Language Knowledge, the Language Teacher’s Power

Teachers are essential for effective language transfer. Teachers facilitate language acquisition and guide learners along a learning path. Effective teachers are well-trained and have advanced proficiency in the language. This does not mean language learning can’t happen without ideal teachers, it’s that, nearly in every case, learning is ineffective with limited proficiency attainment or incomplete learning growth. The main factor limiting attainment of advanced or even intermediate language proficiency levels is the teacher’s language proficiency level. You can only teach what you know. Language acquisition effectiveness and efficiency also hinges greatly on teacher’s skills and abilities to facilitate language transfer along a guided learning path. Skills and abilities are only useful in language transfer when the teacher has sufficient language knowledge. This article illustrates a foundation to build language teaching capacity and a focused strategy of resource prioritization on language knowledge gathering and organization.

Philanthropy and funding agencies are apt to invest in teacher training programs because of familiarity. Similarly, language programs are inclined to create language teacher training programs. Yet, most programs focus their strategy on developing training in language acquisition methods and techniques and most will struggle to develop even limited language learning. This is not for a want to teach more language but is an indication that these programs have not gathered and organized enough language knowledge. Again, without a good command of the language, learning will be limited to the teacher’s language level. When developing your long-term strategy to achieve effective and increasingly efficient language transfer consider the amount of language necessary to be an advanced speaker of your language. If you cannot easily identify what that level of language entails and how it works, then that is where your project development should focus. Any teacher training program needs to be grounded in developing the base of accessible and organized language knowledge. Your teacher training funding proposal must prioritize gathering and organizing the language knowledge to attain an advanced proficiency level. Language knowledge is the foundation of building teacher capacity and in turn, teachers are central to effective language program development.

In my teenage years my father passed away. Thus, the language played a key role in prayers. Praying in the language has healed me, it helped me carry on in life. The language completes the connection to the Creator. When one speaks the language, not only does the Creator hear you, but everything hears your words. By everything, I mean: the land, the animals and the spirits. For instance, when you say (in the language) wapaytam ~help me. Everything hears you, and everything will help you.

Language learning in a teacher training program must prioritized and continuously developed and refined so that advance language proficiency is achieved. There are three facets to creating effective language teachers, accessible language knowledge, teacher focused language curriculum, teacher training. Development of these three areas will lead to creating effective language teachers.

Creating language teachers is a fulltime years-long endeavor. At the foundation of effective language programs is the accessibility of organized language knowledge. Language programs must invest sufficient resources to identify all aspects of language knowledge to at least the advanced proficiency level. This knowledge must be organized and accessible. This knowledge is key to creating effective learning paths for all types of language learning. Teacher candidates must be able to attain a high level of fluency to effectively facilitate language acquisition. These teachers will form the capacity to initiate effective community language learning programs to bring learners to conversational fluency. Teaching capacity is critical to provide many language learning opportunities for all ages in one’s community. Language knowledge is used to create and refine effective learning paths leading to fluency. When developing a language teacher training program, language knowledge gathering and organizing must be a primary consideration. If you do not have the knowledge, you cannot help others learn. Programs with limited access to language knowledge must devote a significant number of resources to gathering and organizing this knowledge. This can only happen efficiently with a fulltime effort by a team of individuals. This task will likely take several years and even longer with less than full-time effort.

Gathering and organizing language knowledge is the primary activity language programs must undertake. When prioritizing limited resources, language knowledge gathering should always receive full support. However, it does not have to be the only activity a language program should undertake. Creating teachers is also an essential activity. You can simultaneously build language knowledge and create teachers. A first cohort of teachers could also form the team that gathers and organizes language knowledge. This type of effort can build a full teacher training program from the ground up. Language programs already have some language knowledge and can use that to begin training teachers. Language knowledge must remain the highest priority until a sufficient amount is gathered and organized.

Language knowledge is also the foundation of any learning path. Creating learning paths or curriculum is also an essential activity. A curriculum serves as a guide for teachers to follow. Initially, the first iteration of curriculum should be a work in progress. The curriculum should be refined year after year to shorten the learning path and make it as efficient as possible. The first curriculum set should be one developed to for creating teachers. Teacher candidates need to learn more about the language than community language learners. Teachers need to know how the language works in order to facilitate language acquisition for their students. Additionally, community language curriculum for adult learners and one for young learners will need to be created. These should be relatively easy to adapt from the initial teacher focused curriculum.

The question then comes down to, how do I create speakers? This is the question of our time for those of us diligently working to keep our languages alive in our communities. Each language community is unique with varying capacities and resources. Developing an effective language transfer system is a daunting task that will take years of work. There are many innovative language learning programs doing great work for their communities. Much can be learned and applied from their example. Ultimately, for your unique community and language it is a matter of creating focused strategic plan. This plan must initially focus on two areas. The most important is to identify, gather, and organize the language knowledge required to attain an advanced proficiency level. The other is to develop teacher training transferring this language efficiently to teacher candidates building capacity to provide effective community language learning programs. Language knowledge is power of language teachers!