APPROACHES TO TEACHING SPANISH AT SKYPE-LANGUAGE
Different people start learning Spanish for different purposes. It might be necessary for work or study, it could be a wish to talk to Spanish or Latin American friends or just an opportunity to make new friends. Some people consider Spanish courses as a subject of research, other people – as a means of communication.
The learning process can also be different in every particular situation. Besides, the learner’s objectives, needs and personality are supposed to determine the approach applied by Spanish tutors.
Nowadays many progressive language schools have been actively using the communicative approach. The teacher plays the role of a “facilitator” who directs the learner along the language learning path. The teacher always encourages the learner to participate, to get “involved”, thus they engage him or her in the language world at the very first lesson by not only “opening” the door, but also inviting the learner to enter this world. From the outset this approach applies logical thinking, raises the awareness of correlation between different language phenomena. It became quite widespread in the 60-s of the 20th century for teaching English, then was adopted to teach other languages including Spanish. At present this is the main approach of many language schools in Spain. There have been published a lot of textbooks based on this approach (cf. Nuevo Ven, A Fondo, Rápido, etc.).
The communicative approach to learning Spanish online is effective from both the practical and motivational viewpoints, since it gives an opportunity to learn the associative links of the language in real-life, living context and familiarize a student with the functional aspect of the language. But in our opinion, this approach cannot be applied without the other methods and approaches, including the traditional Grammar-Translation method that is based on the rule "practice makes perfect". This is an old, tried and tested method that is still used by some schools and universities as the main approach to teaching a foreign language. It involves doing a great number of grammatical exercises on a topic (for example, to complete 10 simple sentences with regular verbs in the present) and reading and translating a text. Nowadays many teachers strongly object to using translation into a mother tongue and completely avoid it in the learning process as they are convinced that a student cannot learn to think in a foreign language by translating, therefore he or she does not acquire fluency skills. It is hardly arguable. Anyway, with Spanish, one of the most developed and richest languages in the world, it is important to remember that a learner is supposed to use a lot of complex grammatical constructions in speaking and writing and build a wide vocabulary. So drilling and translation serve for these purposes. Besides, the Grammar-Translation method helps to present Spanish in the system of structures, which facilitates the understanding of grammar. This method also enables the learner to analyze the language and find similarities to other languages (it is particularly useful for learning Spanish that has a lot of Romance "relatives"), which substantially broadens linguistic horizons and helps to find your bearings in complicated linguistic situations.
Among Spanish textbooks based on the Grammar-Translation method, we can distinguish the Uso series byEdelsa. Despite its modest design and black-and-white pictures, these textbooks are considered to be "the ABC" of every modern Spanish student. This method was the basis of many Soviet and Russian textbooks (the choice of this method is quite justified since most Russian students are used to making schemes and applying the system of structures while learning foreign languages, therefore the transition to the communicative approach may prove to be ineffective).
Learning Spanish online has its peculiarities in terms of applying either method. At a Skype lesson the teacher's objective is to develop the learner's communicative potential by asking questions, engaging in conversation, offering short linguistic games. This also helps to activate associative and logical thinking. New topics are learnt at speaking level. Thus a Skype lesson is mainly conducted according to the communicative approach.
Anyway, when doing homework the learner is supposed to systematize and reinforce the material covered at the lesson. Here come drilling exercises, tables with information to complete, texts with questions and using a dictionary. In this respect we activate the analytical thinking, the ability to generalize and schematize, and develop writing. The Grammar-Translation method is used here.
It is possible to achieve desired results only by applying different methods. It should be noted that the structure of Skype-Language implies using and combining different methods depending on the situation (a lesson - self-study).
You can see the details of the approach to teaching foreign languages on the page 'Methodology'.