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Teaching monolingual groups

October 26, 2006

Hello again,

The travelling English language teacher is more likely to teach monolingual than multi-lingual groups and one of the biggest challenges is to understand the main areas of mother tongue interference for the group being taught. Since training courses cannot...

... possibly cover all potential mother tongues, this is an area in which employing schools can take the lead.

They can offer continuing training by giving, say, a weekly class that covers the key areas of difficulty: pronunciation, vocabulary, tenses of the verb, word order and so forth. It would also help if the teachers had the opportunity to learn their students’ language, not necessarily so that they use it their teaching, but to help them understand the different way the language works.

I would also argue for the merits of team teaching sometimes. If a native-speaker English teacher is paired with a teacher whose native tongue is that of the students, a rich interchange is possible. This may be too expensive an option, although I suspect that there are ways of minimising the costs by, for example, building in some student self-study time to compensate for the extra teaching.

And schools can encourage teachers to share their experience and so help each other. Teachers could be asked to keep a diary of the specific mother-tongue issues that encounter and then discuss these with the rest of the team.

The issues are not merely pedagogic. Motivation of the students may be different when the teaching takes place in their home country. They may be learning English as part of a wider curriculum and may be there less by choice than by obligation. Cultural issues are also important. The teacher may need to look for topics that relate the home culture and the students’ immediate interests, whereas students in multi-national groups may be open to a wider topic range. Also, the teacher needs to be careful not come across as culturally biased as this may cause resentment.

Teaching styles are yet another issue. It is certainly not easy for teachers trained to work with small groups to find themselves in front of classes of thirty or more students as can happen in universities and secondary schools. How can such large groups be given opportunities to practise speaking? How can they be stopped from using their mother tongue in class? How can be motivated to become active rather than passive learners?

Let me know your thoughts on this matter.

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  1. misis Says:

    hi! i'm teaching english a couple of months. am a filipino, 37 years, married with no kids. i am very much interested in teaching english in s. korea, or china or thailand. what would be the most useful websites to visit? do most schools hire and arrange for the applicants work permits? how long do contracts last usually?


  1. Kevin Landry Says:

    You really need to be from USA, Canada, England, Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand, or Australia and have a 4 year degree to get a work visa in South Korea. Some people may teach on tourist visas but it is illegal and unstable.

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