While VIPKid is still my main bread and butter, as I mentioned, I have had a few students outside of that. I edited an English language thesis and got my first adult student. Both of them from my colleague Despina. George was a great student. He’d lived in the UK so his English was super advanced and he wanted conversation. He was a welcome break from the VIPKid classroom that, though fun, is extremely tedious because you are staring at a computer for 6 to 7 hours per day. As George wanted classes in the middle of the day, VIP Kid took a backseat for an hour and a half twice a week.
The great thing about adult students is that you can take your lesson anywhere. George and I mostly met at my house, but sometimes he would meet at a café, and once I had a lesson while walking a dog.￼
I highly recommend, whenever possible taking your lessons outside the classroom. There’s a whole world to be able to teach a language. Walking a dog, for instance, can help you with the use of the imperative. Sit, stay, and wait I have found are much more impressive with a lower voice register. And dogs really do respond better to the male voice than the female one it seems. At least that was the case for me. And that is not a sexist observation it’s a question of decibels. Speaking English with a Dutch dog is always an amusement. I’m doing this as I write this blog post in fact because I happen to be dog sitting for my favorite black lab. Her name is Blue and she is a Dutch dog. Dutch is very similar to English in many ways. Sometimes it’s just a matter of the right pronunciation. But register still comes into play as Blue doesn’t listen as readily to me as she will to a voice with a lower register. Of course, if she sees another dog, she listens to no one, lower register or not.
Going to To a café can also be a really good place to teach what is called in the industry functional language. In fact, when I have private students that’s often how I structure my lessons. Functional language first. That is, the language that you need to use when out and about in a country. How to get yourself some food, how to get yourself a bed, how to function in a clothing shop, And how to ask for directions to a place. Of course, functional language could also backfire on you. Often when I try to speak Dutch, for instance, I get people speaking to me at their native speed and then I cannot listen to what they are saying, It proves to be very difficult. The same is true of any language.
Surprisingly going to a bar is also a good place for language acquisition. I find that the more people drink, the less afraid they are to use the language they have acquired. For a native speaker of that language, it’s a source of quiet amusement. Because the slightly tipsy are extremely amusing. As long as you, yourself are not tipsy also. As an English as a second language teacher I have found the secret to being a good teacher is never show that you’re inwardly giggling at something someone says. The trick is to subtly correct them without realizing that they’re being corrected. A good strategy is to repeat what they’ve said using the correct language. And then to use the same language in another sentence.
With the children I teach, repetition has been taken to another extreme. There are a couple of units in the VIPKid curriculum that are extremely repetitive. And keeping those interesting has proven a challenge. For example, I have a wonderful student who excels at reading. Her name is Apple. Yes, that’s right, folks, you heard me. Apple. Hey if Gwenyth Paltrow’s daughter can be named Apple, then why not a girl from Shanghai? I love Apple, but she has a tendency to want to read through things very quickly, and sometimes without taking a breath. In fact, sometimes it is very difficult to get her to stop reading. She reads everything from teacher focused questions to the text that I’m trying to get her to read and answer questions. Often, I have to tell her to stop and wait. We were working for the last month and a half on a unit about indoor and outdoor hobbies. It’s a very repetitive unit. It only highlights six or seven hobbies in either case. By lesson seven of 12 in that unit we were running out of things to say to answer the question “what’s your favorite Indoor/outdoor hobby?”. As a result, Apple would get quite cheeky with her answers. “Teacher, you know what my hobbies are. You’ve known for a week. Two weeks even.” And then she would turn the question on to me. Which was OK though it increased teacher talk time a bit. Still, it got Apple talking in the role of a teacher and that was all to the good. I was also able to get a little cheeky in my own answers. “Teacher, what’s your favorite indoor/outdoor hobby? Apple my indoor hobby is the same as yours. And my outdoor hobby? Well, I don’t have any it’s why am a little fat.” My self-deprecating humor, got apple to open up and laugh. It sometimes even got me a compliment but that wasn’t the main focus of the exercise it was to get her to use higher order words and adjectives like beautiful, pretty and the like. Then the lesson would segue into a lesson about adjectives and describing people.
As you have seen, different types of language blend into various lessons. There is a richness when teaching language both for the teacher and for the student. I get to learn new words as much as my students do. And English is quite a rich language to be able to do that. My teaching business starting to pick up and people are starting to discover me through my website.
I need to go and pay some attention to my black lab dog sitting charge. She’s looking at me with a very mournful look as if to say “Auntie Tina will you come to play with me?”. Want to hear more about some of my other students? Stay tuned, that’s up next.
That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But keep coming back as always, there is more to come.