Yesterday we reported to the group the steps in formal initial teacher training education in our different countries. An interesting fact is that in Sudan, student teachers are supposed to arrive at their training course already with a full command of the language and there is no language proficiency component in their courses. In Cuba, Colombia and Tajikistan student teachers go through a period of 2 years of language learning before having modules on syntax, semantics, morphology and phonology. Both Brazil and Mexico adopt a model where this specific linguistics disciplines are taught along modules on language learning.
I believe such differences reflect and have strong implications for the way we see the formation of language teachers. The model adopted in Cuba and Tajikistan, for example, presupposes that having mastered the language as a medium of communication, TESOL students will have no problems to grasp the concepts of language as a system. I’m not sure if things are so easily transferable. Besides that, I believe that the concomitant learning the language and learning about- the-language can help students to make connections and understand better where their language difficulties come from. It may help students understand how their own language learning experience can be shaped by the features of the target language. This would in turn, ideally, help TESOL students to conceptualize principles and understand the difficulties their future students will face in the learning process.
As John says in his article quoting Feiman-Nemser and Buchmann, ‘ the transition to pedagogical thinking needs to start as much with the subject as it does with pedagogy.’ In other words, the knowledge of the subject matter and the pedagogy that supports them should go hand in hand. This is not the model we have for teacher education in Britain where people start their teacher education programmes after finishing their undergraduate courses in the subject matter. Perhaps the case of foreign language teaching education is a special one, considering that besides knowledge of the pedagogy, teachers also have to have knowledge of the subject matter that is at the same time their medium of instruction.