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During my over 30 years of experience. Part 2

Uniting meaning and form in the teaching of languages is the aim of various methods and procedures today. Whether grammatical rules are taught deductively or inductively, the language learner must learn the grammar of a language, including morphology, syntax, semantics, phonology and phonetics, in order to function in that language; in addition to other communicative aspects of the language that will shape his communicative competence.

Fortunately, the teaching of languages for special purposes revealed the need to change this logocentric approach and derive it towards the specific interests and needs of students, which implies an inescapable psychocentric approach, which would manifest itself in all areas of language teaching; in the selection, graduation, contextualization, integration of skills and intrinsic differentiation of contents, not only by specialty but also by levels and skills. This new approach is known as the learner-centred approach, as opposed to the language-centred approach, which has characterised for many years, and still characterises, many language teaching curricula and materials.

On the other hand, the contents used, in many cases, were of no interest to the majority of the students for several reasons, the first being that they have been chosen for their linguistic content and not for their individual or general interest. Other reasons would be, their lack of relation with the importance and interest that these contents could have for this determined group of students (psychocentric criterion), correlation with the social present of the students (sociocentric criterion) and lack of connection between them. That is to say, the contents have been selected following a logocentric criterion, according to the importance of the language they must learn. This is a language-centered approach, not a student-centered one.

Using articles about the space mission to Mars or endangered animal species in Sumatra, or similar; as content for language learning, I find them irrelevant to most students of any language, which goes against one of the fundamental principles of the student-centred approach, which seeks to ensure that students learn according to their particular characteristics, needs and interests, and acquire the knowledge and skills that will enable them to function effectively in society. I very much doubt that contents as disparate and specific as the previous examples, have the capacity to create a context similar to those they will face when they use the language they are learning, or even the one or those they already know.

The ultimate goal of any language is communication. That’s his alma mater, the reason for his existence. The communication facilitated by language is established, in all cases, between human beings; and in the case of foreign languages, between human beings of different cultures. In order to be able to interact with those human beings who speak other languages, students have no choice but, in many cases, to travel to their countries where they will learn about their territories and customs, and there, they will encounter different varieties of the language they are learning, depending on the geographical areas they are going to, the people they interact with and the situations they face. The culture shock they experience will affect, to a greater or lesser extent, their vision of the world, of foreign culture, of their own culture, and of themselves.

As language teachers, we are the window to the outside world of their own culture and this makes us mentors. This is not just about language skills, but also about social and cultural skills that might eventually contrast with your own worldview or mental model of reality.

In addition, all learners will need a range of tools and strategies to facilitate language learning and a personal attitude that will be affected by all the factors and circumstances outlined above.