English, the Socially Responsible Way

January 14, 2005

“TOWARD a Socially ResponsiblePedagogy” will be the theme of the 11thNational Conference for Teachers ofEnglish to be held Jan. 26-28 at the CostaRican-North American Cultural Center inSan José.The forum brings together instructorsand experts each year to discuss the newestmethods, techniques and strategies in thefield of teaching English as a second language.The center, the U.S. Embassy andthe Ministry of Public Education sponsorthe conference.“A socially responsible approach toteaching English takes into account theneeds of the community,” Ángel Bonilla,one of the conference organizers, told TheTico Times.A one-size-fits-all method has alwaysbeen way too common in the field, he said.The historical shift over the years hasbeen from a grammar-translation methodof learning the language, which equips studentsto translate English text into Spanishbut little more, to an audio-lingualapproach, which drills students in “correct”pronunciation.“That’s the ‘Speak just like anAmerican’ method,” Bonilla said, addingthat it still falls far short of giving studentsthe tools to carry on a conversation.In vogue today is a communicativeapproach that allows students to deal withreal-life situations.Bonilla has attended classes where studentswere asked to discuss the theme:“What would you do if you were King ofEngland?”“Who in the campo is ever going to bethe King of England?” he asked.Bonilla suggested a more realistic topicmight be a conversation about how toapply for a job at Condovac, a resort complexin the northwestern province ofGuanacaste.Some 550 participants are expectedthis year, and will come from Mexico,Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador,Panama and Venezuela.The conference takes place at the mainbranch of the Costa Rican-North AmericanCultural Center on Calle 37 in Barrio Dent.Registration fees for participants are¢16,500 ($36) until Jan. 17; ¢17,500 ($39)after Jan. 17. For more info, call 207-7527.

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