Several Problems Students of Different Nationalities Face
Sometimes problems may be encountered when teaching students from different nationalities due to varied reasons. When teaching English to students that are culturally and linguistically different from one's own, the teacher must take great care to prepare and identify the specific problems one may encounter as well as be attentive to the problems that occur in real-time.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Roman S. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Language Related Issues
The problems an ESL or TEFL teacher may encounter can vary widely but are usually identified in these areas: pronunciation, grammar, and syntax as it pertains to language but also cultural issues may arise as well as general educational level. Each nationality may encounter different problems more so than others. A teacher should prepare adequately to correct the problem when encountering them.
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English uses the passive voice much more frequently and is a problematic area for many students of different nationalities where the active voice is more often employed. The passive and active voice differentiate the importance of who or what experiences an action of a clause, phrase or sentence wherein the most important part is the person or thing experiencing the action, therefore, becoming the subject of the sentence. For example “The bridge was being repaired” as opposed to “They were repairing the bridge.” In the first example, the bridge is the subject and the fact that it is being repaired is the action taking place. In contrast, in the second example "The workers" ('They') are the subject of the sentence who is carrying out the action.
Adjectives are problematic with regards to placement, as adjectives in English usually precede the noun whereas many languages place the adjective after the noun. The teacher should focus on drilling the placement of adjectives across several lesson plans to inculcate the pattern used in English. Certain languages are more rigid as to the use of nouns and verbs as adjectives since English lends much more flexibility in this regard.
As to syntax, most romance languages employ hypotaxis. Hypotaxis is where sentences are constructed with clauses which are coordinated with or hierarchically subordinated to others to emphasize the importance of a clause to form a complex yet coherent idea. English to a greater extent employs parataxis more often. Parataxis is the opposite of hypotaxis were phrases, clauses and sentences are not coordinated or subordinated and no real nexus between the same is needed. This problem manifests itself in written form as run-on sentences. The teacher teaching students of nationalities whose first language is a Romance language should be aware of this peculiarity. It should be mentioned that though hypotaxis is employed in English usually in written form, such as documents, legal documents, essays and generally a higher register of language commonly used in conveying a complex idea. Additionally, the usage of punctuation marks varies as well due to the formation of a hierarchical structure. Its is an area that should be introduced to students beyond the beginner level of English due to the complexity of the conveyance of the idea in a sentence. A teacher may work in this area when assigning an essay to a more advanced class or student.
Certain problems may be encountered when teaching Eastern Europeans who may have the language based on a Cyrillic alphabet with a grammar is very different from English. Articles are particularly problematic as Slavic languages do not even use them. When teaching English to students of Slavic nationalities the teacher must take care to inculcate the use of articles. For example, the phrase “What is the matter?” may come out as “What is the matter?” changing the meaning completely.
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Finally, about teaching students from different nationalities as it pertains to culture, an ESL or TEFL teacher should be acutely aware of any taboo subjects or words should they find themselves teaching in a culture very different from their own. For example, a teacher should not give an assignment that pertains to the highly political or inflammatory subject matter in a culture where it is legally or religiously frowned upon. Additionally, idioms, axioms, puns refrains/proverbs, and common sayings in English culturally may not have a parallel equivalent. It is therefore important to emphasize these differences as they need to be translated to get the meaning across. Certain cultures may not have certain jocular expressions that are found in English and may not be funny or appropriate and should be approached with caution or on other occasions completely avoided.
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It would, therefore, behoove the teacher to prepare for the contingency of these particular problems should they find themselves teaching English to a different nationality or ethnic group of students from different cultures.
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