Thursday, March 22, 2012

Teaching English as a Foreign Language

If you’ve ever lived in a foreign country where the majority of the population do not speak your native language, you understand that finding employment as an outsider can be an especially tricky process. If your language skills are less than perfect, the task ceases to be merely difficult and instead enters the realm of the virtually impossible.

Thankfully if you are an English native speaker, there is one type of job that you will instantly be able to find, even though you may not feel particularly qualified to do it. No, I am not talking about fruit picking for below average pay, I am of course referring to becoming a language teacher.

I was first introduced to language teaching earlier this year when a friend of mine told me that her husband was looking to improve his English. At first I was a little bit apprehensive but after several lessons and once I got into the swing of things, I became hooked. I love the idea that I am enriching someone else’s life and in my case, also improving my Italian. Even though for me teaching is only a hobby that I share with Italian friends of mine, from what I have observed if you are looking to make money teaching in Italy there are many opportunities to do so.

The following are therefore some of my recommendations for teaching English as a second language:

1. Have a plan. I remember when I was younger and first moved away from Montreal, Canada where I am originally from. My mother hired a French teacher to come and speak with me once a week. It was her hope that I would be able to maintain my fluency in the language despite no longer being exposed to it on a regular basis. Unfortunately for me, the teacher was unprepared and never had a plan. As a result my French suffered and I am sad to say that it is now even worse than my German! The lesson that I learnt from this experience is to always have a decent lesson plan. I usually type my plans up on paper because they look more organised that way and also so that my students have room to make notes about the things that we have discussed.

2. Communicate. A thirteen year old girl will not want the same kinds of lessons as the forty five year old C.E.O of a multi-national company. Make sure that you get to know your student before making lesson plans and check in after every lesson. I usually spend about five minutes at the end of a session talking about potential subjects of interest and also which particular activities the student found especially helpful.

3. Mix it up. Nobody likes to do the same boring thing day in and day out. Instead of being predictable, challenge your student by constantly thinking of new activities that stimulate your student’s senses. The quickest way to fluency is to immerse yourself in a language and your student will absorb far more information if your lessons are interactive as well as informative.

4. Be punctual and professional. I know that this sounds like a given, but you would be surprised how many people comment about my punctuality. Apparently a good English teacher is hard to find. Always show up to your lessons five minutes early and don’t clock watch. Be patient, understanding and respectful of your student at all times no matter how many mistakes that they initially make. Always dress conservatively for lessons, no cleavage bearing tops or ultra short skirts. Don't be overly casual even if you are just participating in a language exchange.

5.Have fun. If you are sitting across from your student twiddling your thumbs and yawning for the majority of the lesson, your lack of enthusiasm will rub off onto him or her. Show passion for your language and don’t be afraid to improvise from time to time. If you see teaching a language as a job, chances are your student will see learning a language as a chore but if you see it as an opportunity to get to know some wonderful people, everyone will have a fun and educational time!

I hope that these tips have helped you. Like I said, I am not a professional language teacher and I do not earn a living from teaching. Instead I have forged some wonderful friendships and learnt a language along the way. Knowledge is an amazing thing and there is no better feeling in the world than when you empower another person with it. Good luck!

1 comment:

  1. "no cleavage bearing tops or ultra short skirts"

    Just lost me!:-)

    Least if they fail in new-langauge, they can have a bit of enjoyment with there eyes!