Overcoming Language Barriers – Supporting English Language Learners in Mainstream Education

Overcoming Language Barriers – Supporting English Language Learners in Mainstream Education

The English language is probably the most well-known languages in the world. The reason? Well, if you turn the pages of history, you will know how the British Empire had a great influence over the world at a certain point in time, hence the popularity. Teaching English is also a very popular way for nomadic travellers to earn money abroad.

If you look around, you will realize how all use the English language to converse every day. You even have to share your requirements in English when you decide to pay someone to write an essay for you.

You will not find schools or colleges that are ignorant about English. All these make learning English an important part of education, and you need to learn it well to climb the academic ladder.

Country of origin has no role to play in someone's grasp over the language. In fact, more than 4.8 million kids in the US are English language learners (ELLs), and the numbers are on the rise. So, finding the best ways to help the learners learn the language well and pave the way for a better future is crucial.

With 20% of the world's population speaking English, you cannot leave any stone unturned to learn the language.  If you are looking to teach English we have come up with various ways you can support English language learners in mainstream education.

english teacher

1. Making it visual

Kids learning English have a hard time comprehending spoken language. It is better to write the instructions on the board as and when possible to help ELLs learn the language well. Challenging topics in English must be presented in diagrams to make it easy for students. As teachers do not have the option to hire someone to get things done for them, it is crucial for institutions to implement visual techniques to make learning easier.

2. Encourage group work

Engagement is a prerequisite for learning English. Teachers cannot expect kids to learn everything at once and test them after a certain time. It is crucial to encourage them to be involved in group activities to learn the language well. The teachers need not be there in class. They can let the class talk among themselves and practice speaking with their peers without being worried about being under the radar every time. It is impossible to learn a language without putting it to practice. Hence, group work is a great way to learn English well.

3. Communicating with teachers

Many students avoid asking questions in class and that is a major hurdle in their learning process. Building a strong relationship is crucial to ease the learning process. Learning is a two-way process, and it is the responsibility of both students and teachers to ease the process. English language learners have a long way to go, and it is crucial for them to take initiatives to learn the language fast.

4. Honouring the ‘silent period'

Many students refrain from speaking when they start their course. Learning second language is not easy and that is why many students are afraid to speak initially. Teachers often force them to speak, thus ruining the entire learning process. Teachers must understand the reasons students are not speaking and make them comfortable in class. There will be students coming from cultures outside the US, and they will not be comfortable with speaking English from day 1. Giving them the opportunity to adapt to the new settings will help in the learning process.

5. Scaffolding with native language

There are institutions that force students to speak in English inside their premises. While it is a great way to help students learn the language, it is not always the best for all. International students often seem more comfortable conversing in their native language. Restricting them will be of no benefit. The institutions need to make students comfortable to help them adapt to the changes and learn a new language. Further, there are cases where students feel uncomfortable asking questions in English. Instead of mocking them, let them do that in their first language and help them rephrase the same in English.

Supporting English language learners

6. Look for culturally unique vocabulary

When students step into a foreign country, they face a lot of problems adapting to the culture. Similarly, when students are attending English classes, it is crucial for teachers to help them learn some culturally unique words. Experts also suggest showing videos that are unique to the country's culture can help them learn things well. Considering an entire list of terms essential for ELLs can speed up the learning process. But if teachers find some words in the list unnecessary, they can omit the same from the list. The institutions must find the best ways to deal with ELLs and ease the entire process.

7. Sentence fragments for practice

Students cannot expect to learn a language by reading books without any implementations. Learning how to use the right words in sentences is equally important. A teacher must take up the responsibility to help students learn how to structure sentences and learn about the right words. Sentence fragments can be the best way to make students exercise their brains and learn the right words, thus enhancing their communication skills.

8. Pre-teaching

Teachers cannot expect students to get a grip on every new thing every day. It is crucial for teachers to give them a heads-up for the next session. So, if a teacher is willing to show a YouTube video, it is better to send a link to the students a day before that. Previewing study materials help students prepare for the next class. They will not be surprised when teachers start teaching a new lesson if they are already aware of it. In addition, it will also help the entire process. Students can directly ask the questions they are struggling with and learn the language well. Pre-teaching is a great way to help ELLs.

9. Knowing students' cultural backgrounds

There are instances where teachers end up disrespecting a culture or country unknowingly. The reason here is they do not bother to ask students about their culture. English language classes have students visiting from various countries, and it is crucial to know about their cultural backgrounds. If teachers end up saying things about a specific culture or country, it might make students act differently in class. That will not help them learn things well. You need to understand where your students are coming from and choose your words carefully.

10. Don't make a kid speak about their culture

Making students feel included in class does not mean that teachers ask one kid from a foreign country to speak about the culture. Kids often make mistakes while speaking about their culture. Teachers are therefore asked not to force anyone to speak how their culture is different from others. Instead, make them comfortable with the culture they are trying to adapt. It will ease the learning process.

11. Make them build courage

Adapting to changes is a difficult thing for all. Many students are not brave enough to speak and explain themselves in English. A teacher must take up the responsibility to help students understand how to take risks and put a step forward to fight all odds and learn a language well. At times, the other students make it awkward when they end up saying the wrong word. You can lighten the mood by adding some humor to it and involving students who made the mistake.

12. Take them seriously

Teachers are expected to take each student seriously. Often teachers ignore students who come to learn English. It will hamper the entire process and make things worse for both teachers and students. Further, there are cases where students fail to communicate properly, and teachers often miss the main message. Lack of fluency should not make teachers take things lightly. Instead, it is crucial to understand what they are trying to say and help them learn the language properly. 

Final thoughts

English is undeniably, considered a universal language around the world and learning the language is crucial for all. The institutions must take the right steps to help ELLs in mainstream education. The ones mentioned above are effective ways to help learners overcome the odds and be ahead in the competition. Both teachers and students must help each other to ensure a smooth learning process.

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