3.6 If Your First Language Is Not English
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Many class teachers in UK universities are post-graduate students who are themselves from overseas. Teaching in a foreign language can be a fantastic way of improving your English.
However it may also present a number of challenges too. Here are a few common sense reminders if this applies to you.
- Always face your students when you are talking to them so that they can also use your eye contact and body language to fully understand your meaning.
- In discussion, write down key terms and names when you are referring to them. You can do this on the white board or flipchart as you speak or include them in a brief handout and explicitly refer to them in class.
- Encourage your students to ask questions.
- Try to talk slowly and clearly so that students will have every opportunity to understand what you are saying.
- If your students ask you a question that you don't understand, you can:
- Ask the student to repeat or rephrase the question;
- Open up the question for the whole class to think about (e.g. "That's a good question can someone begin to help us answer it?");
- Attempt to rephrase the question yourself and answer it when you are sure you understand correctly.
If you experience problems with being understood, your institution may be able to provide voice or pronunciation training: check with your staff development department.
"I know my English isn't perfect, so when I met my class I said to them "you need to stop me if I talk too fast or my accent is too strong". We needed to sort out how they could stop me without feeling embarrassed - one of my groups actually wave at me if I lose them!"