Diferentes maneras de aprender inglés
Existen distintas maneras de aprender inglés: desde las clases tradicionales al uso de nuevas tecnologías para cursos de inglés “on-line”. En el siguiente artículo veremos qué métodos para aprender inglés existen y cuáles son las ventajas de cada uno de ellos.
Differents ways of learning English
There are many ways of learning English available for a learner today; so many that it can be difficult to decide which one is right for you. The main options are: self-study methods, traditional method classes, direct method classes, on-line courses and going to live or stay in an English-speaking country. We will review each option in turn.
The oldest and most obvious form of self-study is to use a book. Books usually contain grammar explanations and vocabulary graded according to level and divided into classes or lessons. They will often have periodic progress tests as well to see how you are doing. The main benefits of this form of learning are that it is cheap and you can do it anywhere and it leaves you open to studying completely at your own rate, without having to keep up with the rest of the class or wait for weaker students. The downsides are that it is entirely dependent on your own discipline and motivation, and without hearing any of the language, speaking and pronunciation become much more difficult to pick up. You can fall into a trap of learning about the language rather than learning it.
Another form of self-study which has now been around for a long time is using audio, in the form of cassettes, CDs or MP3 files. In fact, audio and books are most often used together, with some courses being based more around the written word whereas others focus more on aural skills. Linguaphone and Rosetta Stone are well-known language-learning methods based more on listening. The benefits of these methods are that they can be almost as cheap, mobile and convenient as books, with the added advantage that you have a lot more help when it comes to pronunciation. Also, everyone learns their mother tongue by listening to begin with, and so it doesn’t seem like a bad idea to start again in the same way. The downsides, as with the book method, are that you need to motivate and discipline yourself and have no one to turn to (either a teacher or other students) when you encounter a set-back. Some students also complain that they find it difficult to learn with the courses that use audio almost to the exclusion of reading and writing. It can be difficult to decipher what you are listening to.
TRADITIONAL METHOD CLASSES
Everyone knows what these classes are like. A teacher in a classroom with a whiteboard, perhaps an overhead projector and a cassette or CD player. This way of learning a language is used in most schools and an adapted and updated variant is used for teaching adults in centres such as International House and the British Council. An experienced and well-trained traditional method teacher knows how to use a range of different skills in the classroom and tries to reduce the amount of ‘teacher talking time’ and increase the amount of ‘student talking time’. These classes have the advantage that you make a physical effort to go to a class at a particular time, and you have the support of a teacher and other students. They are often directed towards eventually taking a traditional academic exam such as the Cambridge Advanced or First Certificate. The drawbacks are that these classes are more expensive, and still rely partly on homework using books or audio. They will also be designed more for the ‘average’ student in each level rather than the strongest or weakest part of the group. Some students complain that there is not enough speaking, or if there is speaking, the teacher is not able to correct mistakes enough.
DIRECT METHOD CLASSES
Direct method classes are based on one simple method, usually involving mostly speaking and listening, often in some form of dialogue. One of the most famous and successful direct methods of learning is the Callan Method. Callan Method students spend most of their time on speaking and listening skills, which as mentioned above with regards to audio self-study, replicates the natural way in which children learn languages. Time is spent acquiring the correct pronunciation and intonation in basic sentences before moving on to more complicated vocabulary and grammar. Students can study points in their book after the classes but during the Callan class, the book is closed and the students focus on speaking the language . In recent times, the Callan Method has experienced a lot of popularity in places where many people have already tried the Traditional Method and acquired a lot of theory but still have a frustrating multi-level ‘gap’ between their spoken and theory level. Japan and Italy and two examples of countries which fit this pattern. The benefits of teacher support and the company of other students is shared with the Traditional Method, and speaking and listening usually improve significantly with this method. It is excellent for pronunciation and avoids the problem of students who can try to read Dickens or the New York Times but cannot be understand in a shop or café. However, although it perhaps requires the least study outside the classroom, the Direct Method does call for some homework, without which students will find themselves falling behind. Beginners will need to do some additional study if they want to learn writing beyond a basic level.
LIVING AND WORKING IN AN ENGLISH-SPEAKING COUNTRY
This seems like the most obvious way of learning any language, and in a way is even older than studying by yourself using a book. Many people go to the USA, the UK, Australia and various other places every year in order to learn or improve their English. However, this can be very challenging or lonely, particularly if you don’t know any English or very little beforehand. It may mean interrupting studies or career for a year or more and will often entail taking a lowly paid job in order to support yourself while having a low level of the local language. However, when it works, this is probably the best way of learning a language, with students gaining a depth of knowledge of colloquial English and expressions that is impossible to acquire otherwise. Also, students can really absorbs the culture as well as the language which goes alongside it. However, for most people this still takes effort, and the ideal is for students still to study using one of the other methods at the same time rather than hoping they will magically start speaking English. Another problem is that you can get ‘stuck’ at a level where you can mostly be understood in the street but are still making basic mistakes that are not corrected. It can be more difficult for speakers of other major world languages such as Spanish, Arabic or Mandarin to take this route as it will be very tempting to spend your time speaking to other people in your native language rather than practising your English. For this reason it is sometimes a good idea to go to smaller cities and avoid big urban centres where you will be sure to meet fellow Spanish speakers.