Yearly Archives: 2011

Jan 9th 2011

English Writing for the ESL Student

One of the best ways to teach English grammar, spelling and other essential skills is by teaching students proper English writing techniques.
Grammar is one of those controversial subjects for teachers in the ESL classroom. The adult learner seems to feel more comfortable learning grammar rules in isolation, while the younger student may prefer to simply absorb them through the lesson material. Regardless of learning style, most students expect to learn grammar, along with English vocabulary, idioms, spelling and other compulsory topics.
For the English teacher, the dilemma is how to teach it, and how much grammar to teach. Some teachers love teaching grammar, and rely on it for a huge chunk of class time in their lesson plans. Others are less enthusiastic about teaching grammar, and concentrate on speaking, reading and writing in their lessons.
One way to approach the topic is through teaching grammar in use – going beyond drills and exercises to teach students English grammar in a way that is more natural and useful for their daily lives. If a student wants more in the way of drills, there is a wealth of online grammar activities to choose from.
However, the study of English is about more than just grammar. One often encounters students who have studied English for years in their native countries and cannot speak the language at a basic conversational level, yet are capable of making highly detailed distinctions on minor, esoteric grammar points.
To study English properly, a student should develop a broad set of skills which allow him or her to master the technical aspects of the language, while developing fluency, accuracy and a comfortable familiarity with the language which will allow him to communicate on a natural level.
One way to combine grammar and spelling skills with natural familiarity and fluency is by learning how to write well in English. In today’s world, good writing skills are an absolute necessity, in school, in the workplace and in performing simple, day to day tasks.
One good exercise for students is letter writing. Students can write letters to their friends and family in their home countries, detailing their experiences interacting with their new surroundings and comparing them to those back home. Another good writing exercise is to keep a personal diary.
By practicing writing skills on a regular basis, supplemented by an interactive editing process, students can become capable communicators, while mastering the technical aspects of the language at the same time.


Jan 9th 2011

English Grammar

After teaching English grammar for a while, you come to the realization (along with your students) that English is a strange, hybrid language!
Some languages are phonetic – spelling and pronunciation are fairly obvious and consistent, following logical patterns and rules. English is not one of them.
The English language has so many influences from so many foreign languages that at times it can be very difficult to figure out how to correctly spell and pronounce some words. For example, why do the words “should” and “wood” rhyme?  Why don’t “weight” and “height” rhyme? There are many such examples.
In addition, the English noun often has been imported from other languages. Examples include accoutrement, zeitgeist, chutzpah, coup d’état, détente, and the list goes on. These words cause many problems for students of English, and even native speakers sometimes spell and pronounce them incorrectly.
These nouns, along with irregular verbs and grammar exceptions, make English a challenging language to master. However, once a student acknowledges and accepts the eccentricities of the English language, they often realize the wisdom of memorizing the rules, and then remembering to tackle the myriad exceptions as they encounter them. This approach can make language learning much less daunting.
Another difficult point for students in an English school to master is idioms. The reason that many students find idioms too difficult to learn and master is because, most of the time, there is no logical way to explain their origins (for example, “it’s raining cats and dogs” or “she blew her top”). Instead, students must rely on memory and practice to learn them.
There are so many idioms in English that they can be confusing for the average learner, especially as teachers sometimes tend to overemphasize them in their lesson plans. However, if idioms are taught intermittently, as they arise in written or spoken material (such as newspaper articles, reading passages or TV news items), then students will be much more likely to remember them – especially if they are instructed to practice them in their writing and speaking.
Using this more haphazard method, students will generally retain idioms better, and the odds that they will recall them the next time they hear them somewhere are higher. Generally, this is more or less adequate for students of English, as they need to recognize and know how to interpret idioms that they hear in conversation, but do not necessarily need to be able to use them when speaking themselves.