will always carry those words with them.

Encourage students to use written data in dialogues. It’s a proven technique that will allow to learn more collocations on different topics.

5. Translate everything you see

How it can help a teacher: I bet you used this trick! When you mentally translate everything you see – the titles of articles in newspapers, advertisements, etc. – you train your brain by memorizing new language units and associating them with visuals you see in billboards, for example.

Try the same with your students. Give them a task to translate every text sign they will see on their road to school. Ask to share the results with classmates.

6. Learn by heart

How it can help a teacher: Simple as that. Learning by heart is the first and most common task all teachers give their students. And nothing seems tricky here, but…

Ask your students to learn ONLY the phrases that are checked to be correct. Be the first one who will check them; otherwise, they might confuse students and cause a misunderstanding that leads to disappointments, motivation loss, and more.

7. Learn in the first person

How it can help a teacher: Ready phrases and idioms are better to learn in the first person, as we image them with the help of associations.

Thus, give your students a task to put new phrases into the first person, creating sentences or monologs with a collocation, phrasal verb, or idiom.

8. Communicate

How it can help a teacher: Your students will never learn a language if you are the only person they are listening. And your students will never speak a target language if their only activity is doing exercises in laptops or textbooks.

Engage different activities in your classroom: watch and discuss movies, listen to music, read books, talk to each other. Communication is the key factor for language learning, so don’t miss a chance to organize a chat with native speakers for your students.

9. Make mistakes

How it can help a teacher: Let students see it’s okay to make mistakes. Discuss the most common mistakes every language learner makes and help them understand how to avoid them.

Teach students to check everything they do, correct mistakes, and learn from them. All in all, the person who never makes a mistake will never make anything.

10. Never doubt

How it can help a teacher: Encourage your students that no matter what – they will learn the target language. And make no doubt about them.

Nothing is worse for students than a teacher who doesn’t believe in them.

So, use a personal approach toward your every mentee to understand what is the best technique to learn languages with them, and take it away!

Kató Lomb was able to learn 16 languages alone! So, I believe you can become the best teacher for your students and learn at least one foreign language with them.

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About the author:

Lesley Vos is a private educator and online tutor. She teaches a group of ESL students in Skype, and she is passionate about blogging and writing. Lesley contributes content and shares her writing experience with readers of many websites on education, including Learning Advisor, Touro’s Online Education Blog, Bid4Papers Blog, and others. You are always welcome to follow her on Twitter at @LesleyVos.

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