Published 14th January 2016
But somewhere, there’s a little voice inside your head that is telling you that being able to speak English is not the same as being able to teach English and being a TEFL teacher does not just involve having a fat chat.
So how exactly do we teach English as a foreign language and what exactly do we teach?
Well, when we learn English, we learn language – vocabulary and grammar – and we learn skills – reading, writing, listening and speaking. So this is what we teach. Easy, no?
Ok, no, it’s not that easy. So let’s have a look at the different elements of English that you will need to unpack in your English lessons in order to be able to teach your students effectively.
Vocabulary are the words which are the building blocks of any language. Being able to use a word means having a passive knowledge of the world, as well as an active knowledge of the word. If we have a passive knowledge of a word it means we are able to recognise it and understand it in its written or spoken form. If we have an active knowledge of a word it means we are able to produce and use it accurately and appropriately. In other words, we know its form, function and meaning, which further involves knowing which word class it falls under, in which contexts it can be used and what words are related to it.
Grammar is the way vocabulary is joined together to create meaning. Grammar relates to how the different word categories interact to form meaning in phrases, clauses and sentences. It is also related to issues of morphology, syntax and semantics. There are numerous different grammatical structures in English which are necessary for EFL learners to understand, so a lot of your time in class might be spent on grammatical issues.
In language we make use of four skills to comprehend and produce language. Reading and listening are considered receptive skills because we receive language that we need to decipher. Writing and speaking are productive skills because we are producing the language. As you can imagine, both sets of skills require different, well, skills, to ensure communication. Reading and writing require a recognition of letters, spelling and punctuation; listening requires an awareness of accent and connected speech; speaking requires a knowledge of pronunciation.
As you can see, teaching English does not simply involve talking to your learners. Learning English is a complicated process, one which the teacher needs to assist as much as possible in order to make life a little easier for our learners.