Irene Alonso-Aparicio holds a B.A. in English Philology from the University of Granada (Spain) and an M.A. in Spanish as a Second Language from the Open University of Spain. In 2011, after carrying out the empirical study of her dissertation at the University of Aachen (Germany), she received a European Ph.D. with Honors in Language Didactics from the University of Granada (Spain).
Irene has taught Spanish in Spain, United Kingdom, United States of America, and Germany. In addition, she is regularly invited as a guest professor in the Master’s program “Teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language: Language, Culture and Methodology” at the Universidad de Granada (Spain). Irene is frequently invited as a guest lecturer to give seminars on teaching methodology in master and doctoral programs, and has done so in many countries including Norway, Spain and Belgium.
Irene’s main research interests focus on psycholinguistic approaches to Second Language Acquisition and Teaching. Based on cognitive theories of skill-building, she strives to develop psycholinguistically coherent grammar teaching approaches. Irene’s work has been published in several international journals and books and has been presented at multiple international conferences. Irene is currently involved in three European research projects that investigate metalinguistic awareness, teaching materials design and didactic sequences in language learning and teaching.
Teaching a second or a foreign language is, in my view, a multifaceted task involving three major components:
Language teaching involves knowing the theory of both linguistics and language learning and teaching. Thus, as a language educator I strive to develop a good understanding about what is to be taught, i.e., issues regarding the underlying rules that govern the use of a certain grammatical form or formulas to engage in sociolinguistically appropriate conversations. In the same fashion, as a language practitioner I endeavor to master the pedagogical procedures to effectively turn my students into competent language users, i.e., I strive to be as acquainted as possible with different grammar presentation approaches, inference strategies, concerns about classroom group dynamics or error correction procedures among others.
Most educators would probably identify with the fact that different results often occur after implementing the same teaching guidelines across different sections and even within the same section. In my opinion, this is a consequence of the fact that diversity is found across any field of life and the second or foreign language classroom is no exception. In fact, a quick look at the literature in education, developmental and cognitive psychology, and more specifically second or foreign language learning and teaching, shows a wide array of teaching techniques that could a priori seem conflicting yet guarantee efficient teaching and satisfactory learning results.
This being the case, as a language teacher I avoid rigidly imposing my personal views on language teaching, but rather am permeable to my students’ learning preferences and language needs. I strive not only to know what and how to teach, but also when and why to do what.
I am of the opinion that in the second or foreign language classroom it is essential to create a motivational, positive and anxiety-free working atmosphere to obtain optimal results. My strategies to achieve this include, among others: (a) adapting to students’ learning preferences and linguistic goals; (b) negotiating with students (whenever appropriate) learning contents and materials they enjoy the best; (c) engaging and encouraging students to make the best of themselves; (c) having students participate in their own learning processes; (d) providing students with meaningful and life-related examples of the contents that I teach; (d) building the students’ self-confidence; (e) asking students to explore the contents that I teach by prompting them and by fostering critical thinking and teamwork; (f) explaining the purpose and utility of activities; or (g) tailoring materials to make them relevant, challenging and stimulating for students.