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Teaching Multilingual ESL Classes in Canada

Teaching English immersion in Canada provides a great opportunity to learn how to teach English to people from all over the world. When I taught English in Toronto, most of my ESL students were from South Korea, Japan, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Turkey, or Saudi Arabia, so there is a wide spectrum of language interferences and accents that will challenge even the most experienced ESL teacher. This challenge also presents a great opportunity for ESL teachers to search deeper into the TESOL methodology. This blog will show you how to overcome some of the most common challenges you will encounter teaching English in Canada, including pronunciation issues and boring ESL textbooks.

About the Author: Clare Linton completed the Advanced 120-hour TESOL Certificate with OnTESOL and the 20-hour Practicum at a language school in Toronto. OnTESOL offers TESL Canada and TESL Ontario-approved online TESOL certification courses. Got questions? Request a callback (USA / Canada)

5 Tips for Teaching Pronunciation in Multilingual Classes

1- Introduce a multilingual class to the phonemic chart one phoneme at a time. Every morning, present one word spelled in its regular form and in its phonemic form. Try to choose words that were discussed the previous day that students struggled to pronounce or words that are meaningful to them, such as their name or hometown. Do drills as a warm-up and give sample sentences. Show the word stress and where it exists in this word. Eventually have students create their own sentences as a team race or at the end of the week have students create a group story using all the words taught throughout the week and have them each present a part of the story to the class.

2- Keep accurate notes on certain problems each student faces and give them different techniques for dealing with their particular challenges as weekly homework.

3- Sometimes, it’s possible to adopt a general approach and include specific practice in general exercises. For example, if you have one student who has problems with the sh and ch sounds then create a general activity involving sh and ch sounds which include practice with these nouns as well as other nouns related practice. The whole class can participate and learn from it. In this way, you are helping the student or group of students with his/her/their specific problem.

4- Encourage group work among different nationalities as well as a variety of different types of communicative activities such as role-plays, information-gap exercises, and Q&A sessions. Students learn from each other and will even correct each other’s mistakes. They are also more likely to absorb their fellow peer’s corrections more than their teacher’s, who is frequently correcting mistakes. This takes you off the hook! Never assume that because most of the students understand a certain point that all students do. Check that everyone in the class understands by asking concept questions.

5- Have students do a presentation on a particular topic and be sure to listen for the particular pronunciation errors from students from each nationality group. Give feedback to every group. This kind of feedback helps students to be patient with each other’s linguistic limitations, as they learn that while the challenges may not be the same for each group, each group has its own challenges.

Using Authentic Material in Multilingual ESL Classes

There are ESL textbooks that will cover the learning objectives, but most ESL immersion students in Canada are young and want to have fun living as tourists. Young students hate the textbook (and especially how expensive they are), so some Canadian ESL schools use their own materials or require teachers to plan each lesson.

I always used authentic material that related to the students’ areas of professional and academic specializations, and my purpose for selecting them was to show the students that they had come far enough in their study of English to begin to use the language to communicate about their areas of specialization.

For vocabulary lessons, working with a newspaper’s online slide show and comprising photos with captions of 50 words or less was an excellent confidence-building exercise. The students were able to guess the meanings conveyed by the captions even when they didn’t know all the worlds.

Using such authentic materials also offered opportunities to review grammatical structures. For example, one business article looked towards the future and the sorts of problems the technology “could” alleviate or “might” solve, offering a good opportunity to review modals that express degrees of certainty and making recommendations. Honing in on this grammatical point, I asked the students to find the modals and identify their function. In this way, I built on his earlier study of grammar, showing how it was relevant to communicating about his area of specialization.

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The Classroom Outside the ESL Classroom

Teaching Multilevel ESL classes in CanadaOne of the obvious advantages of studying abroad is immersion, yet many students struggle to take advantage of the English environment in order to speed their learning.  Integrating ESL lesson plans with daily life so as to make this connection explicit can be helpful in nudging students toward seeking out more opportunities to practice outside the classroom.

For this reason, it is worth investing time into lessons that teach students the skills they need to cope with their interactions with Canadians. In one school that I worked at, a class called ‘Real Speaking’ was perennially full because it emphasized the elements of the language that textbooks typically overlook: How to understand and use English idioms and slang; how to overcome your fear of speaking in public; and, how to cope with challenging reading and listening materials aimed at ‘native speakers’.

I often use classroom tasks and homework assignments that require students to interact with people and text in the urban environment. Participating in lessons organized around that enigmatic notion of ‘Canadian culture’, my students have interviewed Canadians, visited cultural institutions, and familiarized themselves with current issues in Canadian news.

I highly recommend a trip to one of many free art galleries that can be found in any city. Where you`ll find friendly staff who will jump at the chance to offer a free, private tour to your students. Doing some basic research beforehand will allow you to prepare your students to make the most of the visit, discuss art and the themes of the show. Teach students how to express their opinions in speaking and writing, and introduce some of the vocabularies they will need in order to react thoughtfully to the art they will see.

Similarly, community centers, cultural centers, and even businesses are places around which you can deliver a unit of study that will end with a memorable interactive outing. Also, be prepared to provide recommendations to students who want to get involved in social activities and meet Canadians. It`s good to have low-cost options that allow students to interact with Canadians and practice their English at hand. Websites like meetup.com facilitate various social outings from language exchanges and sports activities to photography and film clubs, and local newspapers contain listings of cultural events like festivals.

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