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Teaching English to University Students and Adult Learners in Turkey

  • 4 min read
  • Turkey

Turkish society is going through a period of great transition and the population is experiencing many upheavals.

Among these issues is an awareness of the increased opportunities available to those with a decent command of the English language.

Consequently, there is a large demand for English teachers in universities and large companies.

In this article, I will explain the core strategies and approaches to use when teaching English in Turkey to university students and adult learners.

Teaching University Students

There are many TESOL jobs in Turkish universities, as the language of instruction is English in most universities. With the lack of focus on foreign language education in high schools, there are inevitably a large number of students needing to improve their English before commencing their freshman year studies.

This results in what is known as the ‘hazirlik’ system (‘preparation’ year). Most universities have such a preparatory program and such jobs are desirable as they tend to fit into a Monday to Friday, nine to five schedule as well as they are reasonably well paid.

As far as teaching is concerned, knowledge of academic English is an advantage. Also, you will need to focus on writing a lot.

Areas to focus on are expressing cause and effect relationships, making comparisons and contrasts, writing definitions, and describing scientific processes.

There is also a great need for reading and listening skills, so strategy training is important, i.e. how to skim a text for general meaning, or how to recognize main ideas and supporting examples in a lecture.

University jobs can be split into two groups. Those at state universities and those at private institutions. The recommended teaching approach will vary according to the type of institution. State universities are attended by high achievers who have received scholarships.

Therefore, they tend to be highly motivated. You can take a structured approach and can expect students to do quite a lot of work out in class, including standard activities such as gap-fill worksheets. Group work will go down well, as each member will take responsibility for their part of the task.

Private universities, in contrast, are attended by students paying fees and whose motivation may be lower. Such teaching is still enjoyable, although a different approach is required.

These students especially like learning with technology, so dictionary and grammar smartphone applications are popular learning tools, as well as video clips on Youtube that explain coursebook topics visually, and presentation software such as Prezi.

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Teaching Adult Learners

A large majority of job advertisements feature the words ‘Ingilizce bilen’ (knowing English) among their requirements for potential employees, so there is a constant need among adults for English lessons.

A lot of adult learners will have their courses paid for by their employers, with the expectation that they will pass and develop their language skills. Adults almost always take courses in language schools, meaning that teaching takes place often between the hours of seven and ten o’clock at night, or on weekends.

In many situations, the courses will revolve around one popular published coursebook or another. This goes against what most Turkish adults want, however, which tend to be specific language skills that will aid them in their careers.

A good approach with adult learners is to supplement textbooks with authentic material. Skills they will want to develop include asking questions and giving answers in meetings, giving presentations, and engaging in small talk with fellow professionals. When teaching grammar, do so in a way that you integrate these skills and offer lots of speaking practice!

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