Learning process and teaching

Many of us have learned a foreign language using a traditional methodology that involves grammar exercises, memorizing vocabulary without context, little or no listening and speaking exercises. Language is not used for communication, both by the teacher and the students. Since this methodology does not give good results, at Orange House we strive to implement a more practical and modern approach.

Modern teaching methods or, as they are generally called, the communicative approach, places the student at the center of the learning process and ensuring maximum effective time in class. The communicative approach is mainly aimed at the ability to communicate, to use language to perform a certain task. This means that in our courses we help students develop all the skills that are necessary when using the language in a wide variety of situations.

There are six basic skills that a student must develop in order to learn a foreign language: productive skills – speaking and writing; perception skills – listening and reading; knowledge of the structure of the language – grammar and vocabulary. All these aspects are equally important.

Every language has easier and harder sides. For example, for all English speakers, the grammar of the Bulgarian language has complex structures that are difficult for them to master. English grammar is not that difficult, but of course one must know it well to use it correctly. On the other hand, in the English language, mastering the pronunciation is a difficulty. English spelling is not phonetic, ie. each letter does not correspond to exactly one particular sound. Learning the correct pronunciation requires special efforts, because there are more than 40 sounds in the English language, half of which are vowels, and there are more than 140 ways to spell them.

In addition, when connecting words in a sentence, there is a specific rhythm that changes the pronunciation of the words. The rhythm of the sentence is built up by more clearly and emphatically pronouncing certain words that the speaker considers important. Words that have a more official meaning are pronounced fused. In this way, natural connected English speech is built. For the language learner, the peculiar rhythm makes listening and understanding difficult, and it becomes a skill that requires a lot of practice. In developing speaking abilities, it is especially important that students strive to imitate the natural rhythm of connected speech.

When speaking English in a real language situation, the pronunciation of individual words often changes. This is especially true of some of the vowels that are reduced. Words that are pronounced more clearly and distinctly are nouns, verbs or adjectives. This depends on the information in the utterance that the speaker considers most important.

Reduced words are most often auxiliary verbs, articles and prepositions – words with a primarily grammatical function. When taught using traditional methods, students put the most effort into learning these words, but in the natural speech of English speakers, they are the most difficult to understand.

That is why pronunciation and listening exercises form an essential part of the training program at Orange House. Our teachers’ native language is English, so students get used to natural English speech and its rhythm from the start. Communicating with English speakers leads to a better understanding of the language and gradual assimilation of its natural rhythm.

Julian Coppens
Founder and Director of Orange House