I wanted to write a little on the methodology that governs our thinking at RLI: what we instil in our trainers, and what we consider to be good practice when we observe and train our providers. At RLI, we feel we have a privilege as trainers for small groups and one-to-ones, in that we can tailor our lessons very closely to the needs of trainees. In most of our lessons, we are not bound by the demands of a curriculum, an exam or a chosen level. The arbiter of success is actual progression in the target language.
Above all, what this gives us is time. Time to listen, to guide, to correct, to insist on – and elicit – excellent delivery. We don’t need to always use “well done” (i.e. “you’ve got the words in the right order, now let’s get on to the next activity”) to congratulate our trainees, although every trainer uses this from time to time. Rather, we can stop and make sure that learning has and is taking place; and that the target language is being absorbed thoroughly and in such a way that it becomes part of a trainee’s spontaneous output, rather than something we just passively understand when we hear it from the mouths of others.
The joys of tailored language training
So, we have the duty to stop and make decisions about when and how to make interventions as a teacher. “Do I note this down?”, “Is it a slip of the tongue or a systemic error?”, “Do I need to interrupt, or shall I deal with this later?”, “If I intervene, how?”, “Can I make it a simple explanation, or do I need to teach some basics?, “Is this a linguistic item that is important for this person’s development, will they encounter this phrase frequently?”, and so on.
So, the lesson can become a constant challenge for the teacher as to when, and how, to intervene, challenge, correct and improve the trainee’s command of the language. This is what makes language training so rewarding. It is not an activity in which you can ever achieve perfection. And, this is what we hope you feel when you are in a lesson. That you are being listened to; so that your words are corrected, amended, recast in such a way that what you are trying to say becomes the basis of the learning.
Your words, your lesson, in collaboration between trainer and trainee in which both are constantly learning and, in their separate roles, improving.
Written by RLI’s Language Training Manager, Mark Lewis
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