How to teach English to foreigners

It is currently estimated that there are over one billion people learning English in the world. That’s a lot of learners of English! All these people need teachers of some kind and many of the learners are foreigners in an adopted country. How to teach English to foreigners is something that anyone can pick up even if they have no teaching experience whatsoever. Teaching English to non English speakers is a learned skill like anything else. With the right training and tips, even someone who has little background in education can make a fine teacher.


There are many skills that make a good teacher of English, but one of the basic ones is a technique called eliciting. Eliciting is a way for a teacher to find out how much current students understand as the teacher goes through the lesson. Non English speakers are often taught English in their mother tongue which while good for explaining complicated things like conjugating verbs, really stunts their growth in areas like speaking and listening. As a teacher of English you probably won’t speak the same language as your students, so eliciting helps to draw out information from the students and lets you see how much they know.
teaching english

Setting Context

Another technique a good teacher will use to help teach a non English speaker is setting a context. Setting a context is the process of making sure your students understand the situation or theme of the language they are going to be taught before they are taught it. This allows the students to quickly identify the situation which will help them to understand the language far more quickly. Have you ever walked into a conversation halfway through? If you have, then you know it takes you a period of time to catch up and realize what the people are talking about. If someone had told you the context before you’d walked over, you would have understood what was being said far more quickly.

Warmers & Icebreakersproject-your-voice-300x298

Warming students up before you get to the key language you are going to teach is also important when teaching to non English speakers. Nobody likes to go straight into learning stone cold. Creating a warmer and getting the students thinking in English in a fun way will loosen them up and get them ready to study and be more open to the learning process later in the lesson.

Teacher Language

The language you use while teaching English to foreigners will be key in how well they are able to understand and follow. Having clear teacher language separates a good teacher from a bad one. Most native speakers of a language  will naturally make their language more complicated and will paraphrase things as we are taught never to say something the same way twice, however this is undesirable for an ESL teacher. Being able to be consistent in your language and dialogue is crucial for students to be able to follow along. There are many techniques to be able to do this, but you’d be surprised how hard it is for some people to do!

Concept ChecksConcept Check

One form of checking student understanding is concept checking. A concept check is a tool a teacher uses to have students demonstrate they understand. Find out more on how to do a concept check here.
These are just five areas for effective ESL teaching. If you want to learn how to teach English to foreigners, you can find out more about eliciting, context setting, warmers, teacher language, concept checks and much more in our inexpensive online TEFL teacher training courses. Getting TEFL qualified will enable you to not just be able to teach English in your home country, but anywhere in the world.
May 5, 2015

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