Teach English in Dongqiao Zhen - Jingmen Shi

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One topic that I have repeatedly pondered while taking this Business English 50 hour certification is my usage of language in a classroom. My teaching experience has been with teenagers and young children. At first I believed the native language of the students should be employed when possible but this view was challenged and made more intricate as I now believe native language use in the classroom should differ based on the social context of the class. My experience with teaching teenagers was when I interned for the English as a second language teacher at my highschool. I was the only bilingual Portuguese-English student at the school who spoke English natively. The vast majority of the class is from Brazil which created a language barrier between them and the teacher who spoke no Portuguese. I was instructed to mainly speak English but to mix the two languages when necessary. This was to help make the students feel at ease in a largely anglophone environment. Taking this Business English course, the dominant view seems to be that even if you speak the native language of your students you should avoid it. Being presented with this view made me think back to my internship advisor’s instructions. My first instinct was to fall to confirmation bias and deny the suggestion to speak only English. I had spoken Portuguese with my students quite a bit and they still seemed to progress fast in their English abilities. I thought the course’s suggestion might be overgeneralizing. Of course after thinking this through a bit I realized that maybe the specific type of comfortability I had fostered in my students is exactly what a teacher of business English should avoid in adults. I was speaking Portuguese with these students to combat a very specific, unfortunate social circumstance. The students felt marginalized and isolated by their lack of ability to communicate with the Americans all around them. My purpose in that classroom was to ease their learning of English by being someone they could fluently communicate with and also practice English on. Without a friendly speaker of their language, it was difficult to find anyone they could have a whole conversation in English. They felt embarrassed by their lack of ability. The students I worked with already had a reason to learn English, a quite practical one, but they needed a social jumpstart into an English speaking community. This is not the case with teaching business English. Business English students most likely already have motivation to learn English and likely care less about social marginalization since they are already immersed in their native language every day. For a business English speaker English is a tool. They want to use English to advance their careers and meet the expectations of the business world. For a teenager, language is a huge, scary social construct that they would rather avoid if they can avoid looking dumb in front of their classmates. This is why speaking only English in the classroom is important to a business English learning experience. The students don't need to feel at home because they are already at home using their native language for the majority of their activities. Further, I believe different amounts of target-language use should be employed for different situations. This is a huge consideration for me as a teacher. How much of the target language is best for my students? In my experience teaching young children (ages 5-10). The students were learning Spanish in an English-speaking community. They had little “need” for Spanish in their day-to-day lives like a business English student or one of my ESL students would need English. This meant my speaking Spanish was their only exposure to it. The more Spanish I spoke, the more Spanish they felt inclined to use. I was their liaison into the Spanish-speaking world so using almost exclusively Spanish (except to build rapport and develop personal relationships) was imperative to their learning process. This is oddly very similar to a business English environment albeit with a couple differences. The students in both cases must learn the target language in order to communicate with me. In both cases the students don’t feel socially pressured not to use the language by their community out of fear of embarrassment. Given this, I go on to claim that the more open and free the people feel in using the target language, the more of it I should use in the classroom. This means building comfortability and rapport in the classroom is of the utmost importance because the more of the target language I can use without breaching the comfortability of my students the more the students will retain.