ESL — English as a Second Language

Occasionally, I tutor English as a second language. Sometimes it’s arduous, but most times it’s fun, especially when both you and the student hit common creative ground, e.g., game design, the simplified version. it’s not about getting the process right; it’s about having fun expanding vocabulary, strengthening oral skills, righting pronunciation, building confidence and exploring ideas and expressions.

When the student talks, they’re practicing and you can correct their mistakes. They won’t get it right at the beginning, but they will eventually. For example, the “th” sound (soft and hard) is difficult for non-Western-language learners to distinguish. It mostly doesn’t exist in their native tongue. The same can be said of “v” and “f” sounds, as well as “r” and “l”.

Methods that work include simple tongue twisters that emphasise those sounds and exaggerated mouth / tongue movements to demonstrate the difference pronunciation techniques.

Of course, if the fundamentals are bad, you have to undo the damage before you can get somewhere with repairing it. In this case, gentle but insistent nudges and reminders in a context the student loves are the most effective ways, or so I’ve found.

Each student is unique. But a common characteristic amongst those I’ve tutored is the eagerness to convey / express ideas and thoughts in subjects they’re invested in. And providing the tools for that expression empowers them to present their thoughts and viewpoints without fear.

By the way, laughter also releases tension, and relaxes and builds rapport. It additionally serves as a “wake up” technique. Helps if you can tap into something the student wants to find funny, e.g., acronyms. These are especially funny if your viewpoint agrees with the student’s. You can fake the point of view, but what’s the point? You’re trying to build rapport, which includes trust.

Trust stems from honesty and tact and a genuine attitude and belief. Even if you don’t believe, you still need to maintain a good attitude. And if you love using the language you’re teaching, even better. Thus, natural enthusiasm conveys itself to the student and it is infectious (or contagious, if you prefer). That’s half the work done, right?

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ESL — English as a Second Language

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