Teaching Beginners: Simplify the Language of Instruction

Teaching beginners simply the languageSimplifying the way we word the language of instruction, especially when teaching beginners, is very important. As teachers, we have to remember that we are talking to learners of the English language, not to native speakers. The more difficult the words are and the longer and more complex the sentences are, the less our beginner students will understand our instructions, or explanations.

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How to Simply the Language When Teaching Beginners

Imagine you are talking to beginners and want to elicit a noun from them by showing a picture or object. You may want to ask ‘’What do you think this is?’’. This question, which may sound natural to you, could be complicated for beginners. They will pay more attention to the word THINK, rather than the idea of identifying the object. If you use a simple interrogative sentence like ‘’What is this?’’, you will not distract them with words they may not know at this level, or concepts they cannot understand.

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Simplifying the Language Comes with Practice

Learning to simplify the language of instruction is a process. You will learn how to speak to beginners with simpler structures or words naturally. When you use difficult language, your students will look at you with blank faces, showing they have not understood your instructions. With experience, you will realize when communication is not taking place and you will naturally tend to simplify the sentences, or find a way to paraphrase it and simplify it. That said, do not speak unnaturally.

Teaching beginners is very challenging and new ESL teachers become very nervous at the idea of standing in front of a class of people who they cannot communicate with.  You would not likely be placed on a Beginner level without having any teaching experience. That said, there are strategies you should learn now for when you have to teach low levels.

Suggested Reading:

Authentic Material in Beginner Classrooms

8 Tips for Teaching Low Levels

Introductory Lessons For Low Beginners

Scaffolding and Other Strategies

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