Learning Spanish will encourage your ESL students to learn English

The first 5 articles in this series contained a lot of information on making your Spanish-speaking students feel comfortable the last two have been designed to help them step out of their comfort zone.

As we approach the last few articles in this series, I thought it would be a good idea to check in with you again.

  • How are you doing with this series?
  • Do you have questions?
  • Is this the information you were looking for?
  • Is it the right amount of information?

Please reply with your comments so I can continue to make this series great for future readers!

Today’s article is not geared towards your students so much as it is geared towards your own personal development, but the side effect will absolutely have a positive impact on your students too.

If you are not already fluent in Spanish, as an ESL professional I strongly encourage you to learn how to speak Spanish. This is counterintuitive to what many in our field believe.

Language Acquisition vs. Language Learning

Most schools and organizations have requirements that their teachers have degrees in English or TESOL/TEFL type certificates. These are great, and I appreciate the education and experience that these types of programs give. But I think they focus too much on English as a subject matter and not enough on 2nd language acquisition.

At The Language School, I have found that my best instructors have been Spanish majors and have lived abroad. I was a Spanish major and have never pursued a TESOL certificate, but now I run one of the most successful private English as a Second Language schools in Denver.

The teachers that I have had with English and TESOL focused degrees have not been as effective at encouraging our students to become fluent in English. They tend to be more focused on teaching grammar rules than holding a conversation with students. The delivery is more mechanical and less natural.

I want to be careful here and point out that they have been great instructors and I have a couple on board today that come from the TESOL background. But the feedback the students give me always favors my Spanish majors, not my ESL majors.

There are many reasons why this may be the case, but I have boiled it down to a few that I think are the most relevant for today’s article. By learning a second language and living in another country, you experience first-hand things like culture shock and language acquisition. This gives you a better idea of how to teach a second language, not how to teach your first language. This experience also allows you to develop cultural empathy for your students and you can better relate to the experience they are going through.

In my own personal experience of learning and teaching languages, I have found that learning to navigate the culture is equally as important as the language itself, and you can only get this by doing it. Flipping it around, if you are teaching someone a second language and you have been through the process yourself, then you naturally know this. It is something that is taught in TESOL programs all over the world, but it is not something that can be learned unless you have experienced it first hand.

A final reason why I want to encourage you to learn how to speak a new language is that if your students know that you have learned how to speak a new language, it will inspire them to do the same. They will feel comfort in knowing that it is possible. And you will be able to draw on your personal experiences, both the good ones and the embarrassing ones! I can’t tell you how many times one of my students have commented that because I was able to speak to them in their first language, they felt inspired to reciprocate and speak to me in my first language.

So the takeaway from today’s article should be to go out and study a second language yourself. I think if you are teaching ESL in the US, Spanish will benefit you and your students the most.

Studying Spanish will help you build rapport, communicate with, and teach the largest segment of ESL students in the US. According to the 2015 American FactFinder on the US Census Website, 20% of people living in Denver speak Spanish at home, and of those Spanish speakers, over 50,000 of them reported that they don’t speak English very well. Compare that to the next closest segment of languages spoken at home, only 1% of the population speaks Vietnamese and less than 4,000 claim that they don’t speak English.

Most major cities in the US have similar demographics. If you want to learn a language besides Spanish, then that’s great and I am sure you can use that to help a lot of ESL students too. But we can see from these numbers there is really no comparison to the usefulness of learning Spanish with any other language.

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David

My life mission is dedicated to helping people unlock their full potential through education, communication, and spiritual growth, which will have a positive impact on our world and strengthen our local communities. I'm a leader with over 5+ years in education management, supervision, and adult education administration. 15+ years of experience teaching Spanish and English to adults and children Since 2011 I have been the director of THE LANGUAGE SCHOOL, a Colorado-based school that teaches adults conversational Spanish and English (ESL) so students can finally speak the new language enabling them to become more competitive in the workforce. Because of this, our students are able to get high-quality jobs and employers can better retain their skilled workers in culturally diverse settings.

5116 Deephaven Ct, Denver, CO 80239

Phone: (720) 634-2589

Email: info@thelanguageschool.us

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