Teach English in Jigesitai Zhen - E'erduosi Shi — Ordos

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Coping with the presence of two variations of the same language that are both very dominant in popular culture, literature, and the professional world can be a hard obstacle to overcome in the classroom for both student and teacher. Though the difference between British and American English does not stretch far enough to be considered dialectal, the frequent discrepancies in spelling, vocabulary, idioms, and accents can prove challenging both to teach and to learn. However, it must be said that it would be wholly impractical to ignore the presence of one of the two variations within the walls of a classroom – especially when dealing with adult learners, who will often have had prior exposure to the English language – even though one variation is likely to be naturally favoured. With the influx of English-language media (both British and American) in many non-native people’s lives, as well as the differences in English spoken in the professional world on a global scale, it is the teacher’s responsibility to pay both variations tribute in the classroom. In light of this, we shall examine certain factors to consider when tackling this challenge, including teaching location, students’ levels, and course materials being used. English language teaching (as a second language) either takes place in a country where English is not one of the official languages, or in a country where it is. In the first case, the students are often native to the country, whereas in the second instance the classroom tends to be a lot more multinational. Let us consider how geographical location influences the handling of British and American English in the classroom. When teaching in a place where English is spoken natively, it is easier to know which variation to favour in the classroom: the one that is more widely used in the country itself. When teaching in a country where English is not an official language, a teacher must consider its geographical situation in relation to English speaking countries. Taking Mexico as an example, its proximity to the USA makes it more likely that Business English learners there will be predominantly dealing with American English in their professional lives. In France, however, perhaps learners would find it more useful to learn British spellings and vocabulary, considering its proximity to the UK. As mentioned earlier, however, a successful teacher will draw attention to both variations, despite ultimately favouring one, and, as good practice, insisting on consistency in the use of variants by individual learners. For example, even though they may encourage written work to be submitted in American English when teaching in Mexico, they could sometimes expose students to authentic materials produced in British English to make them aware of the differences. The written work should, however, use consistent American usages and spellings. Let us now consider how student level plays a role in this discussion. A teacher should understand that lower level groups are more likely to get confused if they must learn two ways of spelling a foreign word from the very beginning, whereas higher levels are more likely to feel ready to learn about the variations. Yet, a challenge may arise when lower level students are inevitably exposed to both British and American English in their professional lives, making it necessary for the teacher to provide knowledge about both variations. A way to deal with this in the classroom could be to ease the students into working on their receptive skills using materials in both British and American English – for example, listening exercises that subtly accustom students to a range of accents – but making sure that their productive skills are cultivated using either one variation of the other. In higher level groups, it is important to be sensitive to the students’ previous English language experience. Students in the same classroom may come from different learning backgrounds, for example one may have started learning English in Wales, whereas another may have started learning in Canada (where the American variation is predominantly used). A good teacher must be accepting of all backgrounds, accepting work in the variation the student feels most comfortable, and making sure to make the learning environment accessible to all students. Having already mentioned the possibility of introducing materials in both American and British English in the classroom, we must also consider the primary teaching materials used on a given course. Often, the teacher must teach a specific course that calls for the primary use of prescribed coursebooks and materials, especially when working for a particular company or language school. This is to say that even if a teacher is British, if they must teach from books written in American English, it may be less confusing for the students if the teacher were to favour American spellings and vocabulary. Yet, even on the most rigid of courses, where a teacher must follow the provided materials 90% of the time – let’s say in British English – a conscientious teacher could recommend activities to be done at home, such as watching a film in American English or reading a book by an American author, in order that the students are still exposed to both kinds. Finally, it has become clear that there are various factors to be considered in this discussion, and we have also identified ways to expose students to both variations. It is evident that even though one variation is most often naturally favoured, depending on the factors discussed, a caring and enthusiastic teacher will be sensitive to the existence of such differences, aiming to reflect the real world in the microcosm of the classroom as far as possible.