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Unique Challenges and Advantages of Teaching Beginner English Students

Unique Challenges and Advantages of Teaching Beginner English Students | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Beginner-level students of English offer both challenges as well as advantages. As they are beginners, it is very easy to see quick progress, which is motivating to both the student as well as the teacher. Since they have little to no experience in English, it is you who is introducing them to the language; therefore, you can teach them before they learn bad habits. However, there are also disadvantages. One is that if you are not proficient in their language, it will be very difficult to communicate with them at all unless an assistant is used. Another is that it will be very easy for them to revert to their native language, given their lack of ability to use English. Overall, however, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages and give the English teacher a unique opportunity to see tremendous growth and increase in ability.

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


Learning a language is a long, time-consuming process. However, in the beginning, it is much easier to make quick progress and learn new things. For example, by learning just a few words and very basic grammar, people can begin forming sentences and expressing themselves in English. It might not be perfect from a grammatical or pronunciation standpoint, but even little increases in knowledge can have a big effect on ability at this stage. This is extremely motivating to the students, as every single day they can make progress and say new things. It is also motivating to the teacher, as they can clearly see the growth of their students and how quickly they are learning.

Another advantage of teaching beginner-level students is that you can teach them before they develop bad habits.

If they had prior English experience, but it was incorrect, or their former teacher let them slide with more lax standards, then it will be difficult to correct. Not to mention, it will be demotivating to the students to have to relearn something that has already been taught to them. Also, it will take up class time that would have instead be used to move forward with more advanced topics. Being their introduction helps avoid these problems before they start.

adult beginners

Also read: 5 Simple Ways to Motivate Your EFL Students

Teacher Lacking Students’ Language Proficiency

There are also disadvantages, however. One is that if you are not proficient in their language, it will be nearly impossible to communicate with them. In some instances, this can be a good thing, as it eliminates the ability to revert to their native language and forces them to use English. However, in a classroom setting, this is not ideal. Since they will be surrounded by others who also only know their native language, they are more likely to revert anyway. Additionally, they won't be able to ask specific questions to you. A way around this, of course, is to use a teacher aid or translator, however, that will make you seem more distant to the students, and make it more difficult to establish a rapport with them.

Translating from and to the mother tongue

Another disadvantage that we already partially discussed is the tendency of beginner students to revert to their native language easily. This makes sense, and even though it should not be encouraged, it is also unfair to blame students for this. It is simply a side-effect of not knowing much, if any, English; if they have specific questions, or simply want to express something, they will not be able to outside of their native language. They could, of course, be made to only use English, but this can easily lead to frustration after a time of having to look something up every time they want to ask a question or tell somebody something.

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In summation, teaching beginners have their own set of unique challenges as well as advantages. Overall, it is a very rewarding group to work with, and if you do a good job as a teacher then you will have a group of highly-motivated students who make noticeable progress almost every day.

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