Category Archives: ESL

This is the category for English as a Second Language (ESL). This category is suitable for articles that are addressed to both teachers of ESL and to students of ESL. Related articles can be found in English, English Dialects and Slang, Speech Styles and World Languages.

How to Communicate with a Non Native English Speaker

Speak clearly and pronounce your words correctly. Exaggerated pronunciations will not help your listener and may cause more confusion. However, you may find that it helps to pronounce some words as the non-native speaker does. This will be especially true if the proper pronunciation is very different from the non-native pronunciation.

Recognize that people wrongly think that turning up the volume somehow creates instant understanding. Avoid this common mistake (however, do not speak too quietly).

Do not cover or hide your mouth because listeners will want to watch you as you pronounce your words. This helps them figure out what you are saying in many cases.

Do not use baby talk or incorrect English. This does not make you easier to understand. It will confuse your listener and may give the wrong impression about your own level of competence.

Avoid running words together ( Do-ya wanna eat-a-pizza?). One of the biggest challenges for listeners is knowing where one word ends and the next one begins. Give them a small pause between words if they seem to be struggling.

When possible, opt for simple words instead of ones that are complex. The more basic a word is, the better the chance is that it will be understood. (“Big” is a better choice than “enormous” for example. “Make” is a better choice than “manufacture.”) However, with a Romance language speaker (i.e. Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian), these ‘complex’ words can be useful as they are rooted in Latin.

Avoid verb phrases that sound very similar to non-native English speaker. “Look out” sounds very close to “look for.” Both are similar to “look out for.” Many times you can use another word in these cases. (Example: look out = be careful, look for = search for, look out for = watch for).

As much as possible, avoid using filler and colloquialisms (‘um…’, ‘like…’,’Yeah, totally.’) as non-native speakers, especially ones of lower proficiency levels, may get hung up on these thinking the filler language is vocabulary that they don’t possess. Colloquialisms are likely to be unknown as well, especially if they are not easy to find in the dictionary.

If asked to repeat something, first repeat it as you said it the first time. Then again. It could be that they simply didn’t hear you. If your listener still doesn’t understand, however, change a few key words in the sentence. It may be that they couldn’t understand one or two of the words. Also repeat the whole sentence and not just the last couple of words. It’s time consuming, but it helps prevent confusion.

Consider the fact that your dialect may not be what the other person has learned in school. For example, most non-Americans expect the second t in the word “twenty” to be pronounced.

Paraphrase. if you happen to know a similar word to the word you are searching for then use it. As your knowledge of the foreign language builds this becomes even easier.

Avoid using contractions or short forms. Use long forms. “Can’t” is one word you must use the long form with. It is difficult for a non-native speaker to understand the difference between “can” and “can’t” in a sentence. For example, “I can’t take you on Friday” and “I can take you on Friday”. Use the long form, “cannot”. “I cannot take you on Friday”.

Decrease the use of words that fill your sentences. The idea is to remove the “noise” from your speech. Imagine trying to listen to the radio with two young children in the same room. They are playing and screaming. What is the result? “Family of…car…on vacation…in Arizona.” If your oral communication is filled with “um”, “like”, “you know”, or other fillers, comprehension is more difficult. “Right” is a word that commonly fills conversations. I prefer to use “Yes, that is correct”. A non-native speaker may not understand “right” and confuse it with its opposite, “left”.

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How to Become a Writer Using English if It’s Your Second Language

  • Think about why you want to write in English. Perhaps you think English is more popular and there are more chances for your books to become a best seller, or perhaps you have problems writing in your first language. Whatever your reasons are, if you have made up your mind that you want to write your novels, books, facts, fictions or any article in the English language, then there is nothing to worry about because a language becomes yours if you fully master the language.

  • Examine your current skill by doing a simple test on the internet. Search on the Internet for English literacy tests and choose one which suits your style. If you are living in country where people speak English then you must have an idea how good your English is, give yourself marks out of ten by judging your own skill in conversations and discussions. Once you have found out on which level your English stands, then find the root of your weaknesses in parts of speech such as grammar, spelling mistakes, vocabulary and most of all your style of writing. Writing mostly depends on your talent as a writer so you can easily improve your mechanics.
  • Make a list of things that you need to improve on. For example, if you need to improve your grammar then work out the best way to improve it. If you don’t have time to join a class in your area or there is no course for your grammar needs then purchase some good English grammar books from the nearest bookshops. If you are in a condition that you can not afford to buy books then you can use the library. Also get the new editions of the Oxford English Dictionary and a thesaurus.
  • Make a habit to learn five new words every day using the dictionary and thesaurus. Write them in sentences using the grammar you are learning, this way you will learn the right usage of your new vocabulary. At first you might not notice your improvement but by doing this you can put new words in use and soon you will be able to see the difference.

