Differences between teaching EFL to Young Learners and Adults.
Learning the Jargon to teach Business English.
The first part of the essay is extremely fascinating and one of particular interest to me. One of the best ways to discover more about this is to compare the way adults learn to that of children and to learn more about the learning strategies. Recent years have shown there is a growing trend of adults entering Universities and colleges.
Adults are self directed learners, whereas younger students are adult dependent learners. This therefore means that adults often challenge new information with the younger age group simply accepting it. The way adults and teenagers learn best is by challenging new ideas and comparing them to their own set notion. I understand this only too well as I have been taking Spanish language lessons twice weekly at the Language school where I teach English, and I find myself comparing sentence structures throughout and then only do I consent to the new information being taught.
Another major difference I have found having taught both age groups is that adults come to learn English with a clear purpose in mind and it is usually to enhance their careers and by contrast younger children do not have a clear sense of direction. This has a knock on effect on motivation levels as it is evident that each age group has different reasons for being in class. Some 9 weeks on I have some experience of teaching small groups of 4 to 5 year olds. I would say that some days were like a battle to try and engage the children throughout the entire class. I found this particularly so as they would arrive to class in the afternoon at around 5pm and I sensed they were already exhausted from the days activities. I found adult learners to have high motivational levels since they are committed to improving their English. In some instances the students were almost too enthusiastic and I experienced this with a couple of my adult students. The problem here was that they were too talkative in class and very often I was unable to stop them to correct any errors as they found it difficult to contain their excitement and listen.
With regards to content, the kids classes are fairly simple and focused on basic things like numbers, the alphabet and colours etc. The teaching style was different too as I would play videos in class, or sing rhymes or colour in pictures in order to make the lessons more enjoyable. For example when we were learning about animals I would sing songs like old MacDonald had a farm and this certainly helped the children to learn new vocabulary as well as helping with pronunciation of vowels.
I was trying to create fun interactive lessons and I realised that introducing some fun and games was an important teaching tool here. I did not plan the lessons to be too regimented and allowed some time for fun activities. The children responded well to this style of learning and where more spontaneous to learning. Conversely adult lessons were less energetic but the lessons were structured very well to concentrate on reading, writing and speaking. Often adults would come to me with complex questions about grammar and I also found some of the adults and particularly the teenagers would often be slow in responding to my questions as they were afraid of making mistakes. The lessons for the adults were challenging and it also became apparent that each adult learner had a different learner style and some for example were stronger in accuracy than fluency this also became more apparent with the adult and young adult learners.
Another notable difference was the relationship I formed with the two age groups. With the younger children I was very much seen as an authoritative figure and sometimes I had to raise my voice a little to get their attention as it was clear that I was in charge in the classroom. However, I found that I was able to form friendships with the adults who were of a similar age to myself as we could talk about cultures and have regular conversations.
As concerning the second part of the essay, I have also had some experience in this field, albeit limited. I have had a couple of students wanting to learn Business English. The student herself had brought in some sheets with some complex terminology and business jargon and luckily for me I had taken a business law module at University. I recall having to explain to her the difference between a limited company, a public limited company and a partnership.
Teaching adults business English is really about asking the learner what it is they want to achieve out of the lessons and working towards those set objectives, to be borne in mind the goals need to be realistic. Another method of teaching new business terminology in the work place was through role play as I had a student who wanted to apply for a position in a corporate company as an English speaking secretary. I conducted various role plays in class and kept her engaged throughout so that she became familiar with the business terms and new vocab. One key area we worked on was confidence and the more we practiced the terminology through role play and draft emails and letters the more competent she became. Teaching business English was also about setting the correct tone of the lesson from the beginning and establishing that right impression and professional approach that is a requisite for anyone who wants to establish themselves in a business work place. I tried to conduct the lesson in this way and explained a little business theory along the way.