Thursday, June 19, 2008

How Would YOU Teach English as a Foreign Language to a Group of Complete Beginners?

Which English for Them?
The first requirement in teaching a group of complete beginners (English 1) is to understand the purpose of their learning, i.e., General English, Technical English, and English for travel or for their employment, needs to be considered. Beginning themes would include the alphabet and its pronunciation in English. This can be especially important if learners use a different alphabet in their first language (L1).

Practice with spelling in English, when giving information on the telephone, for example. I would communicatively teach giving and returning greetings and introducing yourself and others. Then the teaching of basic numbers, counting, saying and writing telephone numbers. Pronunciation practice might also be an increasing important aspect, especially if the learners’ L1 used a different connected speech model from English i.e., tonal, syllable-based or stress-based.

Using a Variety of EFL Classroom Activity Types
Additional basic themes along with essential vocabulary would follow being taught in context or actual use. I would teach vocabulary and use in context of clothing, foods, days of the week, months of the year, house and home, furniture, etc. while using a variety of class room activity types and available resources such as videos, CDs, flash cards, games and so forth. Actual practice would depend on such factors as the learners’ first language (L1), learner profiles, available resources, length, duration and frequency of the class among others.

When Everybody Fails an English Course Level
An additional point is that on occasion, when a large number of learners fail an English course level, regardless of which level, the institute director will assign the group to me for a repetition of the failed course level the following semester. I then use the theory of Multiple Intelligences (H. Gardner, 1983), determine the strengths, weaknesses and learning styles of the students. Using this information, I prepare materials, activities and lessons suited specifically for this particular group of learners. The ensuing success rate of my repeating-learner courses is about 96%.

Don’t Use the Learners’ First Language
Finally, I try, as much as practically possible, NOT to use the learners’ first language (L1). This focuses them on working, learning and communicating ONLY in English. Yes, it is a shock to many learners at fist, but they usually soon adjust and learn the use of the language much more quickly, in my personal experience. As learners progress through higher levels of English language learning, their appreciation of using English-only in the classroom is heightened. They have also been trained to eliminate bad language-learning habits such as translation and over-reliance on their first language for meanings, definitions, questions and explanations. And that’s definitely a good thing, right?

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, prolific writer, expert author and public speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 100 countries. Get your FREE E-book, "If you Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at: Need a blogger or copywriter to promote your school, institution, service or business or an experienced writer and vibrant SEO content for your website, blog or newsletter? Then E-mail me for further information.

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