Tuesday, December 8, 2015

ESL Teaching - Fighting the Curriculum

English is beginning to be a universal language. People all around the world are learning English as their second language, and speak it along with their native tongue. People learn English because they need to for work, school, family, or for other reasons, but how do they learn it? In some countries, like in South Korea and Japan for example, English teaching is part of the school curriculum, and is taught in after-school programs called academies. For adults learning English, there are English classes offered through the community. These schools, academies, and community classes need English-as-a-second-language (ESL) English teachers, preferably native English speakers. These teachers would follow a set curriculum given them by the government, one that has evolved over hundreds of years. An ongoing problem concerning this is that teachers are given this set way to teach, while they also want to teach what they want and in their own way that will help the students the best. Even though this curriculum is beneficial for the students and adds to their knowledge, ESL teachers should be able to adjust this curriculum in their teaching based on the needs of the students. It is also beneficial for teachers to build that personal relationship with their students so that the they will be able teach more effectively.

What we know today about ESL teaching, and much of the curriculum of ESL teaching today, has developed over time since the 15th century. At that time, the only country that spoke English was Great Britain. These people traded a lot with other colonies around the world and wanted to expand their empire. They thought that in order to expand their trade routes to farther places, they needed to speak the same language with the nations with whom they were trading. This is how English began to be taught in foreign countries. English teachers would be sent to teach English to people of higher classes, and even governments, and those people would teach the lower-classes. This helped the spread of the British empire and English language to other countries.

This influence of the British and English language in other countries caused the idea of being bilingual to come about. Since a lot of these countries did not want to give up their native tongues, they started a bilingual educational system where the people could still respect their language as well as the British language, which was English (Your Dictionary). This is where the curriculum came from. Later on, these educational systems expanded out of Europe and eventually came into the United States. Around the time of World War II, the United States saw the importance of foreign language teaching, and therefore there came a greater interest in ESL education (Your Dictionary). Now, there are people from America, Britain, Australia, and various other countries teaching English in countries who's native tongue is not English.

Britain, by their desires to enlarge their empire, persuaded other countries to adopt or learn their language, and made English teaching popular. Teaching in and of itself is persuasion because teachers are trying to communicate a certain subject to students, and persuade them to learn and apply the subject to their life, whether it be work, school, home, or other places. But many believe that teachers need to follow the curriculum that was created, and has been used and adjusted over time. Also, there is a growing fear that the system is becoming so concrete that the students' needs are not met. The communication and persuasive appeals are wavering since this curriculum was put forth, and many say that teachers need to follow it. All the people who are learning English are at different levels of speaking and comprehension abilities, so the teacher should be able to adjust their teaching based on those needs, not the set system or curriculum that was put forth. While there are teaching systems and organizations who create different comprehension level lessons (beginning, intermediate, and advanced), one level would have to be taught at a time. Of course the students who are at those levels would be taught in that level, but there will still be a difference in speaking, listening, reading, etc. The teachers need to adjust their teaching based on the level of each student in the class, rather than teach based on the class level.

An association who creates a lot of the ESL curriculum now is the TESOL International Association. This association is worldwide, and focuses on ensuring excellence in English Language teaching to people who want to learn English (TESOL). This association holds meetings monthly, focusing on the teachers and students in ESL programs all around the world. They also hand out a test called “The TESOL,” which people have to take in order to get accepted to jobs and universities. This association creates the curriculum for ESL teachers and students all around the world, but there is still a gap between the curriculum and the students needs.

Being persuasive in ESL teaching is crucial. How are these ESL teachers the most successful in their teaching, or how do they teach more effectively and persuasively? How do they know what level their students are at, and know at what point to start teaching a certain vocabulary word or grammar form? The answer to all of these questions can be stated in on word: relationship. Not just in an ESL teaching setting, but in any teaching setting, the teacher should get to know each student so he or she will know what to teach them. Also, building that friendship first creates a sense of trust, and is a crucial persuasive tool in teaching because when the student trusts the teacher, he or she is more inclined to listen and learn.

While trust and persuasion are great persuasive tools, being taught by a native English teacher is persuasion enough for many people who want to learn English. Many English-language learners want to learn English from someone who is a native speaker, preferably from America. In South Korea for example, Koreans want to learn English from Americans being Americans speak “normal” English, or English without an accent. This would be called “Standard English.” The argument or reason for this is that the students would be able to pronounce words and phrases accurately, rather than with an accent. After teaching English in South Korea as part of my church mission service, I learned that most Koreans want to learn English from Americans because they, according to Koreans, do not have an accent.

In terms of communication in ESL teaching, the teachers are doing a lot of the communicating in the classroom because they are teaching their students, and the students are communicated to most of the time. But, the students communicate back to the teacher in the form of their progress in class, showing the teacher how much they were learning. Their progress reflects how well the teacher persuaded them to learn English. In a way, both teacher and student do the communicating and are communicated to. Teachers can be the ones who are persuaded as well, because their students are people who are learning English, so they may not speak English all that well. This would compel the teacher to speak in simpler terms, and speak slower, so that their students can understand. This goes along with the teacher building that relationship or trust with the student.

Britain's desire to expand their empire changed the world linguistically, in that English is spoken almost everywhere in the world. Teaching English as a second language is a profession that is persuasive for both teacher and student, and good communication is crucial if an ESL teacher wants to be effective and persuasive to his or her students. It is important that the teacher follows the curriculum, yet adds to it with their own style of teaching, and adjusting it based on the needs of the students. That is the way that ESL teaching can be the most persuasive. 

Works Cited
The History of ESL.” Your Dictionary. Your Dictionary, n.d. Web, 13 November 2015.
TESOL Intentional Association. National Geographic, Cengage Learning, Union of Professionals,     2015. Web. 21 November 2015.

Woman hand ripping white paper on grey background. Digital. Dreamstime. (I added the word "curriculum")

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