From Immigrant to ESL Teacher - A TEFL Graduate's English Teaching Journey
2019-01-29 Linda Dunsmore TEFL Information Alumni Experiences
This blog post was written by our TEFL graduate Ning Z., who shares their own personal story of learning English after emigrating to the United States from China at the age of 18 and how this personal learning experience helped them to become a TESOL teacher today.
This post was written by our ITTT graduate Ning Z.
I had emigrated to the US from China at the age of 18 and am delighted to be able to share my language acquiring experience and shed some light on some of the challenges a new language learner might encounter during the course of learning.
English is taught in middle and high schools in China as a compulsory curriculum, so, before arriving in the US, I had some prior exposure in English. However I found myself acting like a complete novice upon arrival in the US, I could not understand nor be understood by people around me. The English I had learned in the school were of very little help. I was total dumbfounded.
Now, after completing this course I realized that as state institutions and high schools employ a translation method in teaching English. This method places greater emphasis on teaching grammar and sentence structure than on the fluency of the language. Therefore, I was totally ill prepared for the use of English in the real world.
To overcome the language barrier I enrolled in an ESL program at a community college and embarked on a long and eventually rewarding journey in mastering English. However, this journey was not without obstacles, especially at the beginning stage and I was often disheartened by setbacks. I could barely understand the instructions that were given by the teachers. The courses were too difficult for me, the chosen topics did not appeal to me and made very little impact on improving my English. Minimal progress was made for the first few months. I was frustrated and was on the verge of quitting.
One of the instructors sensed my frustration and offered his help. He advised and guided me to start reading and listening to the news because news is more relevant to daily life and are often discussed by people around me. I started reading the headlines and progressed into reading contents of the news gradually. Soon, I was able to get a general idea of what people were talking about and, occasionally, joined the conversation when a familiar topic came up.
Elated by this newfound success and an eagerness to socialize, I expanded my reading list by venturing into various specialized magazines, newspapers, and English novels. I also started to watch documentary videos. With an expanded array of vocabulary, I was able to carry on in-depth conversations with greater confidence. English study had become a source of enjoyment rather than a torment. I had formed a habit of spending an hour every morning reading a newspaper. Eventually, I could speak and read English as naturally as a native speaker.
From my endeavors in acquiring a new language, I can offer these observations: Importance of course books, such as school textbooks should not be neglected. Though lacking flexibility, these books can help to build a solid grammar foundation for further study. However, to truly achieve proficiency in English, doing well in school examinations is far from enough. Extensive reading on a wide range of topics is vitally important. As a TESOL teacher, I would encourage students to take up the habit of reading newspapers for its relevance to the real world, and a healthy dose of perseverance is also key to realize the dream of mastering a second language.
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