It is considered general knowledge nowadays that people have different types of intelligence and consequentially different learning styles. This realisation has to be attributed to Howard Gardner’s studies during the 80s and 90s of the 20th century, who identified nine kinds of knowledge. But what are the implications of this discovery?
Well, it challenged the concept of “being smart” and created a shift towards developing many new ways to teach while reflecting on the relationship between each type of intelligence and knowledge (G. Sferrazzo). The Gardner theory allowed the world of pedagogy to expand its methods. It impacted every subject, including language learning and teaching a second language.
Focus On Forms vs Focus On Meaning
Generally, we can observe two main methods in teaching a second language: Focus On Forms and Focus On Meaning. The former is the more traditional one. Here, students need to know a lot of information by heart. Lessons can be quite dry, but punctual grammar knowledge, for example, will be a positive outcome. Focus On Meaning, on the other hand, focuses on the actual use of a language. The language learner quickly gains fluency even though the accuracy might suffer.
A very successful approach when learning a second language is the use of cinema movies and theatre plays. We can place this as a subcategory of Focus On Meaning. Both offer a narrative dimension that captures students’ attention and allows them a immersion in the cultural world and its implications for the second language.
From Cultural Contexts To Interactive Experiences
As for the cinema, the teacher needs to select different movies and/or scenes that fit the student’s language level. Listening and understanding while observing linguistic differences according to the cultural and social contexts are the goal in addition to mastering “slang” and common phrases.
Regarding theatre, the better-known method is “process drama”. With this approach, the teacher creates an engaging premise for students to roleplay while discussing and facing the situation put before their eyes. This way, lessons become interactive experiences, and students develop their speaking skills depending on the contexts in which they operate.
Such progressive methods were considered off-limits in the ’70s because it was a common belief that only memory, discipline and notionism were effective for learning. Through the ’80s and especially in the ’90s, teachers started using more media, but only recently have these categories found the credit they deserve in the academic world.
Here at Talk@Work, we are, of course, conscious of their limits; grammar, memory and study are not to be forgotten. However, we can also recognize the positive effect they have on fluency and in developing a certain familiarity with a second language that, at this point, can be learned almost like a first language.