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How to Become an Advanced English Speaker

  • Read English constantly, whether it is books like Harry Potter or non-fiction, scholarly works.
  • Watch English television, such as news programmes (e.g. BBC Worlds can be viewed in many parts of the world). While watching shows with words that you may not understand, while using a notebook and pen, write the word down (how you think it is spelt) and then find its correct spelling and find out what the word means.
  • Do not have subtitles when watching tv series or movies.
  • Read aloud in order to build both your written and spoken vocabulary.
  • Practice writing a lot. Essays, article contributions, blogging, etc.
  • Communicate as much as possible in English.

  • Make use of the dictionary or thesaurus.
  • Be relaxed and confident when speaking English.
  • Build English vocabulary at the appropriate level; otherwise you will remain an average English speaker.
  • Always listen in ELA class (English Language Arts) to improve your speaking skills.

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How to Become an ESOL Teacher

  • Many people find themselves overseas and encounter “You speak English, you teach English” opportunities. A lot of professional TESOLers began their careers and learned of their innate passion via unexpected opportunities such as these. However, in the long term, to have a true career in this field, a degree is what opens doors and establishes you.

  • Bachelor’s degrees in TESOL or TEFL are rare. A master’s degree is more common. Many ESOL/EFL teachers have bachelor’s degrees in related fields, such as education, language studies, or international relations, and then specialize in TESOL/TEFL as graduate students. Some U.S. states offer add-on TESOL certificates to education degrees at the bachelor’s level, but these are not specialist certificates, rather they are awarded to teachers of other disciplines who have learned strategies for including English Language Learners (ELL’s) in their instructional approaches.
  • Some companies offer TESOL/TEFL certificates and on-line training. These companies do not deliver the same quality of education as degree programs associated with accredited universities.
  • An effective way to learn more about potential studies and jobs in the TESOL/TEFL field is to visit, the website for TESOL International, the largest non-profit organization in the field. Further, each U.S. state and most foreign countries have TESOL affiliate organizations.


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How to Choose a School in Japan to Teach English

  • Consider accommodations. Large ESL schools usually have accommodations for you. Generally they pay the key money and will handle communications with your landlord if anything breaks. Often they will rent several units in one apartment house, so you’ll have friendly faces just two doors down. Smaller schools sometimes don’t offer accommodations because they prefer to hire from within Japan. Less risk and they simply don’t want to fork out the key money. So you would have to find your own accommodations in Japan. No easy feat!

  • Think about curricula. Large ESL schools often won’t have any flexibility in their curriculum. You will teach what you’re told to teach. However,smaller ESL schools will often be more flexible with their curriculum (if they even have one). This can give you the chance to experiment with new ESL games, activities and texts.
  • Consider the teaching atmosphere. Large ESL schools tend to see their teachers as expendable. With their massive recruiting budget and connections, they can replace teachers in the blink of an eye. This results in a colder atmosphere and causes faster turnover in the staff, and long-term bonds never get made. However smaller ESL schools tend to treat the teacher as a part of their team and may value your opinions and input on various school functions. They also allow you to hangout with students after class – this helps build relationships and adds to the entire experience.
  • Consider salary and other benefits. Large school salaries will all be in the 250,000 yen a month range. Your large chain schools usually give some kind of bonus -whether it is a free ticket back or a completion bonus. Generally the raises will be very small. Smaller ESL schools often give a bit more in the salary category simply because some of them are so far out in the country that it’s difficult to find teachers. Often it’s easier to get raises (or bigger raises) and other perks from smaller ESL schools than the larger ones. They don’t have such a well-oiled recruitment machine so it’s tough and a big pain for them to replace teachers.


  • Make sure you understand everything written in your school’s teaching contract before signing it. If you don’t know or understand something, be sure to ask!
  • Many teachers are easily intimidated by contracts or believe them to be the final word. The reality is that any contract is subservient to established labor laws. Labor laws are the final word. So even if you wind up signing yourself to a 46 hour 6 day a week contract it’s unenforceable because it is illegal.
  • It’s important to know your rights as a worker under Japanese labor laws. If you feel you’re being treated unfairly, you can contact General Union for representation (by joining the union) or contact the Labor Standards Office for help in your disputes.
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