Fundamentals of Language Teaching Methods

– Author: Dianna Murphy, Sally Magnan, Erlin Barnard, and Robin Worth

About Course

Fundamentals of Language Teaching Methods, is the first series of courses developed for postsecondary foreign language instructors as part of the National Online Less Commonly Taught Languages Teacher Training Initiative. For new instructors, the course offers an introduction to how to teach foreign languages according to principles of communicative language teaching. It responds to questions such as: What do my students need to learn? What should my students and I do in class? How should I plan lessons and give students feedback? Beyond these basic questions, it offers, for experienced instructors, an update on language teaching and testing methods, as well as issues in the professional literature of the field. It considers questions such as: What is the current thinking of the role of grammar in foreign language teaching? How does technology enhance language learning? Where do communicative methods fit in the history of foreign language teaching, and what does that history means in terms of how students expect to be taught?

Primary Audience

The primary audience for the course is teachers of less commonly taught languages (LCTLs). The course contains clips of lessons as well as interviews with students and instructors of many different less commonly taught languages. Although there are no examples from French, German, or Spanish, the course can also be used effectively by teachers of commonly taught languages because the National Standards relate to them as well. In fact, this course demonstrates the many fruitful connections that are possible across languages in exploring teaching methodologies.

The course is comprised of 12 lessons, addressing topics identified by members of the National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages as critical for a methods course for LCTLs. Given that LCTLs, all foreign languages taught in the United States other than French, German and Spanish, encompass the linguistic and cultural diversity of the world’s languages and cultures, the course does not attempt to address challenges specific to the teaching and learning of individual languages, or to groups of languages. Instead, the course incorporates examples and perspectives from many diverse LCTLs, regularly asks students in the course to consider how ideas might apply to their language, students and specific situation, and provides, in the Supplement, reflections from leaders in the field on some of the main challenges in the teaching their language as a foreign language.