Teaching Polish as a Foreign Language
In February 2014, I went to Kraków, Poland to attend a five day training course in teaching Polish as a Foreign Language. The training was organised by a local language school, GLOSSA and participants could apply for an EU grant, Grundving available for lifelong learning programmes.
At the training, we mainly focused on teaching adults, as all participants were involved in adult education. We had 4 sessions per day and they were packed with interesting and thought provoking seminars and tutorials. I must admit that I enjoyed the course very much and I found its content fascinating and extremely relevant.
Monolingual teaching from the very first lesson
I think we are still looking for an ideal teaching method that will allow us to teach both effectively and interestingly. The method presented in GLOSSA mainly focuses on teaching monolingually, that is, in the target language from the very first lesson. We should not use any unnecessary words, but very clearly communicate the essential message, often with the use of visual aids, pictures, photos and short recordings. Lessons should be highly interactive, between tutor and students and among students. Instead of everything being translated and explained by a tutor, they interact with the new material and discover the rules and meanings themselves. It is a very effective approach, as students start using the language quickly, as they communicate in the target language throughout the whole lesson.
Speaking and Listening
Students relatively quickly express themselves in the target language, as no other languages are used by their tutor. The foreign language communication becomes natural and spontaneous. They listen to various recordings to get used to other accents and different pronunciation. By using only the target language the tutor makes their students become very active listeners and that skill will be very useful throughout the whole process of learning a foreign language.
When reading, unknown vocabulary should be taught, not by directly translating into the learners native language, but initially iconographically and then later by paraphrasing and using the target language and various examples, e.g. already known vocabulary. After reading to themselves, students are asked to read the text aloud to practice pronunciation and then work with the text, for example, finding useful phrases or completing comprehension exercises.
The writing part is also very important, because students can assess their knowledge. It is usually in the form of a dialogue or a short essay or a form to be completed, using the vocabulary and the grammar they already know. Depending on its length and complexity, the writing task is usually given as a homework exercise, as it takes time to complete.
Although this method focuses on communication, grammar is not omitted. Students learn grammar to be able to use the language correctly and to understand better its rules and patterns. However, they should not only learn to decline and conjugate, but actually practise using the grammar in more natural contexts, by watching videos or readings short texts. Grammar is not the main aim in itself, but it is an integral part of a lesson.
My Teaching Plan
Although I was already running my elementary and intermediate courses entirely in Polish, since attending the seminar in Poland I have decided to try to use more Polish with my complete beginner’s group. The majority of my beginner students enjoy the lesson being in Polish, although, some of them seem to get confused and do not follow instructions and want everything to be translated into English. However, they are getting slowly used to the new language and they are trying to interact with me in Polish. What is even more important, they want the lessons to be taught in Polish and I am very thankful for their enthusiasm, because knowing your lessons are being positively received is extremely rewarding for every passionate and creative tutor.
Written by Kinga Macalla
Photos courtesy of Kinga Macalla