The English language is a fascinating mix of regional dialects and unique slang, shaped by centuries of history and cultural influences. Throughout its long history, the UK has had many invasions and visitors. From the Romans in ancient Londinium to the rolling hills of the Saxon heartland, and from the Viking raiders of the north to the Norman conquerors of the south, each wave of historical influence has shaped the dialects of the UK. Each region of the United Kingdom has its own distinct flavor of language and accent. Today, we embark on a slang tour to explore some of the expressions from different regions.
7 tips for teaching English to beginners
Teaching beginners can be daunting, especially when it’s a monolingual group and you know nothing of their language, or it’s a multilingual group and the only common language is the English you’ve been tasked with teaching them. Nevertheless, not only is it possible to teach beginners only through English, but it can also be one of the most rewarding levels to teach. To help you succeed in setting your learners firmly on the path to increasing proficiency, here are seven tips for teaching English to beginners.
1. Keep instructions clear and simple
When addressing a class of students, especially ones you’ve just met, it can be tempting to explain activities in your politest language. After all, no one likes to be rude. However, a student who has only a few words of English, if any at all, won’t appreciate the courtesy of (or even understand), “OK, so now what I’d like you all to do, if you don’t mind, is just to stand up for a moment and come to the front of the class. Oh, and please bring your book with you. Could we all do that?”
Instead, make instructions crystal clear by using as few words as necessary, gesturing whenever possible, and breaking down a series of instructions into smaller units. If you want to be polite, “please” and “thank you” will do. “Everybody – take your book, please. Stand up. Now, come here, please. Thank you.”
2. Let them listen first
Your students will likely want to start practicing speaking from the get-go. However, it takes a while for one’s ear to acclimatize to the sounds of a new language, and not everyone will be so keen; don’t pressure students into speaking before they’ve had lots of opportunity to listen to you using it (which doesn’t mean you should just be rambling on at the front of the classroom – with beginners more so than with other levels, you really have to consider what you say and grade your language accordingly).
3. Drill, repeat, drill, repeat, drill…
Beginners need lots of repetition and drilling, especially as they get to grips with the sounds of their new language. It might seem boring to go over the same sentences again and again, but it is necessary. When practicing a new sentence, try back-drilling, breaking the sentence down into manageable units and then building it back up, working backwards from the end to the beginning; this helps ensure that your intonation is natural and that you get elements of connected speech right. For example, break down “Would you like a cup of tea?” as follows:
tea > cup of tea > like a > like a cup of tea > Would you > Would you like a cup of tea?
4. Establish classroom language early on
Classroom language – Can you speak more slowly? What do we have to do? I don’t understand. What does… mean? How do you say… in English? – is usually associated with teaching children, but it also helps with adult beginners. No matter how friendly and relaxed you make your classroom atmosphere, learning a new language can still be daunting, especially when you feel you’re not entirely following what’s going on, or that you might be called on to say something that you don’t feel ready to say. It’s much better to equip students early on with classroom language that will help them navigate the lesson smoothly.
5. Avoid metalanguage
There’s no point in students knowing the terms past simple, irregular verb or adverb of frequency if they can’t use the actual structures or words they refer to. Don’t tell them how to say something: show them. Give as much context as you can (visual prompts work well).
Furthermore, make sure you check they have understood by asking questions that test their comprehension – never ask “Do you understand?” as:
a) many people are reluctant to let on that they haven’t understood and will pretend instead that they have
b) a student may think they have understood when in fact they haven’t.
6. Don’t forget that your students are fluent in their own language(s)
This may seem trivial, but it’s all too easy when listening to somebody speaking broken English to forget that behind the errors and the mispronunciation is a person with cogent thoughts, no doubt articulate in their first language, attempting to communicate their opinions or ideas.
As teachers, we not only have to be patient and proactive listeners, alert to the reasons why specific errors are being made while filling in the gaps in less-than-perfect communication, but we also have to steer clear of adopting the 'Me-Tarzan-You-Jane' approach to teaching, degenerating the very language we are aiming to teach.
Rather than degrading our language, we have to grade it carefully to keep it comprehensible while maintaining its naturalness, rhythm and spirit, ensuring all the while that, as far as possible, we actually converse with our students and listen to what they have to say. After all, even from the very first lessons, from the ‘A’ in the alphabet and the ‘am’ of ‘to be’, communication is the goal.
