ESL teaching traps and challenges

ESL teaching traps and challenges

Blog / Tips and tricks

As much as it can be rewarding, ESL teaching also comes with a number of challenges. Working as an ESL teacher, I can tell you I’ve been through embarrassing moments, frustrating experiences, and even times when I thought it just wasn’t the right career choice for me.

I’m going to share those I think most teachers would agree are the most common.

Accents…we all have them

No matter what your student’s native language is, there’s always the issue of accents. Native English teachers tend to forget that not everyone speaks English the same way they do. For example, teaching Korean students has taught me to listen more closely, and sort of prepare myself for what I’m about to hear. It took me months to get used to their accent and catch those pronunciation features most Korean speakers have in common, such as swapping Ls and Rs. You can imagine my shock when one of my students told me they eat LICE for dinner. But I’m pretty sure I butchered his name more times than I care to admit. However, we both persevered, and he eventually got the hang of the English language.

Using slang while teaching? Not a great idea

All humans naturally use slang in their everyday communication without being aware of it. But when you’re an ESL teacher, you should be careful about the words and phrases you use. I remember once I used the phrase “a walk in the park” to describe an exercise that was extremely easy, and my student looked at me as if I was having a stroke and started babbling nonsense. Turns out, the phrase doesn’t translate well into other languages. Perhaps, I should have said ‘easy peasy lemon squeezy’ instead.

Some plants need more light, some more water

Another trap of ESL teaching is assuming that your students are all at the same level or learn in the same way, so you apply the same approach to all your students and classes. 

Each student has their own unique learning style. Some students are visual learners, while others are more of an auditory type. Some prefer to stick their heads in the books and read and write, whereas others can’t learn new things without the hands-on approach. Therefore, english4tutors ESL lesson plans consist of many different types of activities that can accommodate each student’s learning styles and preferences.

You gotta be creative and resourceful

The forever-ongoing issue is keeping your students engaged, because, let’s face it, learning a new language can be as exciting as watching paint dry. So, how do you keep your students engaged and motivated? Well, why not give it a try with games and fun speaking activities our ESL lesson plans have to offer? 

All in all, ESL teaching is like walking through a minefield with a blindfold on. But to be  fair, it’s not all doom and gloom. It’s also incredibly rewarding. When your students start to finally grasp the language, it makes all the traps and difficulties worth it. 
So, if you’re just starting as an ESL teacher, remember to bring your patience and sense of humor along for the ride (being armed with some nice ESL lesson plans wouldn’t hurt either). With the right attitude, you can have a blast while helping your students learn a valuable skill. What’s more, you can use the opportunity to pick up some useful phrases in your student’s native language. They will feel flattered, trust me.

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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