Teaching General Language Persian to Speakers of Other Languages: Investigating and Identification of Effective Methods and Approaches

Document Type : Research Paper


Corresponding Author, Associate Professor of Teaching Persian Language to speakers of other languages Imam Khomeini International University, Qazvin, Iran.



Language teaching methods and approaches are considerably effective in teaching Persian language and culture. This study examined the teachers' perspectives toward the use of methods and approaches appropriate for teaching Persian to students learning Persian for general purposes.
To this, the study recruited 43 teachers teaching the Persian language to non-Persian language learners at several Persian language centers across different universities. They were provided with a 22-item questionnaire probing the teachers' attitudes to the use of methods sub-categorized into five sections, namely, structural view, functional view, interactional view, proprietary methods, and other.
The results showed that the participants generally favored 16 (out of 22) teaching methods and approchs among which "teacher-oriented and appropriate to class conditions," "communicative", "audio lingual", "task-based" and "natural approach" were ranked from the first to fifth positions respectively; in their perspectives, the principles of these five methods could be used for teaching Persian Language for general purposes. The results of the t-test showed that the methods of "teaching dogmatic language," "Pimsler," "Michael Thomas," and learning by teaching were not useful in designing and developing resources for teaching Persian language for general purposes. The results of this study might encourage the Persian language teachers to employ the most efficient methods in teaching Persian to the speakers of other languages.
Extended Abstract:
Learning a foreign language is a complicated process. There are various methods and approaches to teaching a second/foreign language. The main common concern of these apprroaches is to help learners improve their language proficiency. The introduction of effective methods or approaches could remarkably motivate learners to improve their language ability level. While there are some research-based approaches to upgrade the quality of language teaching profession, the relevant literature documents no investigation evaluating their effectiveness in teaching Persian to non-Persian language learners.    
Nunan (2003) believes that methodology is a set of procedures that a teacher needs to follow in the classroom. It is grounded based on the teacher's beliefs about the nature of language and language learning. Educational researchers claim that there could be various approaches to teaching language since the language itself is a complex and dynamic system.
Language teaching methods are classified into three principal views: (a): Structural methods (grammar-translation, audio lingual), (b) Functional methods (oral-situational, guided practice) and (c) Interactive methods (direct, series, communication, immersion, silent way, group learning, hypersensitivity, natural approach, total physical response, teaching proficiency in reading and storytelling, dogme, and participatory approach).
Structural approach views the language as a system comprised of interrelated structural components to decode meanings (e.g., grammar).
Functionalist approach sees language as a means of expressing or performing a particular function, such as "asking for something."
Interactive perspective was introduced in the 1980s. It regards language as a means of establishing and sustaining social relationships, focusing on patterns of movement, actions, negotiation, and interaction in dialogue (Richard & Rogers, 2003).
Besides this classification, there are two further categories as well, namely, (1) Proprietary methods (Pimsler, Michael Thomas) and others (learning by teaching, teacher-centered, and appropriate to class conditions).
It seems that a language teaching method might be considered a significant issue in planning Persian language teaching to non-Persian speakers. Hence, one may ask this question: "which of the proposed methods or approaches could be contributive in upgrading the quality of teaching the Persian language for general purposes? The results of such analysis can be helpful in selecting and implementing sound methods and approaches for teaching the Persian language profession.
The field method design was employed to investigate and analyze the teachers' perspectives; accordingly, a questionnaire was distributed among 43 teachersteaching Persian as a second language to non-Persian language learners at different Persian language centers across several universities. This instrument was divided into five sections (e.g., structural view, functional view, interactional view, proprietary methods, and other.) investigating the participants' attitudes toward the employment of 22 existing language teaching methods and approaches. Cronbach's alpha test was used to estimate the consistency of the items in the questionnaire; the test provided us with coefficient reliability of 0.931, indicating the adequate efficiency of the questionnaire.
The results showed that the participants generally favored 16 (out of 22) teaching methods and approchs among which "teacher-oriented and appropriate to class conditions," "communicative", "audio lingual", "task-based" and"natural approach" were ranked from the first to fifth positions respectively; in their perspectives, the principles of these five methods could be used for teaching Persian Language for general purposes. The results of the t-test showed that the methods of "teaching dogmatic language," "Pimsler," "Michael Thomas," and learning by teaching were not useful in designing and developing resources for teaching Persian language for general purposes.
It is well accepted that practical teaching skills and methods are considered very significant in the language teaching profession, and the learning will not be realized if an appropriate methodology is not followed in teaching the language. In addition to classical ones, there are some new empirically-based methods for language instruction characterized by some particular strengths and weaknesses. The methods are expected to have corresponded with the language learners and learning content; from this perspective, the teacher's teaching skills are a set of various factors being in line with human being characteristics; the important teaching skills could be highly significant in stimulating the students' motivation. Generally, the language teaching methods should be exclusively dynamic, appealing, and influential since the lack of these characteristics may make the teaching activities highly annoying, seriously demotivating Persian language learners in the long run.
Some language teachers may prefer and follow teacher-centered methods based on the class environment. This group of instructors probably believes that teachers are not required to follow the most appropriate language teaching methods. Instead, they argue that the language teachers need to be sufficiently familiar with the characteristics of the existing methods. It is, in this case, that they can benefit methods based on the wants and needs of the students as well as the factors in the teaching contexts. In other words, these teachers assert that educational context and students' cognitive condition that encourage the teachers to choose a specific appropriate teaching method or approach. In fact, in this way, the teacher connects his/her methodological perspective to the method-oriented world to make sound pedagogical decisions in challenging situations
Textbooks, considered as the most essential and fundamental educational resource for language learners, could quickly reflect language teaching methods. Given this issue in mind, Persian language textbooks could adequately make the appropriate principles of a sound method explicit. That is, effort should be practiced to upgrade the content of Persian language textbooks making it sufficiently influential in teaching and learning the Persian language. The Current and available textbooks have been organized based on the principles of traditional language teaching schools, and, therefore, a serious revision is warranted to modify or alternate the contents of these language textbooks. Persian language practitioners might pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of the available course books for further modification practices to make these educational materials considerably contributive in teaching and learning the Persian language. 
Language teachers following a specific teaching method will not be significantly successful in achieving their educational goals. Language instruction is equivalent to time management, and Persian language instructors are required to be familiar with all methods and approaches so that they can benefit the principles upon the situation factors making the learning process adequately meaningful, successful, and sustainable by Persian language learners. 


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