7. Prepare well, prepare a lot, keep them talking
Even though teaching beginners entails progressing slowly and recycling and repeating language many times, that doesn’t mean recycling the same activities, especially not during one lesson. Ensure you have a range of activities to use, and don’t go into class without having first carefully thought through how you are going to introduce a new language, how you will check that the students have understood it, how you will practice it, and how you will deal with potential misunderstandings. The possibility for confusion at this level is much greater than at higher levels, and sometimes even harder to disentangle.
Also, remember, unlike with higher levels, you can’t rely on conversations developing simply because the students don’t yet have the linguistic resources to engage in anything other than simple exchanges (though in time, they will). This means that the onus will largely be on you to keep them talking.
Finally, enjoy this level. Although in many ways the most challenging level to teach, it can also be one of the most satisfying. Seeing your learners go from knowing nothing to knowing a few words to knowing a few sentences and structures to being able to hold rudimentary conversations can be incredibly rewarding. If they enjoy their initial exposure to the language, and feel confident and inspired to continue, then you will have helped pave the way to their further success.
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Language is not only a tool for communication but also a means to explore and comprehend diverse cultures, traditions, and perspectives. Europe, with its vast array of languages, is a prime example of this linguistic diversity. Each year on September 26th, Europe observes the European Day of Languages, which is a day solely dedicated to celebrating and embracing this linguistic richness.
Europe is a magnificent tapestry of languages, with over 200 spoken throughout the continent. This diversity is a symbol of the rich cultural heritage of each nation and reminds us of the intricate historical, social, and linguistic elements that mold our identities. The European Day of Languages inspires people to cherish and honor this linguistic heritage.
Why September 26th?
September 26th marks an important date for celebrating linguistic diversity and promoting multilingualism. This day commemorates the adoption of the "European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages" by the Council of Europe in 1992, a crucial document that recognizes and safeguards the linguistic rights of minority languages spoken within European countries. By celebrating the European Day of Languages on this date, it renews our commitment to supporting the rich diversity of languages and cultures that make our world a more vibrant and fascinating place.
What type of events happen?
The European Day of Languages offers language learners a chance to participate in language exchanges, which is an exciting opportunity. During such exchanges, learners from diverse backgrounds partner up and teach each other their native languages. This not only helps improve language skills but also promotes intercultural understanding.
Various European cities offer language workshops led by enthusiasts and experts, providing an introduction to different languages.
Storytelling is an incredibly effective tool for learning languages. Libraries, schools, and cultural centers hold multilingual storytelling sessions, where stories from different cultures are shared in their original languages. This helps both children and adults to better understand and appreciate the beauty of linguistic diversity.
Cinema provides a wonderful opportunity to explore different languages and cultures. Throughout Europe, foreign films are often shown with subtitles, enabling viewers to fully immerse themselves in new linguistic worlds.
Museums often showcase exhibitions highlighting the linguistic and cultural heritage of various regions, providing insight into the history and traditions of different languages.
Cafés and restaurants might offer special menus featuring diverse cuisines and multilingual staff – a delightfully tasty way to explore languages and cultures.
Games and Competitions
Language-based games and competitions, such as crossword puzzles and spelling bees, are organized in schools and communities to provide a fun and educational way to celebrate language.
If you are a teacher hoping to celebrate this occasion make sure to check here for ideas on what to do.
Check out what events are happening near you here.
Just like the European day of Languages, we at Pearson Languages are fully committed to empowering and celebrating language learners and educators alike. That's why we are now supporting French, Italian, and Spanish language learning with the Global Scale of Languages (GSL). With these new language learning frameworks at your fingertips, you can confidently design curriculums and personalize learning pathways to help fast-track your learners’ progress and help your learners be themselves in French, Italian and Spanish.
Whether you're a teacher, a language learner, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of languages, the European Day of Languages and the GSL provide exciting opportunities to explore, learn, and enjoy the rich tapestry of Europe's linguistic heritage.
Can we play a game? How many times have you been asked this in class? And how often do you say Yes? Young learners love to play games, and if you choose the right ones, they can have a hugely beneficial impact on their learning.
As well as being fun, games can provide learners with necessary language practice, as well as lowering the affective filter (i.e. anxiety, fear, boredom and other negative emotions that can all impact learning). Games also foster a positive, relaxed environment.
So are you ready to play? Here are a few tried and tested games that work especially well in the primary classroom. Each game is designed to consolidate and review the language students have been learning, and take from 5 to 15 minutes. The games are flexible enough for you to adapt them to different levels, age groups and skills.