How to teach a student after 20 years of studying?

Help, tips and advice in teaching English

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How to teach a student after 20 years of studying?

Unread postby sherlock » 20 Oct 2008, 13:55

Hi Lucy,

I am new to this forum and I really need your advice.

I have a student that I teach privately at my own school. I teach him for 90 minutes twice a month and have been doing so for about 6 months. This is a one on one lesson. He is in his mid 40s and has been learning English for more than 20 years. He is a Japanese business man who needs to use english when speaking with his French boss and clients in other Asian countries. Though he says he does not want to learn business English.

Now for the problem! He says that he wants to use the level English he knows in a confident and speedy way. His actual words were that he wants to 'speak to the English level of Japanese Junior high school students text.' He has a good understanding of English and I would say he was intermediate to high intermediate level. He wants an output lesson and though I have tried several things such as newspaper articles, texts, pictures, targeted questions, topic discussion and others he wont speak so much. He is not happy has has real problems expressing what he wants to say. We are going to start on translating japanese sentences and dialogues from my Japanese study books into English. I really dont think that this is the best way but it seems to be the only thing that we have done that he seems slighty happy with. He wants me to 'show him the way and the best method.'

I have never incountered this situation before and am at a loss on how to best give him what he wants. Surely every student can be taught how to express their thoughts in another language.

Yours hopefully,


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Re: Help!

Unread postby Lucy » 27 Oct 2008, 18:14

Dear Sherlock

Thanks for this interesting question. I always find such questions thought-provoking. We have all learnt about the best way to teach a foreign language, loads of literature exists on the topic. EFL teachers generally agree about the best way to teach (on the whole). And then, we come up against real life: some people seem unable to learn this way or do not enjoy learning that way. What to do?

I think that the best thing (which is what you are doing) is to respect your student’s learning style. Work with him using the methods that he is comfortable with. Translate, do controlled dialogues and study grammar in a way that he enjoys. When he gets more confident, you can introduce short activities of the type you would normally use with your EFL students. You could start by teaching the whole lesson in the way he has requested; then move onto 1 hour 15 minutes of the type of work he enjoys and approx 15 minutes of exercises that you choose.

I agree with your student in that you could be asking him to speak at a low level. I know we usually try to challenge our students and ask them to do more difficult tasks but if you work on speaking exercises at a low level, he will gain confidence and then be able to tackle more difficult exercises.


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