Thursday, February 20, 2014

Contribute something

The Internet is littered with sites about teaching American English. I look around it and go from annoyed to livid. I want to fix it, but how? The Internet does not need more videos about speaking English, random blurbs about idiomatic phrases, or vocabulary lists. There are too many already.

My skill, my talent, is bringing order to chaos. That is what I do with my English students. I identify what they need help with, and I lead them step by step on a path of knowledge.

My Achilles' heel, my soft spot, is that I want to help everyone.

The disorder and randomness on the Internet drives me crazy. How is anyone supposed to learn English in all this mess?

I have a serious issue with English language sites claiming they teach English when what they teach is wrong. I understand that some students can't afford a private teacher, and so for them, this may be their only option. But this is a terrible option. I want to teach the world proper American English, but I can't afford to do it for free. This is driving me crazy.

So, what should I do?
1. Ignore all the English teaching websites and just focus on my students.
2. Wage war against the bad English sites?
3. Go crazy because I can't help everyone?
4. ????

If you have another idea, I'd love to hear it!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Knowledge Costs Money

If you want to do something well, you usually need to pay an expert. For example, if my car is broken, I don't bring it to the kid down the street that likes cars, I bring it to a trained mechanic. If my stomach hurts, I don't go to the lady on my street that makes good soup, I go to the doctor.

It's the same thing for learning a language. If I really want to improve my Spanish, paying for lessons with a teacher trained in teaching Spanish will get me much farther than studying Spanish vocabulary words on the Internet.

The Internet is filled with sites where you can learn English. Some are good, some are horrible and some are down right frustrating. One site I saw mixes teachers from England, the United States, and Canada all in one place. Spoken and written English are very different for these three countries, and I don't believe they should all be taught at once.

Another site I saw was claiming (and charging money for) to teach English words, but one of the words they taught was actually Turkish. This is wrong on so many levels. There seem to be many English language learning sites that are scams, and they frustrate me so much, because they are taking advantage of people (my friends, my students) who are just trying to learn English.

If you want to improve your English, I highly suggest getting a personal teacher or tutor. You need someone that can help you when you are having issues, that can tailor your lesson plans to your interests or what you need help on. There are some fine computer programs out there for learning English, but without an actual live person helping you, they fall short.

OK, you've decided that you really want to improve your English, you will dedicate your time and some of your money to make this happen. But how do you find a good teacher?

Here are ten questions you should ask:

1. Do you have a special certification for teaching English as a second language?
The only good answer is yes. They should have a CELTA, a TEFL, a TESOL, or a MA TESOL. People debate about which certification is best, but I think the fact that someone did any special training at all is a good sign.

 2. How long have you been teaching English?
 A good answer is six months or more. This way you know they are actually interested in doing this.

3. Where are your students usually from?
A good answer would be either from a mix of countries, or from the one you are from. If a teacher has only taught students from Spain and you are from Iraq, it might be a problem.

4. What will we do during a lesson?
A good teacher will be organized and can prepare documents for you to review together. You want him or her to tell you what a class will be like. If he or she says, "Oh, we'll just talk." or "We'll see." that is a bad sign.

5. Can I have a free trial lesson?
The answer you want to hear is yes. This is a good way for you to see if you two get along.

6. What is your cancellation policy?
You want a reasonable policy. For example, if they want you to pay for 10 lessons up front and won't refund your money if you cancel, this is a very bad sign.

7. Is this your full time job or just a hobby?
If this is not their actual job, or they are not very passionate about it, I would not choose them as a teacher.

8. What do you do in your free time?
You want to hear that they read. Reading is the #1 way to build vocabulary and building vocabulary is the #1 way to improve your English. The more vocabulary they know, the more they can teach you.

9. Do you speak any foreign languages?
They don't need to speak your language but a teacher who knows what it is like to be a student is a very good thing.

10. Are you a member of TESOL International?
TESOL is the professional organization for teachers who teach English as a second language. Membership is from $35-$100 USD. If he or she was willing to pay to be a member, you know they are serious about teaching.

I'm sure there are more good questions, but these are the ones I can think of right now. Let me know if you think of more that I should add.  

This post was not meant to promote my own English teaching business, but a way to vent frustration about crappy English teaching sites. But since I know you guys are going to ask me, let me answer my own questions.

1. I have a TESOL certification.

2. I have been teaching English for ten months.

3. As of this post, I have taught students from 26 different countries. In addition, before I work with a student one-on-one I research typical issues they might have. That way we can focus on them and eliminate or reduce them.

4. My lessons are a mix of conversation, pronunciation, vocabulary building and grammar. I use Google Drive to share worksheets and files with you. I try and tailor the lesson plans to things you are interested in. For example, if you like cooking, I might have you write some sentences about food.

5. Most teachers will do a free 30 minute lesson, I like to do 45-60 minutes so that I can really listen to my student and find out what he or she needs.

6. I need only 24 hours notice in order to cancel a lesson or even the entire program.

7. This is my one and only job. I wake up thinking about teaching English and I fall asleep thinking about teaching English. My goal is to help you improve your English so you can reach your goals.

8. I swim, I volunteer with the police department and I read! I currently have six grammar books, two TOEFL books and two novels next to my bed.

9. I speak Spanish. Sort of.

10. Yes, I've been a member since May 2013.

I hope my venting has helped you a little. I know that I feel better getting it off my chest. Thanks for listening.