Published 2nd July 2018
As English as a Foreign Language teachers our main aim is teaching English. However, there are actually many other skills that we could and should incorporate into our EFL classrooms such as real-world communication skills. If you consider the English environment your students are exposed to you might find there is more of a need to focus on communication skills in English than on the language itself.
For instance, many EFL students will have more than one English class. They will have English lessons which focus on grammar or a specific skill and they will have lessons with an EFL teacher. In theory these lessons should focus more on communication than language. This is because their other lessons provide the focus on the language. The EFL classroom, on the other hand, should be the space to practise their language skills and put their language into practice.
Unfortunately with such a big emphasis on teaching a coursebook, many EFL teachers neglect communication in favour of grammar and vocabulary. This may also be because of pressure from their school. It is important, especially with older students, to give them skills which will equip them to function and thrive in an English-speaking environment. This can mean more than being able to communicate in English.
What do we mean by real-world communication skills?
For a start, consider your students and their needs. Are they high school students preparing for university? Are they university students looking for jobs? Are they studying towards an exam? This will give you an idea of the communication skills they will need. In general, though, there are a number of communication skills we all need to have in the real-world.
- Giving presentations
- Working in a group
- Managing a team
- Demonstrating a professional attitude
- Reporting information
- Participating in meetings
- Communicating electronically
As you can see, these are basically skills that are expected in everyday life, be it in a job or at university. As such, these skills will be useful to your students when they leave your classroom and prepare to succeed in the real world.
How to incorporate real-world communication skills in the EFL classroom
Assign work in projects and instill an English-only rule. Making your students work in groups but only be able to speak in English will help them negotiate, discuss and give opinions in English.
Let them prepare in class. All too often we assign tasks which are prepared for homework. Doing it this way means the focus on language is done independently. Allowing time for preparation in class means the students have access to the teacher for any language issues they may have.
Think of projects or assignments which relate directly to your students. If they are students, for example, make sure they have plenty of practice writing reports, doing research and giving presentations.
Teach soft skills as well as language skills. Sometimes take the focus away from language and concentrate more on the way your students are communicating and they impression they give.
Show real examples of the assignments you set. So if you want your students to give a presentation, show them a TED talk and discuss the different factors that make the presentation a good one.
Being a TEFL teacher means wearing a number of different hats. Sometimes it may be necessary to think outside the box when it comes to the content of your lessons.