I’ve been a Senior Teacher now, and I’ve been teaching English abroad for five years (with a break for my M.A. Linguistics at University College London). I’m compiling some resources for new teachers and people considering moving abroad to teach English. Send me your questions, and I promise to answer them quickly!
This truly can be a way to live abroad and become the global nomad you want to be.
Most TEFL teachers abroad don’t have deep knowledge of grammar and usage when we first begin. True, we have a crash course Teaching English as a Foreign Language Certificate from an online or classroom course, often required by law for our work visas. True, we are generally native English speakers who went to school in English (and hopefully some of what we learned in school stuck). True, we are at a significant inherent advantage to our collegues who come from an L2 background, with our implicit knowledge of grammar.
You will, as a new teacher, eventually be asked something like this:
Collegue: What? If you get points, you win the game???? I was always taught that if there is ‘if’ in the sentence, then you have to use ‘will’ in the second part. Is this right?
Native Speaker: Sorry, what?
Collegue: Is it ‘If you get points, you win the game’ or ‘If you get points, you will win the game?’
Native Speaker: Um….either?
Collegue: ????????????????? Is it first conditional or zero conditional?
Native Speaker: ?????????????????????????
This happened a lot to me in Korea, Chile, and China. It’s an occupational hazard of being an L1 (native) speaker in a TEFL office; you are the barometer by which the students’ grammar is apparently supposed to live or die.
That’s a messy job, considering that the vast majority of native speakers have no idea what the hell a conditional is when starting out (then later you find yourself on Wikipedia five minutes before class saying, “There is more than one of them??? OH CHRIST, NO….”). I sometimes felt uncomfortable giving an answer, especially since in Korea my co-teachers would have a pirated copy of that year’s multiple choice test in their hands and were expecting me to help the kids memorise the correct answer. 100% or nothing, you know.
Fear not, newbie TEFLers.
I’ve made a short list of grammar and usage points that are hardest for young learners for you to brush up on. If you Google (or in China…Bing……………….ew) these basic topics, there is a TON of information about them and millions of ideas for how to teach them. I thought it would be helpful to start by putting the ones that trip up most new teachers abroad in one guide, since it’s harder to know what you don’t know when starting out until you have the conversation above. Now you know what you don’t know, you can know what you need to know. Right? Right.
Basic, Important, But Tricky Topics in TEFL Grammar and Usage (2016 Edition)
by Coleen Monroe-Knight, M.A. Linguistics (UCL)
<–That is the very first time I’ve used my master’s letters! Wheeeee!
In this series for new TEFL teachers abroad who have no previous experience with prescriptive grammar and usage other than that time in Language Arts class in like, 1997:
Classroom Management For Newbs – Coming Soon
When I’ve covered all these topics, I will excerpt the main points for a single crash course post, which you will be able to find here.
Have a question? Send me your confusion and newbie teacher needs here. I respond quickly.