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How to Adjust Your Teaching Style to Multilingual and Monolingual Students

How to Adjust Your Teaching Style to Multilingual and Monolingual Students | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Multilingual classes are most commonly found in English speaking countries where students of diverse nationalities live. For example, some schools in the U.S require students of a different nationality to take ESL classes. Multilingual classes can be a great advantage for students and teachers alike because the students’ only means of communicating with each other is likely through the English language.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Emely M. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Multilingual Learners’ Experience

Also, being in an English speaking country allows for more frequent usage of English. Another advantage is that students of varying nationalities can bring diverse ideas to the class. Despite these advantages though, there are problems that EFL teachers may need to address while teaching a multilingual class.

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Anticipated Problems

One common difficulty that EFL teachers face when teaching a multilingual class is that because students all have different native languages, students with native languages that share more similarities with the English language may have an easier time learning than those with native languages that share fewer similarities. This puts a multilingual class at varying levels of learning capability. The other difficulty is that multilingual classes are composed of students with different ethnicities and a teacher may be at risk of offending students and discouraging them if he/she is not mindful of cultural sensitivity. An EFL teacher can diminish the difficulties that they have when teaching a multilingual class if they apply the following instructions.

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Ways to Solve Problems

  • Students should be given different materials according to their level. The teacher can use this approach to ensure that class materials are not too difficult for students displaying weaker language skills, and not too easy for students displaying stronger language skills. The way this can be done is if the teacher divides students into groups (simply dividing the class into two groups is recommended) where students are grouped based on whether they are displaying weak or strong language skills. The appropriate class materials should be assigned to the weaker and stronger group. Note, the teacher should ensure that he/she is giving each group equal attention.
  • Students should all be given the same task to work on, but stronger students should be given more complicated tasks. This will ensure that stronger students don’t finish too early and become bored with class.
  • Students should be given pair work in which each pair is composed of a stronger student and a weaker student. This way stronger students can help weaker students and clarify any of the weaker student’s confusions. Note, the teacher should try to keep the stronger student in the pair from completely dominating the task.
  • Teachers should review any class materials that contain information about a certain culture and ensure that it is not offensive or controversial before including the material in a lesson plan.

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Monolingual Learners’ Experience

Monolingual classes are composed of students who all speak the same language. Monolingual classes typically exist in schools or language centers within a country where English is not the native language. An example of this is a teacher of EFL teaching a class of Japanese students in Japan. Clearly, in such a case, students do not have the same benefits of those living or studying in an English speaking country, but they are usually at the same language level and it is easier for teachers to think of topics that relate to the entire class. The most commonly faced problems for teachers in a monolingual class are as follows:

Anticipated Problems

Since students in a monolingual class share the same language and the students will sometimes speak in their native language in class instead of in English. This can be troublesome because in an EFL class students should always be encouraged to only use English. If students feel that they can use their native language, their fluency in English will be slowed. The other major problem teachers face is creating a more natural environment for students to improve their fluency in English since they are not exposed to the same environment as they would be while living in an English speaking country. Teachers should take the following instruction to cope with these difficulties.

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Ways to Solve Problems

  • Teachers should be clear and concise throughout lessons and ensure that students are engaged from the beginning of class.
  • Teachers should monitor class in such a way that they are giving equal attention to all groups. Students that are nearer to the teacher are less likely to use their native language in class.
  • During activities, teachers should make it clear to students that he/she is monitoring by holding a pen and paper in their hand.
  • Teachers should create tasks where the end product must be in English.
  • Teachers should make activities requiring verbal communication shorter to ensure that students have time to gain more confidence in speaking English. Once students demonstrate that they are feeling more confident, the activities can be lengthened.
  • Teachers should ensure that they are using an English level that is close to or at the level of the students being taught to avoid any confusion or lack of clarity in class.
  • Teachers should make sure that they are using techniques that reduce teacher talk time and increase student talk time by, for example, setting up group and pair work as much as possible and setting up activities that require verbal speech in English.

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In conclusion, a skilled teacher will use a combination of these techniques to effectively increase the English fluency of students whether they are teaching a multilingual or monolingual class. Also, teachers should avoid becoming too concerned with solving any of these problems in class. The important thing is to remain patient and consistent when teaching.

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