Teach English in ShAdaogou Zhen - Enshi Tujiazu Miaozu Zizhizhou

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Educators of the English language must take into consideration a diverse range of variables when planning and teaching. An often forgotten factor for novice teachers is the impact that setting will have on their students’ language learning. Within the realm of setting there are two general categories, English as a Second Language (ESL) and English as a Foreign Language. These two terms are often incorrectly thought of as interchangeable, however, not only does each term describe whether a class is taught in an English speaking country (ESL) or in a non-English speaking country (EFL), but also these terms define a very unique set of characteristics the English Language Learner (ELL) will encounter. These characteristics tend to pose specific sets of challenges and struggles for students that will have a dramatic impact on their motivation and investment in the course, as well as their retention and reproduction of language. For many aspiring English language educators teaching abroad is a major reason to enter this field of work. As a result, most educators are familiar with the idea of teaching in an EFL setting. Students in this classroom setting have a clear disadvantage that should be resolved by their instructor. These students have limited exposure to authentic language and few opportunities to produce language outside of the classroom. Without having a need to use English outside of the classroom, the students who do not make a connection between language learning and their goals or needs will quickly lose motivation to learn, thus reduce their personal investment in the language learning process. This is detrimental to their success as the objective is to give students the skills necessary to become autonomous in their learning. What can educators do to increase student motivation inside and outside of an EFL classroom? One key to answering this question is tucked away in the major advantages to an EFL setting - students have overlapping funds of knowledge. Even though many students will come into the EFL classroom with unique goals and experience, each student will more than likely speak in the same L1, share a similar cultural background, and already be involved in preexisting social schemas. As teachers we can utilize this situation to encourage English language use between students outside of the classroom. Creating activities and objectives that have students utilize interests in their daily lives will increase the opportunities for students to utilize language in a way that is meaningful to them. This will increase retention of language skills as well as create a situation where students can become autonomous in their learning process. For many teachers, ESL may seem straightforward. Often thought of as English for Academic purposes or English for Specific Purposes. Indeed at its core ESL could be lumped into these categories as even K-12 students are building the language skills needed to succeed in an academic environment. However, only considering these broad course types when planning courses and materials for students in an ESL class will result in ignoring a key weakness students will have in these courses. This issue involves that lack of an effective social network. My work in K-12 and in higher education in the U.S. shed light on the influence this can have on students from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Interview with students in higher education brought up topics of social isolation and discrimination on top of language barriers. Resolving these issues for students is paramount because facing the challenges of living in a foreign culture and being socially isolated will weaken the students’ ability to learn language in an effective way. Regardless of how much exposure the students have from being in an English speaking country. To rectify issues of cultural competence and isolation it becomes the role of the English language educator to be an advocate. Understanding our students’ struggles outside of the classroom and providing opportunities for them to build a relationship with their host country is important to their success in learning the language skills they seek. As stated in this course, students will come with a diverse set of internal and external motivations and funds of knowledge. Whether they need English for course credit or for career advancement, we must consider each of their unique situations and plan not only course material that will engage our students, but also provide a setting for their learning they takes advantage of their strengths and limits the influence of their weaknesses. As I have stated above, educators must also be cognizant of the impact overall setting, ESL/EFL, may have upon the ability of students to maintain motivation in the classroom and continue to invest in their language learning process.