The Basics of Teaching English as a Foreign Language
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Teaching is such an important field. Education is the foundation of anything in life. Possibly because of the pressure this job demands, many of us never think we are able to be teachers ourselves. But the truth is that if you understand the basics of learning and teaching – and your subject matter, of course – you can be a teacher.
At the same time, being able to speak English does NOT mean that you can teach someone else to speak the language. That is a common misconception. There is a lot to learn about teaching English as a Foreign Language before you can consider yourself a TEFL teacher. So, let’s look at the basics of teaching English as a foreign language. This way you can get a glimpse of what life is like as an English as a Foreign Language teacher to see if it is something you think you’d like to do.
Read more: Top 3 Myths about TEFL
What is teaching English as a Foreign Language?
Teaching English as a Foreign Language is teaching English to learners who do not speak English as a first language. They might be learning English as a second language or a third or a fourth, and they might be living in their home country learning English at school or at a language school, or they might be in an English-speaking country. EFL learners can be any age, from kindergarten to adults; they can be schoolchildren, university students, businessmen and –women, workers or tourists.
How is teaching English as a Foreign Language different to teaching other languages?
When you look at the basics of teaching English as a foreign language, the major point that sets TEFL apart from other language lessons is the focus on communication. TEFL teachers utilise what is known as the communicative approach. The communicative approach makes communication the focus of the language learning. In other words, the language learning mirrors the real-world situations the learners will use the language. This is reflected in the language, the materials and the methodology.
In terms of language, TEFL lessons teach language which is immediately useful and relevant for the students. This means the syllabus will include not only the usual vocabulary related to family, education and technology, for example, but also functional language, such as giving advice, asking for directions, and speaking on the phone. Each lesson is related to the students’ lives outside the classroom. This personalises the lessons which makes learning more memorable and effective.
Read more: 3 Factors Affecting Personalised Learning
In terms of content, TEFL lessons use materials that, again, reflect the students’ lives. Any written materials, videos or listening texts will be related to the students’ interests, lifestyles and living situations. A class of teenagers in Spain, for instance, are likely to have a lesson related to football to teach the present continuous, while a class of Japanese businessmen might instead have a lesson related to financial markets to teach the same language point. The content of the lesson is a vehicle for the language and so it can be chosen and adapted to different students.
Methodology in the English as a Foreign Language classroom
Finally, the methodology is probably what is most different about a TEFL classroom. EFL students are encouraged to speak in English from the moment they walk into the classroom. TEFL teachers are not traditional teachers who stand at a whiteboard and lecture their students, who then do grammar exercises in their notebooks.
EFL teachers act as facilitators rather than spoon-feeders. They expose the students to a situation that brings up language. Then they help them identify, decode and understand the language. Finally, they provide opportunities to practise using the language in appropriate circumstances.
This is made possible by the teaching methods we use in the classroom. The most basic lesson plan structure follows what is known as PPP. PPP stands for Presentation, Practice and Presentation. The first step is presenting the context and the language. After this, the learners are given an opportunity to practise the target language in order to ensure accuracy. And lastly, the production stage lets the students use the language in a free context.
Read more: What Exactly is PPP?
This is not the only lesson plan structure, but it is one that is the most widely used, especially by new and inexperienced teachers. It is a very simple and straightforward way to teach the language effectively and this is the reason for its widespread use.
EFL classrooms also emphasise fun in their activities. This may sound cheesy but classrooms generally have a bad reputation, in that we often remember boring lessons sitting at our desks listening to our teachers drone on and on about photosynthesis while we were dreaming of being anywhere but there.
EFL lessons, on the other hand, ensure that learners are involved from the beginning of the lesson and participate and interact with the teacher, the language and each other. This is done by ensuring the activities chosen for the lesson are engaging and relevant.
What do you teach in the English as a Foreign Language classroom?
There are so many different aspects of the language that we need to teach in the EFL classroom. The obvious ones are the two major ones: vocabulary and grammar. When learning vocabulary it’s important to know not only individual words but also the spelling, pronunciation, level of formality of the word, the word family, and the common collocations using the word, among other things. Learning grammar means learning tenses but also the common and appropriate usage of them.
Then there are the skills, both receptive – listening and reading – and productive – writing and speaking, which have a set of subskills that need to be deconstructed, analysed and practised in order to be able to utilise these skills effectively.
In order to incorporate all of these elements into our lessons, we use whatever resources we have available to us. These might be coursebooks or worksheets but we prefer images and videos, as well as authentic materials.
There you have it: the basics of teaching English as a foreign language, in a nutshell. As you can see, teaching English as a Foreign Language is very hands-on and practical. The teacher works alongside the students and guides them towards learning. EFL lessons are very student-centred and include the learners as much as possible. Because of all these reasons, it is not necessary for EFL teachers to be able to speak the language of their learners. Your lesson plans, activities, teaching methods and guidance ensure you provide the best learning environment for your students through immersion.
