Our founder and Director of Training Services, Bob Robertson, has a PGCE* in languages and worked for 10 years in teacher training and language course design before founding Robertson Languages in 1989. The two senior managers in the Training Department have CELTA* and DELTA* qualifications. Our teachers and course managers receive professional development training to keep up to date with current practices.
Robertson Languages has clear and well-tried methods for language teaching that have stood the test of time and have won us national awards. Our guiding principles are that learning must be learner-centred, practical and useful. We also believe that there are three aspects to learning a language: learning facts (eg words, verb endings, genders, etc), understanding how the language works (eg when to use which tense, what is formal or informal language) and developing the skill to use it to communicate effectively in a real situation.
To achieve these ends we use the following methods in ways that are sensitive to trainees’ learning styles:
1. The Communicative Method:
This method was pioneered in the 1990s. During this time, Bob Robertson sat for 8 years on the CILT national committee to develop it and encourage its acceptance. By this method, course content is based around what the learner needs or wants to communicate in the settings and situations that he finds himself in. This is why we conduct a Training Needs Analysis to establish the functions (what you want to achieve), the notions (what you want to talk about) the settings (the circumstances in which you will be communicating) and the level (the standard of competence you wish to achieve). We do this by establishing:
- Why you want to communicate
e.g. to make sales, chair meetings, give presentations, go on business trips, relocate to another country
- How you want to communicate
e.g. verbally (face-to-face or by telephone?), writing (emails or reports?), reading
- Who you want to communicate with
e.g. clients, colleagues, suppliers, neighbours, friends
- When you want to communicate
e.g. socially or at work, in the office or entertaining clients
- What you want to talk about
e.g. sales, finance, HR issues, customer care or social interaction
- How correctly you want to communicate
e.g. at natural speed or are you happy to speak more slowly? How concerned are you about grammatical correctness that does not affect how well people understand you?
Once we have answers to these questions, we design teaching materials and classroom activities that teach you the vocabulary and grammar that you need to say what you want in the situations that you find yourself in. We therefore use role plays and practical exercises in the classroom and for self-study between lessons.
2. The Direct Method
This method was pioneered in the 1960s and is still the foundation for successful language teaching to-day, albeit in a more pragmatic way than some of its early protagonists advocated, By this method, the target language (i.e. the language the trainee wishes to learn) is used in the classroom, and the learner learns from what he hears around him even if he does not understand everything, in the same way that a child learns his mother tongue. This is the assumption on which Immersion Training is based and why learning in-country can be more effective than learning at home or why classroom learning can be more effective than self-study alone. The weakness in this method is that it does not give sufficient credit for learning skills that most adults have acquired, and can underestimate the sense of bewilderment that may be felt by a beginner. Robertson Languages therefore uses this method in a sensitive and pragmatic way, using the foreign language in the classroom as much as possible without discouraging the learner or wasting time. In practice this is a difficult balancing act that requires considerable skill and experience from the teacher, which is why our trainers have teaching qualifications. In our view, just being a native speaker does not mean you can teach.
Using the direct method means that we do not teach in an academic way about the language but give you practical skills in how to use and understand the language in real situations. We therefore use the latest technology (DVDs, internet, computer-based learning) to bring the language to life in the classroom. We also recognise that language is spoken in a culture framework, so we include tips and information about cultural matters – such as manners, habits and customs – in our lessons.
3. Blended Learning
The third method that we employ whenever appropriate is relatively new and has only really been made possible as a distinct methodology in the last few years with the advent of the Internet and more powerful computers. The aim of Blended Learning is to combine the advantages of face-to-face learning with those of computer-assisted self-study in a way that mitigates the disadvantages of both. Face-to-face learning is motivational and excellent for developing skills but can be costly; self-study on its own is rarely motivational, can be suitable for teaching facts and is usually cheaper. We blend computer-assisted learning with face-to-face training either by providing self-study materials to be used as homework or by combining the two methods in a more creative way by establishing a study path that uses computer-based exercises and classroom practice in a unified course.
*Postgraduate Certificate in Education, Certificate in English Language to Adults, Diploma in English Language to Adults
For information about our trainers, locations, schedule and learning options click here.
For more information contact us on +44 (0)118 934 6000