Teach English in Erjia Zhen - Nantong Shi

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I’ve been frequently asked in interviews about one question: “In what ways do you think teaching adults and teaching younger students are different?” As an English teacher in China who have taught both children and adults before, I’ve experienced the changes and differences when teaching these two group of students. I define young learners as K-12 students and adult learners as people who are already or more than 18 years old. These two groups of students are totally different in learning motivations, learning experiences, nervousness, language awareness, etc. Firstly, younger learners often lack motivations of learning while adults are strongly motivated. Young learners, especially in China, are under huge pressure of the test scores. Most Chinese parents send their children to cram schools no matter the children would like to go or not because they are afraid that their children will “fall behind” in school. Being concerned about children’s education is good, but burdening children is another thing. Therefore, many children are resistant to studying, not just learning English, because they don’t have a choice about their childhood. Conversely, all the adults I’ve taught are very motivated about studying a new language because they made their own choice. So although motivating students should be done whatever the students’ ages are, I often work harder on motivating younger students by utilizing mime, pictures, games and so on. Secondly, adult students seem to be “shyer” in class compared to younger students. Younger students are not afraid to make mistakes in class because they are allowed to do that. However, adult students, especially those who are older than me, they often don’t like to talk much in class due to the “face” problem. Being aware of this phenomenon, I usually start the class with very simple tasks to build their confidence and try to selects topics they are ready to talk about. For example, I had a adult student who has a lovely son, so I often asked her things relevant to her son, and it turned out to be extremely successful. Praising also works well when teaching both groups of students. I often say things like “See? You can do that! It’s just a piece of cake for you!” In addition, various learning experiences affect students of different ages. Younger students are willing to try new things as long as teachers make it simple and interesting, while adult students often copy the ways of learning which started since they were young. For instance, many adult students of mine believe that teachers are authoritative until they met me. I told them teaching and learning is interactive and dynamic--students can also be teachers and we are learning from each other. I teach them English and they teach me back what they are good at. We are both normal people and we all make mistakes. It’s okay for them to point out my mistakes. In this way, they began to think they are part of the class, not just as listeners. This is not conventional in China, especially in schools. I’m still on my way trying to make my class more student-centered. Last but not least, students of various ages have different language awareness. When I was teaching adults, I found that they had difficulty adsorbing some language points. They are likely to match language points with their mother tongue. Nonetheless, there is no similar structure like the plural form in Mandarin, which causes a lot of problems when Chinese adults are learning it. They always forgot to add “s” or “es” when they are trying to describe more than one things. However, as for younger students, they can adsorb plural forms more easily because they are learning Mandarin and English at the same time. Although mistakes are not avoidable, they make relatively fewer mistakes in terms of using the plural form than adults. In summary, adults and younger learners are two types of learners which have their peculiarities respectively, which requires the teachers to deal with them based on their learning modes. Every student is precious and has his distinct qualities as well as problems. There is an old saying in China--knowledge is infinite. A teacher should never stops learning no matter how experienced he is, because you never know enough about teaching and learning.