What is the biggest difference between teaching secondary students and mature students?
Maturity really is the whole thing. Mature students want to learn, they want to be there! Mature students have much more motivation to learn as they have more opportunities to visit the countries. Many students enrol for classes immediately prior to retiring or as they plan to travel. Some have purchased camper vans for the purpose – some even have houses abroad. Similarly, you get a lot more out of it because they really appreciate everything you are saying, they go home and actually do their homework, which is a nice change!
How has teaching languages evolved?
I have not taught secondary for a long time but from what I have heard from other teachers, the curriculum has changed in such a way that it has become more challenging for secondary students of Modern Foreign Languages. It would be a shame to see languages becoming accessible only to the most academic as I believe it is something that all children could benefit from. I am very much in favour of the current idea that primary schools should provide tuition in a modern foreign language. It would be great if the government could provide more financial support to primary schools to assist primary schools with this provision.
What is encouraging the mature students to pick up a language?
I think it is a lot about intellectual stimulation. People are more conscious now of the benefits of learning a language. They want to keep their minds active as well as their bodies. They want to exercise their brains, they want to meet people and socialise and that’s really what it offers. It is the opportunity to meet people, local people, with common interests and travel as a group.
What are the challenges to teaching mature students?
There are different challenges compared to teaching younger students. With younger people it’s hard because maybe they don’t travel to Italy or France, or they don’t always see the benefit of learning a language.
In comparison, I would say that some older learners struggle to get over their fear of getting it wrong. Mature students also tend to be more self-critical than younger students and worry more when they forget things. In fact, the amount of work they put into their learning often means they make better progress.
Do you have any advice for language teachers?
Communication games are a must in the classroom! Most important of all you need to keep it relevant to your students. Let’s say you’re teaching the time, instead of gravitating towards the clock and asking what time it is, I prefer to get the TV guide out, have a look what’s on telly tonight and go through the times that way. I always try to make it relevant to my students!