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Ideas for teaching Russian adult with little to no English 
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Joined: Mon Mar 07, 2011 8:35 pm
Posts: 1
Post Ideas for teaching Russian adult with little to no English
Hi all, long time lurker, first time poster:

I recently acquired a private student who is a professional (doctor) adult. Her mother tongue is Russian, she counts German as her second language, and has never studied English.

So far, we have had 3 lessons together, each one with varying degrees of success. I have tried starting with personal pronouns and simple vocabulary, as well as introducing the to be verb. Even the most rudimentary grammar seems to be eluding her so far, and last week she had a bit of a melt down after another fruitless half an hour of me trying to explain possessives to her.
The problem of pronunciation seems to be particularly pronounced in her case, but she seems to have little problem with reading and understanding basic text.
Just about the only time I felt that she was enjoying the lesson was when we were reading together from a tourists phrase book that contained simple conversations.
So my question is: what kind of direction should I go in with this student? I am tempted to spend the next 2 or three lessons simply reading elementary pre-fabricated texts that I have written for us to read together. Slowly introducing new vocabulary and getting her used to listening and speaking basic English.[/b]

Mon Mar 07, 2011 9:13 pm
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 10:46 am
Posts: 2130
Location: Nagano, Japan
That's a tough situation and I face it quite a bit.

I have a lot of adult learners that can see the language and they have a good grasp of the meaning and maybe just have a couple vocabulary questions. However, they can't speak.

I give them the example of a piano lesson. I tell them that if they look at a score and can tell me the sounds, hum the tune, etc., that's good, but if they can't play the song on the piano, it really doesn't do much to just "know" the tune. Not in a piano lesson anyway. And the same goes for knowing English but not being able to speak.

I generally back them up into beginner textbooks and I tell them to think of the materials as drills and scales. They need to practice the basics via speaking, not just reading and understanding. I give them a lot of what I call "verbal homework". They have to try to do 3-4 speaking tasks at least twice a day, more if they can. They have to make sentences, make questions and answer the questions using what we've been practicing and hopefully some older materials as well.

My goal is to get them in the habit of speaking English every day or at least thinking about it a little bit every day. If they work on those basic skills and improve both competence and fluency, they should see progress and a general lift in speaking confidence.

Build up! Be positive! Teach hard!

Mon Mar 07, 2011 10:35 pm
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Site Admin

Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 10:46 am
Posts: 2130
Location: Nagano, Japan
Sorry, I forgot to say hello :P

Welcome to the forums! :smt006

Build up! Be positive! Teach hard!

Mon Mar 07, 2011 10:36 pm
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Joined: Fri Jan 28, 2011 1:33 am
Posts: 42
Location: Poland
I've got a similar problem with my adult students and I agree with you, Mark, that it's crucial to give them a lot of speaking tasks, to have them think in English every day.
One idea that I wanted to suggest is to teach adult students one proverb every lesson - I have come across this idea in The Standby Book edited by Seth Lindstromberg and the activity is called 'A Proverb a Day'. The idea is very simple: choose a proverb (especially with beginner students) or use a proverb suggested by your students. Make sure students understand the proverb (paraphrase it in English, translate it into your students' language, choose one that is easy to grasp). Help students say it properly (the rhythm is very important), ask them to write the proverb down and move on to another activity. During the lesson come back to it twice or three times. Revise it next lesson i different ways.
This activity turned out to be very useful to my students: they learn a complete text, that they may use in different situations. What's more I could see they were really satisfied and expected more proverbs.
Hope it's helpful for you, too.


Thu Mar 10, 2011 7:47 am
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