One of the things that you should put in mind on how to teach English online is to be aware that English has aspects that give non-native speakers a very tough time learning it. Most often, the things that your students find most difficult to learn are those that come very easily to native speakers. Two of the most important issues that you should address when teaching English online is knowing what appropriate English is and identifying the major problems that online ESL learners encounter with the English vocabulary.
“What is Appropriate English?”
A lot of people believe that mastering English is a matter of following a fixed set of rules. However, this is not true. Becoming a good English speaker begins with one question: “What is appropriate English?” You might be surprised to find out that the answers depend on certain factors, such as:
1. The relationship of one speaker to another. For example, friends speak with one another quite differently than bosses do with their employees.
2. The situation when communication takes place. For example, the communication between two persons and the level of information that they exchange are somewhat different when talking over the phone than when talking face-to-face.
3. The topic. For example, you are more humorous when telling jokes while you are more serious when lecturing in front of a class.
When teaching English online, it is important to set specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) teaching objectives. This is one key to helping your students achieve their goals.
For example, your students are eager to learn how to converse with a sales assistant when asking for help in a department store. For your part, teach them the proper way to address a person so they could get the help they need without making them look rude, stupid, nor snobbish.
Most of the time, teachers tend to teach students to converse in a style that is rather too formal for most of the situations that they will encounter. Try to do away with this common fault. Tell them they could use contractions, like I’m, he’s, they’re, and you’re, most of the time, except in very formal occasions.
Problems with Vocabulary
ESL learners usually encounter varying problems with vocabulary, depending on their native language background. There are languages where words are similar in sound and meaning to English words. We call these cognate words. You can use these words in honing your students’ English vocabulary since non-native speakers find these words easiest to learn.
Learning and understanding words easily, students should get acquainted with:
1. Their meaning;
2. Their uses;
3. The situations where they are most frequently used; and
4. The social consequences of their use. For example, saying “go” has different social consequences than saying, “Please leave.” To make sure that students understand every aspect of the vocabulary, use words in realistic situations. The clearer and more familiar the situation is, the easier they’ll understand the meaning of the word.