Updated: Aug 11, 2019
I decided to write a bit about my experience with teaching students from various countries, of different religious beliefs and interesting life stories. Let me provide you with context first. I had been teaching primarily Czech or Slovakian students till I started working in a language school in England. Until that time, I hadn’t considered Czech language, which my students and I had had in common, to be a particularly important tool. I had seen it more as a disadvantage because the students had relied on my knowledge of Czech more than on their knowledge of English. However, the situation has changed and now I can see how important a mother tongue is, regarding mainly beginners.
Referring to my current working experience, I must admit it hasn’t been always a cakewalk but perhaps that is why it has been even more rewarding. Just during the first few weeks I was teaching people from all over the world. So far, I’ve met and taught students from Thailand, Hungary, Italy, Kuwait, South Korea, Saudi Arabia or Oman. I teach mainly one-to-one lessons where we focus on functional language, speaking skills and any problems students need to help with.
Going back to the issue I outlined above, some of my students have been total beginners. Needless to say, they were Arabic, and my knowledge of Arabic is at the beginner level as well. After about four semesters of Arabic at university, I have been able to remember, unfortunately, only a few words like train, and, there, in, I, town. That doesn’t really facilitate explaining words and grammar in English. Therefore, after running out of gestures, examples written on board, pictures, and downgrading language to minimum, me and my students have had recourse to using Google Translator and mobile applications translating spoken word. When the situation is really desperate, special measures need to be adopted. It's been these situations when I realized how having a mother tongue with beginners is beneficial.
As I suggested earlier, it is not always easy, however, it can be fun, for example, when it comes to pronunciation. One issue that you notice when teaching students with different first language are the differences between alphabets and sounds. Different nationalities have problems with different sounds as they are not used in their language. For Arabic speakers it is e.g. ‘p’ and ‘b’ sound. They do not have ‘p’ sound and therefore at the beginning they have difficulties to differentiate these sounds in English. Nevertheless, everything is about practice and it is possible to learn it.
Regarding students who are at communicative level, lessons are, indeed, more enriching and more interesting. You never know who you are going to meet and what stories they have to tell. The best part, mainly for those who love travelling and learning about new cultures, is to talk about their country and compare it with what they have experienced in England, Europe or anywhere else. All students have so much to say and I’m so grateful I can help them, you, to share it with others in English.