Getting a Handle on English as a Foreign Language

MC900391050hanging onEvery teacher brings something of value to the classroom, yet all of us teachers have at least one area in which we can improve. I have my own set of goals that I’m working toward. Along the path of professional development, I like to look around and see if there’s some way I can assist other teachers. I’ve benefited from others’ experience over the years, so I feel it’s important to give back to our ELT community.

Lately I’ve been receiving requests from non-native speakers of English teaching EFL in schools and universities in different countries. Their communication with me increases my understanding of the challenges they face and the resources they seek. Here are some ideas I’d like to share with those in this group who have yet to feel sure-footed in their teaching:

  • Learn the expressions you need most and learn them well. Some newer EFL teachers struggle to decrease the use of L1 in their classrooms and increase the use of L2. Some elementary school teachers in non-English speaking countries face the challenge of a broad curriculum, and English is just one of several subjects they must teach. To help bring more English into EFL lessons, I answered the request of a few teachers and created a set of basic Classroom Instructions. I use a simple listen-repeat pattern, but I hope the collection of videos will help those in need of common classroom language.
  • Rehearse key points of a presentation. Any presenter knows that the key to delivering something smoothly is practice. When faced with a new topic to teach, try giving your explanation out loud at home. You might also be able to find other teachers’ presentations online and compare their wording to yours.
  • Let online resources support your teaching, not encroach upon it. There are rich resources available today. You can bring in audio and video materials to aid your instruction and expose students to other models.  However, be careful not to overuse a resource. You are the teacher, and you must remain the main source of instruction in your own classroom. (Click to read a related post on the pronunciation of the teacher.)
  • Be confident that you are a competent facilitator in EFL instruction. As a learner of English yourself, you have heightened awareness of the process of learning English. You are in tune with the challenges your students face. Your own proficiency in English can inspire students, and your continued study of the language can serve as a model. You may feel you lack fluency in some respect, but you have certainly mastered enough and care enough to guide your learners’ progress. In truth, your knowledge of English grammar and vocabulary can surpass that of many native speakers.
  • Find support among your colleagues. Hopefully, we can all find support and give support when needed. It’s very upsetting to hear stories of language learners being criticized or teased by spouses, coworkers, or classmates. It breaks my heart even more to learn how one English language instructor has caused hurt and embarrassment by criticizing another instructor’s proficiency in English. If we cannot support one another, how can we create a positive learning experience for our students? Let’s all remember the value of positive feedback and constructive criticism done with sensitivity and respect.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. eigo.colin says:

    Hello Jenifer, I’m a native English speaker and have been teaching online for 12 months now but so much of this article was relevant to me also. Especially the last three points.

    1. Indeed, there are challenges shared by us all, native an non-native speakers alike.
      Good luck to you!

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