Anticipating English Language Learner Problems
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When you are teaching English as a foreign language, you may spend a year teaching English to high school learners in China, six months teaching English and Music to kindergarteners in Brazil, or two years teaching Business English to mixed nationality adults in England. When you start on your TEFL career you have no way of knowing where you’ll end up! Each class you teach you will need to approach differently, by considering the needs and competences of your students. As a result, all of your lessons will differ in some way – even if you are teaching the same lesson to the same age learners who speak the same language. That is the beauty of teaching English as a Foreign Language: no two days are the same and you never know what to expect.
Having said that, though, there is something we can generalise about when it comes to our learners. We all know it’s usually not a good idea to generalise but this case is an exception! Did you know, we are able to predict what difficulties our learners will have learning English and what errors they will make speaking English based on their first language?
Yip, it’s true, and it’s a great tool for our teaching toolkit. So, what can we predict?
The most obvious prediction we can make is regarding our students’ pronunciation. We say this is the most obvious because the first thing you will pick up when teaching your students is what pronunciation mistakes they make when speaking English. There are a number of difficulties a learner may face when it comes to English pronunciation as a result of their first language.
Firstly, many times a certain English sound doesn’t exist in a learner’s first language. For example, Japanese speakers will have trouble differentiating between the /l/ and the /r/ sounds because there is no /r/ sound in Japanese, with the result that they have problems pronouncing the /r/ sound and differentiating between the two. In fact, if a sound doesn’t exist in a learner’s language they may not even be able to identify the sound when they hear it. Instead, they will hear the similar sound that exists in their own language.
This becomes problematic when learners actually don’t know how to pronounce the sound. Besides using minimal pairs to train their ears to differentiate between the two sounds, you will need to demonstrate visually what movements the learner needs to make with their lips, tongue and teeth to make the sound themselves. Bear in mind, though, that sometimes problems like these do not interfere noticeably with comprehension, in which case you shouldn’t waste too much time on it.
There are certain words in certain languages which look or sound (or look and sound!) similar to words in English. If they are related they are known as cognates and that’s usually not a problem for our learners. But if they do not mean the same thing, these words are known as false friends and can cause serious misunderstandings. For example, embarrassed looks and sounds very similar to the Spanish word embarazada, which means pregnant!
Then there is the issue of natural language, such as collocations and idiomatic language. There are words and phrases which we use in English for no other reason than we have always used them. Using these same words and phrases makes a learner sound more natural in their productions. However, learning these words and phrases is time-consuming and challenging because there are no hard and fast rules our learners can apply.
Word order problems
Different languages have different word orders. English sentences are subject-verb-object, in that order, but other languages, like Korean, are subject-object-verb. Still others, like Arabic, have a verb-subject-object construction.
These different construction types will result in sentences like:
She read the book. – English
She the book read. – Korean
Read she the book. – Arabic
Learners who speak languages with a word order different to English may have problems constructing sentences correctly in English. They might omit the subject of a sentence, for example, or they may put the noun before the adjective (book blue) rather than putting the adjective before the noun (blue book). This is quite noticeable when listening to an English language learner so it is important to deal with it and correct it.
Reading and writing problems
It stands to reason that if a learner speaks a language which uses a different alphabet to English, they will have problems with the English alphabet. For starters they will need to learn how to write the alphabet and later on they can have problems with spelling. Essentially, they will have more difficulties than other learners when it comes to reading and writing in English.
This is something to be aware of especially when you are teaching adult learners. Learning to write when you are an adult can be quite challenging, and these learners may initially take longer to write in English so they may need to be given more time than other students for written tasks, such as writing down the answers to an exercise, for example.
Possibly one of the biggest difficulties for English language learners is when their first languages have different grammatical rules to English. For example, in Arabic there is no indefinite article so Arabic speakers may leave it out when speaking English; in French it is acceptable – and common – to use a double negative, which is considered to be slang in English.
Understandably, there are many difficulties our learners can experience as a result of their first language – these are just a few examples. This phenomenon is known as language transfer and while it can be positive when the languages are similar, it accounts for many of the errors our learners make. Of course this is not the only reason your students are making mistakes. However, by researching the differences between your learners’ first languages and English you will better understand what problems they may have. This means that when you plan your lessons you can prepare to deal with the problems you can predict.
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LAST UPDATED: 19th July 2022
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- Right to restrict processing of personal information
- In some situations, you have the right to require us to restrict the processing of your personal information. We may restrict your personal information by temporarily moving the information to another processing system, making the information unavailable to users, or temporarily removing published information from a website. We may also use technical methods to ensure the personal information is not subject to further processing and cannot be changed. When we have restricted processing of personal information, this will be clearly indicated on our systems.
- You can require us to restrict processing in the following circumstances:
- You are concerned that the information we hold about you is inaccurate. You can ask us to restrict the information until we can determine whether the information is accurate or inaccurate.
- 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 ELEARNING FUTURES 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 ELEARNING FUTURES 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 ELEARNING FUTURES 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 ELEARNING FUTURES 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 ELEARNING FUTURES 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 ELEARNING FUTURES LTD has made a solely automated decision about you, you can object.
- Please note, ELEARNING FUTURES 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 ELEARNING FUTURES 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 ELEARNING FUTURES 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
ELEARNING FUTURES LTD,
21-22 Old Steine,
Email: [email protected]
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.