4 challenges of teaching English to adults

4 challenges of teaching English to adults

Blog / Tips and tricks

We’re all here because we teach adult students. So, why not talk about their weaknesses which pose challenges to us as teachers? Here, we’ll be presenting four challenges of teaching English to adults.

1. One size doesn’t fit all

Every student has their unique learning style, a different attention span, and different interests. With this in mind, teachers need to work hard in order to meet their students’ needs and expectations.

Most adult students HATE textbooks, because textbooks scream ‘Do your homework, dum-dum! You have a test tomorrow!’, which brings back agonizing memories from school days. Adult students usually prefer authentic ESL materials . Here they can choose a topic of their interest, lesson duration, and decide whether they want to learn grammar or focus on new vocabulary and discussion.

2. The inelasticity of adult brain

A child’s brain is like sponge absorbing anything that comes its way. However, as we grow older, our brain gradually loses this ability. Therefore, the process of learning a language is significantly different for adults and children.

Adults won’t memorize a new word or a phrase after hearing it or reading it once. Not even twice or thrice. They will come a long way before they start using the word casually in speech. They will need to read it a couple of times, write it down, hear it, say it, and then the word is stored in their hard drive.

3. Requests and demands

Language learning is prooobably not their top priority, due to other things going on in their lives. So, they want to make the most of the time they spend in class. 

If they feel you’re wasting a minute of their time, they won’t be reluctant to leave. On the other hand, if you don’t manage to finish the lesson by the end of the class, they will think you aren’t well prepared and don’t manage the class time well, because it strikes them as unprofessional behavior. This is why english4tutors offers lessons in five different ‘sizes’ – 30 min, 45 min, 60 min, 75 min, and 90 min.

4. Feeling shy and insecure

Just like children, adults can be shy and lack confidence in speaking, too. However, it’s much worse for adults, because they are a lot more self-aware and can’t play the immaturity card unlike kids. Sometimes it’s hard to get them talking, because they don’t want to be perceived as stupid in case they make a grammar mistake or can’t remember ‘that (*snaps their fingers*) word’.

This is where the lesson materials come in. In order to unarm the student and release the tension, the teacher needs to engage them in interactive speaking activities in which both the teacher and the student will participate, like role plays or jeopardy. It’ll make the class more fun and take the pressure off the student.

Check out some of these activities and get ready to face the challenges of teaching English to adults!

About Tijana
About Tijana

Tijana is an ESL Teacher, Teacher Trainer, and ESL Content Creator with a decade-long working experience. She designed 600+ lesson plans. Tijana holds a B.A. in Applied Linguistics from UVic, an M.A. in Curriculum and Education from UBC, as well as a 120-hour TEFL certificate.

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