How Can I Teach English Abroad Without Speaking The Local Language?
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As an English as a Foreign Language teacher, there is one question you will get asked again and again:
How many languages can you speak?
This is a very common misconception that we would like to bust right now. As a teacher of English as a foreign language, you only need to be able to speak one language: English.
It doesn’t matter if your students are Turkish or Spanish or Thai. It doesn’t matter if you are teaching English in South Africa or China or Mexico. And it certainly doesn’t matter if your students are Advanced learners of Intermediate learners or Beginner learners. What matters is that you speak English. This is the basis of immersion learning, and this is the foundation of teaching English as a Foreign Language.
What is immersion learning?
Immersion learning is when students are taught a language using only that language. It is also used to teach other subjects in a second or foreign language. For example, immersion learning is when English-speaking students are taught French but the teacher teaches them using only French, or when Spanish-speaking students are taught Geography in English.
You might be wondering how on earth that’s possible, but immersion learning has proven to be a very effective teaching method.
First of all, you must realise that this is not a sink-or-swim approach. The teacher does not teach as they would in a classroom where the students speak the same language as the teacher. The teacher grades their language so that it is clearer and more understandable for the students. Teachers make use of hand gestures, body language, props, visual aids, and realia much more than in other classrooms. And teachers incorporate an element of language focus into the lesson, even if the language is not the focus of the lesson.
In other words, the teacher will define the aim of the lesson and then plan a lesson around that in order to achieve that aim. In a TEFL classroom, this aim is a linguistic aim. The teacher will plan activities that will help the learner understand the meaning and use of the target language. They will build on their current language knowledge and they will relate the new language to their own language use. Finally, they will utilise the language in a natural and relevant context. This is all accomplished only through the use of English.
The benefits of immersion learning
Let’s look at an illustration of how successful immersion learning can be.
Did you take foreign language lessons in high school or university? Usually, these lessons do not follow the same principles as TEFL and are often taught through grammar-translation methods. Even if you took those lessons for five years, would you be able to go to that country and comfortably speak to people on the street in their language? Probably not.
Then consider our students learning English as a foreign language. The whole point of our lessons is for our students to be able to communicate as soon as they walk out of the classroom. They learn the language which is useful to them and they are taught in a way that encourages the use of the language in a real situation from the get-go. Even students who have had a few lessons in a TEFL classroom are able to use what they have learned.
Immersion learning provides an opportunity for learners to be exposed to natural language, rather than only textbook language. They are more likely to encounter natural language, slang, and colloquialisms in the classroom, which will help them understand the language they hear outside the classroom. Immersion learning focuses on real language and everyday situations. In fact, immersion learning mirrors the way we naturally learn our first language – and we all manage to learn that pretty easily!
Read more: Authenticity in the EFL Classroom
The success of immersion learning
Immersion learning also introduces the culture of the language to the student. The life and experiences of the teacher are part and parcel of an EFL lesson. The teacher will invariably share their stories with the students, and this will lead to bringing elements of their culture into the classroom.
Immersion learning has been shown to be a quicker route to fluency than other methods of learning a foreign language. Immersion learning is intensive and this extended exposure to the target language is the major reason immersion students learn the language more quickly.
This does not mean that there is no place for translation in our EFL classrooms. The translation is an effective tool in language learning if it is done appropriately. The translation should not be used as the main method of teaching a language structure. It should not be used as a first resort if a student doesn’t understand. There are plenty of strategies you can use which utilise the target language to aid comprehension or clear up confusion. Translation should only be used to convey very important information or to show a contrast between the two languages.
Read more: Using Translation in the TEFL Classroom
Immersion learning in the EFL classroom
As you can see, immersion learning is the way forward when it comes to learning a foreign language. Let’s look at how you can implement immersion techniques in the classroom on a practical level:
- Use English as much as possible.
- Use translation sparingly – only if absolutely necessary.
- If you do speak the local language, don’t let your students know that you do or they will insist on speaking to you in their first language. If you are a native speaker of the same language as your students or they know you can speak their language, make sure you implement an English-only rule in the classroom.
- In the case that your students are Beginner students, spend some time teaching them classroom language so they will be able to understand your instructions.
- Incorporate authentic texts into your lessons as much as possible.
- Use visual aids, realia, and props.
- Remember to grade your language according to the level of your learners.
- Repeat, repeat, repeat!
As TEFL teachers, we are always aware of our students and their understanding in the classroom. Don’t get disheartened if your students don’t pick up a target language structure immediately; don’t let that make you feel your techniques aren’t working. Soon you will notice the benefits of the immersion classroom through the progress of your learners.
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Students may test their English level here: https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/content.
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LAST UPDATED: 19th July 2023
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- proof of your identity
- proof of your home address
- any information that we reasonably need to locate the information you have requested (for example details of the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD offices or staff that you have had contact with and when)
We will not start looking for your information until we receive all of the above. In order to submit your request, or for help making a request, please contact us.
Rights concerning the processing of your personal information
- 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.