Polishing up my own English

Polishing up my own English


Being a native speaker, before starting TEFL I believed I had a strong grasp of the English language, a reasonably wide vocabulary and a good understanding of grammar rules. However, on many occasions during my time teaching TEFL I was challenged with a question that I had not previously thought about and thus it was necessary to read up on some particular aspect of English.

Even as a native speaker, there is a large amount of vocabulary that I do not know. For this reason it is perhaps unsurprising that I was often asked about the meanings of words that I did not know myself, or perhaps about words I knew in context but was unable to explain. When a situation such as this arises, the solution is fairly straightforward: simply look up the word in a dictionary. For example, in one class I was asked what the word ‘assimilate’. I already had an idea of how this word is used in some cases, but it was necessary for me to look up the word in order to reassure myself and the student of its full meaning. Moreover, I would often read the platform texts during the times in which I did not have lessons in order to see if there were any words I did not know and then look them up in order to prepare for the possibility of being asked about it in the lesson.

However, when it comes to questions of grammar things may become a little more complicated. In this case it is more difficult to look up the answer during the lesson because some grammar rules may be somewhat complex and spending the lesson trying to understand it may not be the best use of time. An example from one of my lessons was concerning the difference between ‘may’ and ‘might’. In many cases the two words can be used interchangeably; however, there are some situations where one must be chosen over the other. Therefore it would have been impractical for me to first learn these differences in the lesson, then to explain them to the student. As a result I was not able to give the student a certain answer during the lesson, but looked up the grammar rules on the internet at a later time in order to be prepared should the same question arise in a later lesson.

Overall, it is important as an English teacher to have a good command of English, and especially to be familiar with the common grammar rules that arise in English classes. However, it is near impossible to know every word and grammar rule of English and for this reason I found it good practice to look up any unfamiliar pieces of vocabulary and grammar rules whenever I came across them.

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