09/04/2021

Categories: Education and Teacher Training, Postgraduate

The Challenges of Teaching English as a Foreign Language

Are you a grammar whizz? Do you have bags of patience and good people skills? Teaching English to foreign students could be for you…

Teaching English as a second language is one of the most rewarding areas of work you can go into as an English teacher. For many, it’s a chance to develop teaching skills further while also immersing themselves in new cultures and meeting interesting people from around the world.

Choosing to teach English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) has it challenges though, especially if you’re planning on moving away from home to pursue this dream. But don’t let those reservations hold you back.

Taking on new teaching experiences, whether abroad or in the UK, will provide so much fulfilment and can help you take your career to the next level.

Here we divulge some common challenges of teaching English as a foreign language (as well as the best ways to overcome them).

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Not having enough resources or support

This can be a problem both in the UK or abroad when teaching English as a second language. Not only do you need basic resources for classes, but you also need the tools to be able to support your class on a broader level.

For foreign learners arriving here in the UK, they can experience a huge culture shock. Your job as their language teacher is not only to brush up their literary skills, but to help them integrate into wider society.

If you are teaching overseas, resources may seem out of reach or you may not know how to access them. This is common, and a lack of communication can lead to resources not being utilised.

How to tackle this:

To ensure you have all the resources and support you need, make sure you familiarise yourself with what’s available in your school, university or teaching centre. Establish key resource hubs and introduce yourself to those who may be able to help you.

 

Networking is key, and the University of Bolton’s PGCE programme is a great place to start when it comes to building your support network. We are one of the largest providers of teacher education in the UK, and our postgraduate community is both inclusive and dynamic.

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Grammar can be tricky for foreign students

While teaching new vocabulary can be fun for both student and teacher, grammar is a different kettle of fish. Even for people whose mother tongue is English, grammar can be a problem, so imagine teaching it to someone who doesn’t speak English very well.

Perfecting grammar in conversation and written form takes practice, and can be diffiuclt to master. So keeping people engaged in class is a challenge. Bearing in mind the vast differences in structure from language to language, having a personalised approach with each learner can be laborious.

How to tackle this:

For adult learners, use deductive teaching methods to help them learn from the bottom up using a series of exercises. Many adult learners do better this way, but it’s also a good idea to experiment with inductive methods to see which ones work best with your class.

It’s also important to plan grammar lessons far in advance so you can map out the class with a structured approach. Unlike vocabulary lessons, which can be a bit more flexible, teaching grammar requires solid organisation and discipline.

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Communication barriers (from both sides)

If you are moving abroad to teach, you may be required to learn a new language yourself. On top of that, you will need to absorb a whole new culture. Just like the culture shock for foreign students coming to the UK, there can be some barriers for teachers going overseas.

Wherever you are, and wherever your students are from, understanding cultural differences is key. In order to engage and inspire, you’ll have to be able to connect on a deeper level. A level that goes beyond verbal communication.

With language barriers in the way, non-verbal communication will be vital!

How to tackle this:

Brush up on your interpersonal skills. When teaching people who are new to the English language, it’s important to have good eye contact and open, friendly body language.

At the University of Bolton, we believe in developing soft skills, just as much as pedagogy theory. These skills are essential in helping you improve your practice.

 

To find out more about applying for our PGCE (M) 14+ English (Literacy and ESOL) programme in September 2021, head over to our course page.

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