Top Tips for Teaching English to Spanish Learners

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The English as a Foreign Language market in Spain is booming. 

With youth unemployment at an all-time high of 50%, many Spaniards see proficiency in English as their ticket to employment both in and outside the country. This is proven by the popularity of Cambridge exams and the improvement in the general level of English. The number of Spanish learners who take a Cambridge exam has increased by 20% every year since 2008 and in 2014 Spain was the fourth most improved European country in terms of English proficiency. Clearly the Spaniards have been taking their EFL lessons seriously – well, as seriously as Spaniards can!

Considering how important English is to our Spanish students, it is vital that we do everything that we can to help them learn English. Here are a few handy tips for your EFL classroom to ensure your Spanish students are successful English language learners.

Get them talking

It’s no secret that Spaniards are, for the most part, chatty and outgoing. If you go out anywhere in Spain you’ll find that you have to shout to be heard above all the chatter and it’s no different in the classroom! Make sure your lessons are filled with conversational activities to get your students talking right from the start.

Be practical

Because Spanish students love chatting so much, it’s a good idea to incorporate practical, functional language into your lessons. This includes asking for directions, giving advice, telling an anecdote. This way it will be easy for you to come up with lesson activities which necessitate the use of the target language.

Use authentic materials

A one-way street to boredom is definitely sticking religiously to the coursebook. Coursebooks can often be outdated or irrelevant to your class. Instead, make use of authentic materials to maintain your students’ (and your!) interest. Don’t be afraid to use movie clips, music videos, novels or newspapers in your classroom.

Use cognates

Spanish learners are lucky in the sense that there are many Spanish-English cognates. A cognate is a word that is the same or similar in two languages, both in spelling and meaning, though they often differ in pronunciation. For example hospital is the same in both languages, while celebration is celebracion.

At the same time you need to be careful of false friends. False friends are words which look like cognates but actually have different meanings. For example, the Spanish embarazada may look like the English embarrassed but it actually means pregnant!

Play games

What’s the best way to make sure your students are always engaged and interested? Play games, of course. Now we’re not talking about Monopoly or Catan but there are loads of games you can play in the EFL classroom which can be adapted to be educational. Taboo and Jeopardy are good options, while Scrabble and Hangman always seem to stand the test of time. 

Top Tips for Teaching English to Spanish Learners Young and Old
Top Tips for Teaching English to Spanish Learners Young and Old

Mix them up

Literally. Students have a tendency to sit in the same seats in their classrooms. Take some time when setting up activities to mix up the groups so they can talk to different classmates every time. This will help keep your students on-task and keep the activities interesting.

Don’t take your lessons too seriously

…because you know your students don’t! If you get your knickers in a knot about starting your lesson exactly on the dot or marking homework immediately, your Spanish students won’t respond well to you or your lessons. As a result, they won’t enjoy their time in the classroom and this will detrimentally affect their language learning. Rather take a chill pill and go with the flow – everyone will benefit.

Teaching English in Spain can be so much fun, as long as you are willing to embrace the chaos! Your classes will be loud and energetic but as long as you are having fun, you know your students are too.

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