Impact Insights

Developing Language Skills and Confidence

Lana Learn instructors in Vietnam have compiled a toolkit for developing language skills and confidence for English language learners.

Learning a new language is both challenging and rewarding but also stressful and anxiety-inducing for many students. How can teachers help their language learners cope with the difficulties and enjoy the benefits of bilingualism or multilingualism? In this article, we will explore seven ways that teachers can support their students in developing language skills and confidence.

The English language training instructors in Vietnam use a variety of methods in teaching the American Language Course to Vietnamese military officers. They include mixing up class content, using standardized testing, setting fun homework challenges, encouraging full immersion, personalizing language, activating students’ imaginations, and establishing a welcoming learning community. These research-based strategies are industry best practices in language training. They aim to create meaningful, personal, and engaging experiences for students of all ages and levels. 

1. Mix up class content

Include more role plays, debates, interviews, and peer learning. The use of realia (using real-world stimulus) to aid and use in the classroom always anchors a point of reference that the students can relate to. Giving students assignments that use real world application allows them to envision their future English journey. For example, conducting student occupational presentations gives insight to the “bigger picture” of English career opportunities.

2. Give assessments to iron out problem areas

We live in an era of standardized testing. Standardized testing has a lot of pros and cons; however, in terms of preparation, the benefits outweigh the negatives. Standardized testing allows both the teacher and student to identify and remedy learning gaps. Once a problem has been isolated, the instructor can then determine whether additional or differentiated instruction is needed. It’s a great way to find and master common issues. 

3. Set fun homework challenges

Download a language learning app, watch a series, listen to the radio, or read a chapter of a book in English. This is termed realia as previously mentioned. For example, the Vietnam instructors assign Quizizz homework assignments that students can complete on their phones. This digital resource also gives a full report for each quiz that makes it easy to see frequently missed questions. Tools like this are a great way to give homework as they are both accessible and relatable. This makes it a lot easier for the students to retain the most important information and connect content to real life in a fun manner. 

4. Encourage full immersion

Full immersion language learning is a method of learning a language by being surrounded by it. It is considered one of the most effective ways to learn a new language. In addition, there are several benefits to learning a language through immersion. When you learn a new language, you can interact with native speakers and constantly develop proficiency by adding new vocabulary and contexts to your understanding. Immersion language experiences are effective in students of all ages.

5. Personalize language

According to an article in Brain World Magazine, teachers can help students make sense of new targets and create meaningful, useful language by allowing them to personalize the language. Then, they can train them to use appropriate gestures that facilitate communication. Activating students’ imaginations is the key to creating meaningful, personal experiences with a new language. 

In addition, using hand gestures can support learning and help ensure that learning really sticks in students’ minds. According to Edutopia, understanding how gesturing aids communication gives teachers another tool to ensure that learning really sticks in students’ minds. Psychologists have carried out countless investigations into the power of gestures and found that gestures are not only useful for communicating complex, abstract ideas, but they also help with memory, teacher assessment, and problem-solving. 

6. Activate students’ imaginations

Activating students’ imaginations is the key to creating meaningful, personal experiences with new a language. Whenever a teacher asks students to imagine or think about something, they provide precious time for synapses to send messages from neuron to neuron and collect all available information. Knowledge, personal experiences, and emotions are all used to create a personal connection with the new language.

To help move learning to long-term memory, teachers must connect new the language and learning directly to previous learning and experiences. This allows the brain to make sense of the information and use it in a meaningful, personal way. Once this happens, the language not only has meaning, but it begins to matter as students find themselves personally invested — intrinsically motivated — in their studies. 

7. Establish a welcoming learning community

Establishing a welcoming learning community is crucial in developing language skills and confidence for English language learners. One way to do this is to involve your students in creating a set of classroom rules and guidelines that they all sign off on at the beginning of each school year. When students play a part in establishing and agreeing to the rules of the classroom, there will be more ownership and therefore more collective buy-in of those rules. And don’t worry if you didn’t make this at the beginning of the year—you can initiate classroom rules at any time and make edits throughout the year as you see fit. While students can offer different expectations, make sure to include points about acceptance of various cultures, beliefs, and values that might be important for a student’s background and identity. For younger students, you can also use morning meeting time to refer to the classroom rules to remind students each day of how they can approach their classmates with respect and inclusion. 

Another way to cultivate a welcoming learning community is to frame diversity as a strength. Modeling a positive outlook toward diversity is great in any classroom. It can be especially helpful in dual language classrooms to help students understand the benefits of combining each other’s strengths to work together.

Michael Nguyen from Boeing, Vietnam gave an inspiration speech at the 2023 spring graduation ceremony that allowed students to see the real world benefits of learning English.
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