Newsletter – Why is teaching English so hard? What it takes

Tips, Thoughts and Resources for teaching English – 14 September 2019

Hey there, fellow English-language coaches, teachers, tutors and ‘language parents’!

In last week’s video about WHY teaching ESL is so hard, I explained that the reason for its difficulty is, like any other skill, teaching a second language takes hours upon hours. Furthermore, progress is often HARD to see as the teacher. And HARD to feel as the learner. But rest assured, if your students are receiving comprehensible input they ARE making progress.

If you haven’t watched the video, I recommend it if for no other reason than to reassure yourself that you ARE doing a good job and your learners ARE making progress, even if invisible at the moment. Remember the calling to be a parent and its challenges. Yet, they learn from experience that their babies DO learn to walk, talk and use the potty. But it takes consistent time and an investment of encouragement and individual attention.

In my plan for acquiring Spanish, I listen to LOTS of podcasts. One in particular named, No Hay Tos, featured an interview with an American named Ricky. You can also watch their video interview. He is 27 and he started learning Spanish at age 13, in the Chicago area. He quickly realized that middle school Spanish taught from a textbook was not going to work.

So, he took his Spanish acquisition journey in his own hands. With NO hispanic ties in his family, he looked for them in the community. He made friends with a classmate who had one Spanish-speaking parent and started hanging out at his house. He immersed himself in Spanish anyway he could, seeking out Spanish-speakers, all the while growing up and working in Chicago.  

Now, at age 27 he is fluent and passes for a native Spanish speaker. Remarkably, he never traveled outside of the US until last year when he got his first passport.

You can read his experience here:   He also has a YouTube channel if you want to see and hear him for yourself. 

This anecdotal evidence REALLY encourages me. Time IN the language does pay off.  It’d be interesting to know just how many hours with Spanish he has racked up since age 13 to now. For then we could see how much time it has taken for him to gain fluency. 

So, what is my progress right now? Given that my investment currently is 2 hours a day of Spanish input in some format, I’m up to 549.5 hours.

Why do I track my hours?  It’s my own experiment, so I can FEEL what my learners feel.  I’m also enjoying the heck out of acquiring Spanish. REAL pleasure and joy-producing.  I’m not sure what God has in mind, but for right now, it’s enough to have this source of humility, insight and empathy with my English language learners.

What about you? 

  •  Are you working an another L2 yourself?  How is that going for you?
  • What is your greatest frustration/challenge this year with those you tutor or teach?
  • What are you curious about in our calling to share English or another language with the world?
  • Are planning and structuring lessons, coming up with a curriculum a challenge?  If so, then check out the EwoF (English without Fear) video about ‘why teaching ESL is so hard’. I dedicate the 2nd half of it TO suggestions for planning effective CI-rich lessons/activities/HW that make it easier on you.

Thank you for your interest in English without Fear.  And may God bless your efforts and make you fruitful in your teaching so that many, many students gain skill and confidence to use English.


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