English Language Learners on the "Write" Path: Imagine Teaching World-class English
Imagine Teaching World-class English
that Stands up Anywhere
Sarah Anne Shope, PhD
Global communication is the driving force behind the world’s appetite for fully functional English as a second or foreign language. The curiosity question is: Exactly what is world-class English? Two professional questions are: How should it be taught and can I do the job?
With all those dialects used throughout the world: Indian, Australian, Caribbean, North American the United Kingdom, and all of their countless variants, what is world-class English? It must be English that functions as an intercultural communication tool and one not bound up with only the cultural standards and mores of the native speakers of that brand of English. It must be a standardization of forms, lexicon, and spelling for consistency for people of different nationalities. We might call it global or international English; nevertheless, we must define it based on the expectations of the learners. It must be a language equipped to make meaning that crosses cultural boundaries. That is quite a task with its own special professional challenges.
With world-class English we are dealing with a level different from that of teaching people to survive within a particular regional dialect and jargon of a specific job. If I’m teaching people to work on a construction crew, they need to know what “gimme the hammer” means. If I’m teaching people to interact in an intercultural business meeting, I teach them to use appropriate cultural greetings. Nevertheless, I want both groups of learners to be able to communicate beyond a limited cultural, regional, or vocational experience. I want them to learn English that will work in any situation. That doesn’t mean “proper” English, as some would have it. So-called proper English can sound stifled and condescending.
An effective teacher of world-class English must know and overcome deficiencies. Three big ones among teachers include a personal shortage of experience with a variety of international people, a lack of awareness of the problems with odd spellings and worldwide variations of English spellings, and absence of awareness of the skirmish over teaching methods used in various environments.
The first deficiency is fun to overcome. Just make plans to spend plenty of time in international communication situations, even if only in your home country. Pay close attention to the language structures and the lexicon used effectively between people of different nationalities and cultures. Read and study issues of global English so that you are generally more knowledgeable. Taking out clichés and idioms that are specific to regions and dialects is a good start. Learners often do want to know what they mean, but they needn’t attempt to use them unless they are trying to master a regional dialect.
The second deficiency is knowledge of the confusion of spelling. Heighten your awareness of how the development of English has affected spellings and created variations of spellings. The more you know the better you can help learners get over the anxiety of archaic spellings and numerous irregularities.
The third deficiency involves polar opposite methods of teaching, which are the Grammar Translation and Communicative Approach, and the spectrum of methods in between. Because numerous countries are steeped in traditional teaching methodology, many English learners have learned from some form of Grammar Translation, especially through reading and writing and practicing grammar forms. That is an invaluable foundation for literacy, but those same students often struggle with listening and speaking skills. On the other hand, many students pick up listening and speaking skills easily but lack a solid base of literacy. A weak Communicative Approach does not give those learners needed skills in literacy. It is essential to study methodology in order to strike a balance of strategies and techniques for teaching listening, speaking, reading, and writing within your own style of teaching and your students’ learning styles.
Those tasks might seem daunting; however, your heightened awareness, careful study, and added experience will move you into a high level of professionalism. Then you can be a successful teacher of world-class English whether you teach locally or globally, and your students will appreciate that.
Sarah Anne Shope, PhD is founder of Global TESOL Certificate Program, currently offered through University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education and Clayton State University Continuing Education for Professional Development.
Global TESOL Program Online at UGA http://www.georgiacenter.uga.edu/courses/languages/global-tesol-certificate-program
She authored Global TESOL: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, an orientation into the professional of TESOL and a practical guide into developing and teaching courses and lessons for English language learners anywhere across the globe.
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