6 Questions for Prolingua’s new Director of Studies

Ben Hadden

1. To start from the beginning, can you tell us how you joined Prolingua?

I joined Prolingua almost 3 years ago as the head of the English Department. The reason I came here is that my partner is Luxembourgish and we both decided to move to the Grand Duchy after she finished her PhD in the UK. Why Prolingua? Basically I asked my partner about Language schools in Luxembourg and she said this is the one with the best reputation. I initially applied for the teaching position but it so happened that Prolingua was looking for a head of the English department. The Director of Studies and Assistant of Director of Studies liked my profile and thought I would be suitable for the role.

2. Now you have a new position, what are your new responsibilities?

About year ago previous Director of Studies, who was retiring, approached me and asked if I would be interested in the position. There was a transition period and I was assigned to prepare for the EAQUALS inspection. In my new role my main responsibility will be ensuring the quality of teaching and making sure that our products meet our high standards. Also I will be very much involved in professional development of teachers. At the same time I will still be the Head of English Department with limited teaching hours.

3. Let’s go little bit back, why did you decide to become a language teacher first place?

I always wanted to live and work abroad, but after I started teaching itself, I fell in love with it. Teaching gave me more confidence and satisfaction in the sense that you are helping people to be better. Being a language teacher has an affect beyond the topic and it makes me feel that I am doing a job which has a positive influence on others. Later I developed interest in psychology of learning and I earned a Master’s degree at the University of Oxford. During my studies, I focused on psycholinguistics, language development in bilingual children and in particular on language learning and communication strategies. Since I have been with Prolingua, I have had an opportunity to be involved in teacher training and that is really rewarding job.

4. How has language teaching transformed since you started teaching, what are main trends?

I think the main change in the field is the introduction of CEFR – Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. This is the level system based on “can do” statements. The system which many schools all over Europe are subscribing to instead of more traditional systems. What this amounts to is that for teachers planning of lessons has changed. If before the starting point of lesson was to practice particular grammar or vocabulary, now the opening point is the “can do” statement such as “I can describe graphs and figures” which in practical terms is a very useful communicative skill to have. Then you decide what grammar and vocabulary you need for this ‘can do’ statement and you build your teaching strategy on it.

In terms of technology, teachers’ use of technology has got better and software platforms have improved. For example, the online platform we have at the Prolingua is excellent, because teachers have control over the content while before content was controlled by platform designers. Regarding mobile phones and tablets in class some teachers aren’t happy about it while some of them are integrating them into the teaching process. For example, if there a word or a phrase which a student does not understand, it is fine to check in an online dictionary. However, there is something which will not change, learning a language is a mental process and technology can’t replace this mental effort.

5. What are your 3 tips you would recommend to language learners?

First of all, my advice is, enjoy the learning. To be successful in learning, it can’t just be an instrumental motivation to learn the language. I find that the most successful students are those who enjoy speaking languages.

Second, as learning a language is a mental activity, students need to go through the mental process to remember better. This can be for example, when you are travelling from work to home, you can mentally construct sentences you learnt that day.

Third but not least, take opportunities to use language with other people. Practical use of language helps you remember more than anything.

6. Besides work, what about your life in Luxembourg and things you enjoy doing on your free time?

I love to go for a walk in the countryside and Luxembourg is great for walking. For such a small country it has a varied landscape – the vineyard region by the Moselle river, the south which has the amazing “Terre Rouge”, also beautiful forests in the valleys in the north. Also I like cooking a lot. I am always trying new recipes and developing my cooking techniques for fun. As a Brit, I also enjoy watching cricket and football (Ben`s favourite team is Tottenham Hotspur, which is doing pretty well this season in the Premier League).

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