The English Map Power-course: trying a fresh approach to English training


The Training of English

To teach or train English overseas has become an option for many people (younger and older) around the world. What makes English training such an exciting prospect is that almost anyone (with a western mindset) can and may do it.

Many courses are presented to teach English as a foreign language – TEFL, TESOL, “etcetera etcetera etcetera,” as the king in The King and I would have commented. I mean, just do a search on English Courses and your results page will be flooded with the names of thousands of companies and numerous institutions all contending for one’s attention.

Where do you go? Which one do you choose? How would a person living in Japan or somewhere in the East make his choice in finding a course that would fit him/her just right? To me it would be a crazy endeavor. At the end of an exasperating search, I can imagine that such a person will just go for the next institution appearing on his screen and click on it. 

Standardizing English training? No way!

I do believe that there is a dilemma in this. Various ways of introducing the English language and explaining it are used. And that in itself is beneficial and interesting! But to a person unaware of the thousands of different nuances and emphasis placed on the many different aspects of English as a language by the vast array of institutions, it can be quite confusing.

Dividing English into … pizza sections!

So what about dividing the whole of the English as a language into various sections, each with its unique fields of study? I ventured out to do something like that, and would like your comments on it.

A little history of my own

Remember that I come from an Afrikaans background – the home language of the Boers in South Africa. I had to overcome two major hurdles regarding my ‘English identity’:

1)    My ingrained discrimination against the British for what they’ve done to my forefathers during the 2nd Boer War, and for some other very negative and irritating experiences with English speaking people;

2)    Teaching myself English tenses, language structure, concord, translation to and from Afrikaans, steering away from pronunciation errors (so ‘beautifully’ part of Afrikaans speaking South Africans!), and training myself not to translate directly from Afrikaans and saying it in English (like “putting some sky into the tire”, or the ‘carrot of the tree’ instead of its roots:))

Remember, I had to overcome, and I did! (Don’t worry Englishman, I love you!)

Going beyond perceived English training borders

In my self-developed English Map Power-course, I’ve set out to tackle the issue of (what I think causes a lot of confusion for us 2nd language learners) aspects of English being taught randomly. There is no structure to lots and lots of the training provided. In schools (I’ve been an English teacher for 17 years in South African schools and private colleges) the text books are jumping around with the different English aspects like chasing a rabbit here and trying to strike one there. It is as confusing and random as you can get! (The poor rabbit chasing kids…)

Thus I set out to dissect the English as a language. I sourced 6 distinctive aspects. There might be more – please enlighten me if you consider something else as well. What I’ve done is to compare these different aspects to the building of a house. To make it easy to comprehend, I’ll list them here:

They are:

1)    The foundation: Parts of speech

2)     The outer structure or shell: Tenses

3)    The doors, roof, windows: Different kinds of sentences, texts, genres.

4)    Interior decoration: Figures of Speech

5)    Plumbing: Concord

6)    Electricity: Pronunciation  

None of the above analogies are there for a specific reason. I just thought they fit well into my ‘picture’ of English. What I do is to urge my students to memorize the six aspects of English by using their own ‘pictures’ to compare English with.

tensesRtimeless

To add to that, I haven’t come across a single website that explains tenses satisfactorily. What I mean to say is that I haven’t seen a single model as yet that brings across the idea of it being a solid foundation for the understanding of English Tenses. Oh yes! There are many wonderfully explained websites regarding Tenses, but what I perceive as lacking is the fact that none of these explanations or models can be used directly from the mind in a hands-on practical way when in a discussion or busy writing in one’s office. I myself had to figure out how tenses work only while I was teaching during my first years of being a teacher – it was a necessity!

Consequently, I’ve developed a tenses model called the English Map for Tenses. It is literally based on the same type of thing you do when studying a map. It works like a bomb! Students’ average improvement in their understanding of English as a language after the English Map model is 23%. Some increase their understanding with up to 60%!

If you want to choose the English Map Power-course as one to be taught, though, you need to stretch your mind a little, for it goes beyond what you’ve come to know as English training. At least after having done this course, my wish is that you won’t be chasing rabbits anymore…

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