Teaching English without speaking your student's language

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Teaching English without speaking your student's language

Unread postby Julia » 16 Nov 2005, 11:00

Goodday everybody,
I'm off to China in a few months to teach English to Chinese teenagers. My concern is: is it possible to get relevant info across in English if their English level is Pre-/intermediate? Does anybody have experience with this? I've taught Spanish children before, and have occasionally had to translate into Spanish. To be honest, i'm stressing quite a bit about this (and everything, in general) since my Mandarin is as yet very limited. It'd be great if somebody could give me advice or tell me their experience.

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Not knowing the language of the students.

Unread postby JeremyTaylor » 03 Jan 2006, 10:45

Hi Julia,
I think it great that you are trying to learn Mandarin and it will definitely help you with your life in China but I really don't think you need it in the classroom. As part of my teacher training, I teach Czech to native speakers of English. I don't use a word of English but after half an hour they are all chatting to each other in Czech. It requires plenty of mime, pictures, simple instructions and the key words, comprehensible input! You shouldn't have a problem with your pre-int Chinese students, though there will be a tendency for them to translate everything you say into Chinese to 'help' the ones who don't understand everything.
Good luck!

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Unread postby Julia » 07 Jan 2006, 16:03

Hi Jeremy and all the others!
Thanks a lot for your reply. I've been waiting for someone to react to this post for ages which surprises me since I thought it's a very interesting topic! In fact I don't know what level my students are going to be... if they are beginners it's easy to teach without speaking their language and when they are advanced, too. It's just the ones in between which worry me. But it's good to know your confident that it works! I'm also worried it might be a difficult class, one of those who don't give a shit about the lesson, since I'm unable to handle even English students of this kind. It'd be great to hear of somebody who has taught in China, without speaking much Mandarin!

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Unread postby sarahs » 24 Jan 2006, 21:15

Hello Julia,
I'm English, teaching English to the French at present, and trying to pass my TEFL, my project is about teaching English in Spain where I don't speak the language, as you are teaching or have taught there I thought maybe you could help me with any info that might help me with the project, specific difficuties, culture, pronunciation etc....
Any help would be some help !!
Please reply

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Problems for Spanish speakers

Unread postby Susan » 02 Feb 2006, 18:13

Dear Sarah,

Have you looked at the book "Learner English" by Michael Swan.

It's useful for understanding the difficulties of different students.

Best of luck


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Unread postby rbienvenu » 22 Feb 2006, 17:54

I taught for a while in Spain and let me tell you that although I had 8 years of Spanish in school and got high marks, when I got to Spain I couldn't speak or understand a word.

I was offered my first ESL job at a school in Seville and was worried at first because I couldn't speak the language. Worse was that the folks in southern Spain have an accent where they not only speak fast but don't pronouce all the letters especially the endings of words. Eesh!

At first their Spanish didn't sound like Spanish at all.

Anyway, the dean told me that it was good that I didn't speak the language because the students would have to rely on what they knew of English to communicate with me. So not speaking Spanish was an advantage.

I had a class of adults and one of 12 year olds. The 12 year olds was another story altogether, an enlightening one of going from failure and misery to one of un gran exito! -- a resounding success. (To read that story go to:
http://www.english-teaching-info.com/te ... ldren.html )

As time went on I did pick up a lot of Spanish and became quite fluent. Today when I teach a Spanish speaker I use the language to help translate but I don't know if this is necessarily a good idea. It makes it easier for me but I'm not sure if that is the best for the student.

Hope this helps.

Richard Bienvenu

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