Does this sound like something you’d want to do? Check out our website or give us a call and we can chat with you about the different TEFL course options we have available to you.
Please note: This blog post was originally published on 4 August 2020 but has been updated.
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LAST UPDATED: 27th August 2021
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- We are processing your personal data unlawfully and you do not want us to delete the information but restrict it instead.
- We no longer need the information for the purposes for which we collected it, but they are needed by you for the establishment, exercise or defence of legal claims.
- You have objected to the processing (see below), and we need to decide whether the legitimate grounds we have to process the information override your legitimate interests.
Processing you think is unlawful
- If you tell us that you think we are processing your personal information unlawfully, but you do not want the information to be erased, you have the right to require us to restrict the processing of that information.
- We will ask you for an explanation about why you think the processing is unlawful, and may also ask that you provide evidence to support this view.
Processing of personal information you think is inaccurate
- You can tell us if you think the personal information we are processing about you is factually inaccurate. You can require us to restrict how we use your personal information until we can verify the accuracy of the information. We will ask you for an explanation about why you think the information is inaccurate, and may also ask that you provide some supporting evidence of the alleged inaccuracy.
- If we find that the personal information we are processing about you is inaccurate, we will take appropriate steps to correct the information.
Personal information is no longer needed by Everything TEFL Ltd but needed by you in connection with a legal claim
- In most circumstances, we will securely delete or dispose of personal information when we no longer need it for our legitimate business purposes. Our approach to retention is outlined in our corporate retention schedules.
- However, if the personal information we no longer need would assist you in establishing, exercising or defending a legal claim, you can require us to keep the information for as long as necessary. We may ask you to provide an explanation and any available supporting evidence that a legal claim is ongoing or contemplated.
Right to erasure of personal data (“the right to be forgotten”)
In the following circumstances, you have the right to require that Everything TEFL Ltd securely deletes or destroys your personal information:
- If the personal information we hold about you is no longer necessary for the purposes for which we originally collected it.
- The processing is based on consent – if you have previously given your consent to Everything TEFL Ltd collecting and processing your personal information, and you notify us that you withdraw your consent. Please note: withdrawing your consent does not mean the processing of your personal data which occurred before the withdrawal was unlawful.
- We are processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes, and you want us to stop.
- If you think Everything TEFL Ltd has processed your personal information unlawfully.
If you think any of the above situations apply, we may ask you for an explanation and further information to verify this.
Right to object to processing
You have the right to object to the Everything TEFL Ltd processing your personal data in the following circumstances:
Personal information used for direct marketing
If we are using your personal information to send you direct marketing, you have the right to object at any time. If you exercise this right, we will stop processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes. However, we may keep your information on a “suppression list” to ensure your information is not added to any marketing lists at some point in the future.
Automated decision making and profiling
- ‘Profiling’ is the automated use of personal data held on a computer to analyse or predict things that have a legal effect, or other similarly significant effects, on the individual. Examples would include economic situation, health, personal preferences or interests and location. You have the right not to be subject to a solely automated decision (that is, a decision made electronically, with no human intervention), and this may include profiling (although there is no general right to object to profiling). If you are concerned the Everything TEFL Ltd has made a solely automated decision about you, you can object.
- Please note, Everything TEFL Ltd is allowed to carry out automated decisions with no human intervention where you have given your explicit consent to this processing (although you have the right to withdraw your consent).
- We are also permitted to make automated decisions with no human intervention in the following circumstances:
- The automated decision is necessary to enter into, or perform a contract, or complete a contract involving you and the Everything TEFL Ltd.
- The automated decision is allowed under a law passed at the European Union level, or at the level of the European Union or EEA member state level (i.e., is allowed under national law). The law will provide safeguards to protect your rights and freedoms.
However, you still have a general right to object in both of the above circumstances, providing reasons why you think the processing is having a negative effect on you. If you do object, we will carefully consider your reasons, and decide whether to review the decision-making process in your specific case.
Right to data portability
- If you have provided your information to Everything TEFL Ltd, you have the right to request and receive a copy of that information in a structured, commonly used and machine-readable format.
- You also have the right to ask us to send the information we hold about you to another organisation.
- There are some situations in which the right to data portability does not apply. For further information, please contact us.
Exercising your rights concerning the processing of your personal information
If you wish to exercise any of the above rights concerning the way in which we process your personal information, please contact:
Risk Management Team
Everything TEFL Ltd
28 – 32 Pembroke Street,
Republic of Ireland
Telephone: +353 (1) 554 6227
Your right to complain to a national data protection regulator (data protection supervisory authority)
- If you think we have processed your personal information unfairly or unlawfully, or we have not complied with your rights under GDPR, you have the right to complain to a national data protection regulator.
- Complaints about how we process your personal information can be considered by the data protection regulator.