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over 2 years ago by Balraj Guraya

Teaching English to Non-English Speakers

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​Did you know that there are over 200 languages spoken in the homes of our schoolchildren in the UK? If you did, then you may find it surprising that many schools don’t have a set strategy for teaching non-English speakers in our classrooms.

You don’t have to specialise in teaching English as a second language to meet students for whom English isn’t their first language, so you need to understand how to meet this challenge, how to engage with the pupils and importantly, how to integrate them into the classroom.

In our latest blog, we explore some great ideas that will be helpful when faced with this scenario.

Keep things simple

Avoid using complex language or colloquialisms when speaking to students. In the first instance, the language and grammar must be simple to be understood. As time goes by, you can start to introduce more complex grammar rules and a wider vocabulary.

Make the most of oral communication

For many non-English speakers, practice makes perfect and what better way to practice than speaking out loud? This isn’t just about pupil-teacher dialogue but encouraging pupils to talk to each other. A great way of engaging verbally is to make a comprehension test, a verbal test – the teacher asks the questions and rather than write the answers down, the pupils answer aloud. Pupils can also read and discuss stories amongst themselves – in small groups so as not to feel intimidated by class discussion. This is all great practice for growing the vocabulary and the understanding.

Use Visual Aids

Pictures, props, and other visual aids are really helpful because they can be recognised by the non-English speakers, who are then able to put words to the visual prompt. The more you can use, the easier it is to connect words to pictures, and your students will grow their vocabulary.

Do remember, though, to keep this age-appropriate. Young children may enjoy cartoon images, but an older audience may prefer photographs of objects.

Encourage them to use all of the four common language skills

Reading, writing, speaking and listening are common to any language, and your students will need to have a basic knowledge of all of these skills to build up their language understanding. They can practise both in the classroom and at home, and here are some ideas that will help them to develop those skills:

•Reading books aloud
•Listening to audiobooks or podcasts
•Watching a movie in another language along with subtitles
•Find a language partner to hold regular conversations with
•Subscribe to and read a magazine that interests them
•Sing along to songs on the radio

All the above will help your students develop an understanding of the language so that they can recognise words, hold conversations and understand the classes that they participate in.

Whilst grammatical accuracy is a great aspiration, your role as a teacher of a non-English speaker is to ensure that they understand and can converse, read and listen to the language and that will provide them with the best start.