Dimitrios Thanasoulas: "The Classroom: Forum or Arena?"


Undoubtedly, the teacher is called upon to perform several functions in foreign language learning. These are the following:

  • Teacher as director and manager
  • Teacher as counselor and a language resource
  • Teacher as a model and independent language user Teacher as director and manager

One of the main concerns of the teacher as a director and manager is to create a warm, stimulating atmosphere in which the students will feel secure and confident.

It is very important for learners to feel very much at home with both their teachers and fellow-learners, if they are to be expected to venture out into the deep waters of foreign language learning, to experiment with new and strange sounds, and to role-play in a language which they have barely begun to learn (Papaefthymiou-Lytra, 1993: 95).

Apart from assisting in creating the right atmosphere, the teacher should also make decisions on the materials to be used, as well as the activities and games which will best accord with the learners' needs and abilities. Inasmuch as learners do not necessarily share the same cognitive and linguistic abilities, or interests and motivation, it is incumbent on the teacher to choose a wide variety of materials and teaching techniques and strategies in order to respond to the students' interests and capacities. To this end, the teacher is supposed to organize the class, deciding whether a specific role-play or game will be simulated in pairs or in groups. Bearing all this in mind, the teacher may help develop a learner-centred approach to foreign language learning, as he / she takes into account the learners' preferences, tailoring the materials and strategies to their needs. Teacher as counselor and a language resource

The second function that the foreign language teacher is expected to fulfil is that of counselor and a language resource. In other words, the onus is on her to provide the learners with the necessary input in order to foster understanding of the relation between language and communication. In short, she must modify and simplify her language according to the needs arising in each communicative situation, and to the grammatical competence and language proficiency of the students. In addition to simplifying teacher talk, she should resort to miming and facial expressions, as shown in a previous chapter.

Learning and teaching is multi-sensory and everything in the classroom and method must imply that learning is relaxing, fun and possible to be attained (Papaconstantinou, 1991: 35).

Moreover, the teacher as a language resource should help learners to acquaint themselves with, and acquire a taste for, the target language and culture. He should make explicit that language is not to be held in a vacuum but should always be learnt in connection to its users and the uses to which it is put. In light of this, grammar should not be the sole reference point in foreign language learning; the teacher has to draw his students' attention to the sociocultural and pragmatic aspects of the foreign language, in order to help them assess the accuracy and appropriacy of the language they produce, both at the sentence level and the discourse level. As J. C. Richards (1994: 157) notes, "a focus on grammar in itself is not a valid approach to the development of language proficiency."

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AS/SA Nº 6/7, Article 3 : Page 5 / 10

© 1999, AS/SA

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