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

371 Conclusion

It has become evident that foreign language learning is far from a simple, straightforward process where teachers are the purveyors of knowledge and students the passive subjects who receive that knowledge. For successful foreign language learning, students must have both the ability and desire to learn. Otherwise, the objectives we set are doomed to failure.

Foreign language teachers, therefore, must be flexible enough and sensitive enough to respond well to the individual learning preferences, interests and needs of their learners in terms of materials, techniques, classroom methodology and teacher talk. After all, language learning is not a monolithic process since not all personality and environmental factors can be kept under control in a foreign language situation (Papaefthymiou-Lytra, 1993: 94).

2.3. Extrinsic factors influencing language learning

We have hitherto been concerned with some of the intrinsic factors that may facilitate or hamper language learning. Now we should turn our attention to a brief description and evaluation of some of the extrinsic factors.

Such issues as infrastructure and limited school budgets have not received much attention in ELT articles and books, yet contribute significantly to the outcome of the educational process. One could say that they constitute the extra-linguistic context of the teaching-learning situation. A situation where the school has no lighting or heating, and classrooms are packed with a great number of students, with whom the teacher seems unable to familiarize himself, is not a promising one. Furthermore, limited or no access to school libraries and educational seminars or programs makes inroads into students' and teachers' progress. All these potential shortcomings, coupled with the teacher's "authority," may severely inhibit the learning process.

Equally detrimentalūalbeit in more subtle waysūmay prove seating arrangements in class. For example, in a classroom where desks are arranged in such a way that students look towards the teacher rather than their classmates, learners and teachers alike are unable to interact through role-play and other activities or through paralinguistic features such as eye-contact and non-verbal communication, in general. Conversely, in a situation where desks are arranged in a circle or in groups or pairs, learners are provided with the opportunity to develop warm and constructive interpersonal relationships (see Papaefthymiou-Lytra, 1993: 131-133 for more details).

2.4. Final remarks

Throughout this study it has been attempted to shed some light on both favourable and unfavourable conditions for foreign language learning. Our main concern has been with the roles of teachers and learners, with a view to identifying any "problematic areas" and deficiencies arising from false assumptions and incorrect strategies and techniques, mainly on the teacher's part. The teaching- learning situation is not merely an intellectual or cognitive system of values; it is a complex, dynamic, neuro-psychological process, whereby students should be encouraged to think, analyze and make hypotheses as well as to feel and touch __ and, in so doing, to live.

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AS/SA Nº 6/7, Article 3 : Page 9 / 10

© 1999, AS/SA

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