I recently immigrated to Los Angeles from Paris, where I was an English teacher. I grew up in Montreal, where I attended a French high school and an English speaking college. When I moved to Paris at the end of college, I quite naturally became an English teacher because I had been tutoring different subjects for a few years and had a strong command of the language.
My teaching skills and philosophy about language instruction matured while taking beginning Spanish in Paris. I was fortunate to have had a great teacher, who in less than one year took us from speaking a single word (nada!) of Spanish to being able to read and understand most of a regular newspaper article.
I have since tried to emulate his methods:
Keeping the students interested. One of the great things about languages is that we can use absolutely anything and everything that interests the student as an opportunity to teach. Song lyrics are a great example.
Maintaining a balance between speaking, reading, listening and writing skills as these all reinforce each other. Too many times I have seen students who could read and listen to English, yet were unable to speak or write, often because the idea of making mistakes stopped them from trying.
Teaching grammar in context. We remember what we use.
Regularity of effort yields results. Practicing a language on a daily basis is key. Whether it is reading something, listening to the radio, watching a television show or writing a postcard, or preferably alternating all of those. Although it is the same amount of time, practicing for twenty minutes six times a week is better than practicing for two hours once a week.
Simply be encouraging. It goes a long way.
I also volunteered as a coach for children in a not for profit rock climbing club in Paris for three years. The club was in a poor part of town and the fees, even though they were small, could be prohibitive for people of modest means. After two years of lobbying, I got the club to waive the fees for children.
I have worked extensively with children who had different health related disabilities: hearing problems, dyslexia, Down syndrome, slight mental retardation, because I can handle it. What they need from a teacher is patience, and I have lots of it.
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