The Woes of Teaching English Lessons
The Woes of Teaching Teaching English to a Foreigner
Use your student's interests to your advantage!
Teaching English to a foreigner is usually a task that surprises many newcomers for its complexity. As a novice teacher I found the experiences with foreigners who came to learn English in New York quite frustrating at first and, for a period of six hard months, didn't know what the problem was. Especially for those without a previous background in teaching there is a steep learning curve where you have to get used to the fact that your student is entering in a world of words, images and thoughts that is (to at least some degree) alien to him and that you need to structure your teaching in a way that minimizes potential problems and that paves the way to overcome the inevitable obstacles that everyone faces when learning something new. Therefore we've decided to compile a set of tips to get you started if you are a novice, or polish your skills if you are already a veteran.
- Use objects: Even if it seems something you would only use with a child, objects provide multi-sensory information that your student can use to anchor the new knowledge. Remember that a lot of the initial work in a language deals with the brain getting used to a host of information that it can not readily process. Using objects gives an abundance of colors, textures and smells to aid memorization and can even make for a fun activity.
- Use body language: When you are teaching your whole body is an excellent tool that can help you communicate even when someone doesn't understand your language. Studies conducted by universities in the United States some years ago came to the conclusion that, for most communications, the words that are spoken constitute only 20-30% of the meaning that is interpreted. A full 70% has to do with how you say the words and the body language that come with them. Use that to your advantage.
- Use translation handbooks: Invest in a language book that has translations from your student's native language to the one you are teaching. Make sure you help your student the first times he uses the book and work with him to slowly put together small sentences.
- Speak in the target language: Speak in the language you are teaching as much as is possible to continue with your training. Maybe you can't provide the same experience he would get if he was learning English in England but you can surely provide a language environment that will help, rather than hinder, his constant development. Getting immersed in a language is one of the fastest way to speed up the learning process.
- Use multimedia content: Movies and music are one of the best ways to help someone understand a language. They provide a number of different settings, accents and are entertaining on their own. While it's very hard to actually understand a movie or a pop record on the first go, work with your student to dissipate any frustration, the feeling of finally understanding that movie or that song will be great.