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  1. How to Speak ESL:Communicating Clearly with ESL StudentsUniversity of California, Irvine ExtensionEnglish & Certificates for Internationals Next slide Previous slide

  2. Introduction While you’re working at ECI, you may be asked to talk to groups of ESL students. This could include giving Statement of Understanding or Intention Form talks, or perhaps giving instructions or explaining procedures during registration. It is extremely important for students to understand the information that you give them in these situations. However, this information does not always come through clearly and accurately. After all, many students’ English ability is at a low level. (That’s why they’re here!) Even students whose English is at a higher level overall may not have strong listening skills, and they will probably be unfamiliar with many features of casual, spoken English. The purpose of this presentation is to share tips about how to communicate understandably to an audience of ESL students, particularly those at lower levels. Next slide Previous slide

  3. Overview We’re going to look at: • Effective use of language •Vocabulary•Idioms and slang•Grammatical structures • Effective delivery •Volume, speed and pauses•Pronunciation •Body language•Helping students understand • Learning to think like a teacher • Giving instructions effectively • Checking for understanding Click on any of the titles above to jump to that topic. Next slide Previous slide

  4. Effective use of language First, you need to be aware of the language that you use. Vocabulary, idioms, grammar, pronunciation—these are things we don’t pay attention to most of the time. We don’t need to. They’re automatic. But as you talk to ESL students, you have a responsibility to use language that is as understandable as possible. The first step in doing this is to become aware of the way you speak. This awareness will help you adjust the language you use so you can be understood more easily. Let’s look at: • Vocabulary • Idioms and slang • Grammatical structures Next slide Previous slide

  5. Vocabulary Naturally, we want to use “easy” words that students are likely to understand. Sometimes it’s obvious which are the easier words— “big” is easier than “enormous”; “talkative” is easier than “loquacious.” But sometimes what’s easiest for you is not easy for students. Most students are more familiar with “textbook vocabulary”—the standard, somewhat formal words found in typical English books. They’ll be less familiar with words that are used mostly in casual speech, like “you guys” or “stuff.” Be careful of words that have multiple meanings. For example, “It’s hard” may seem simpler than “It’s difficult” because the word is shorter, but for an ESL student, “difficult” may be easier to understand because it’s not ambiguous. Next slide Previous slide


  6. Vocabulary Be careful of terms that are used in odd ways at ECI. Often new students are told to go “upstairs” to get from the ESL Office to the classrooms. This leads to some confusion when students see only one-story buildings around them. “Up the hill” may also be confusing if students don’t know which hill you’re talking about or how to get there. If you find yourself using these terms, make sure students understand what they mean; explain them if necessary. It’s helpful to write key vocabulary on the board. Spoken words are gone in a fraction of a second; written words stay put so students can take a good, long look, copy them down, and look them up in a dictionary if necessary. Next slide Previous slide

  7. Vocabulary Sometimes we can’t avoid using words that might be unfamiliar to students. When you need to use unfamiliar words, be aware of these and explain their meaning by paraphrasing and giving examples. For example, Statement of Understanding talks include a warning against plagiarism–definitely a “hard” word. But students will understand better if you write “plagiarism” on the board and explain that it means copying someone else’s work or copying words from a book or the Internet. You could illustrate further by acting–pretend to be someone copying from someone else’s paper or looking at a computer screen and then writing down the words. Next slide Previous slide

  8. Idioms and slang In the same way, avoid idioms and slang that are usually unfamiliar to ESL students. The meanings of many idioms are impossible to predict, even if a student knows each of the simple words that make them up. For example, if students hear “It’s a piece of cake,” they may imagine dessert rather than something that’s very easy. Similarly, students can’t guess the meaning of “It’s up to you” from the meanings of its parts. “You can decide” has a better chance of getting the idea across. Two-word verbs (get up, fill out, turn in, etc.) can also be hard to understand. Be aware of these and rephrase or demonstrate their meaning. “Give your paper to me” is easier to understand than “Turn in your paper.” Next slide Previous slide

  9. Grammatical structures Try to simplify the grammatical structures that you use. Avoid long or grammatically complex sentences. You should still use complete sentences; just make sure they fit the range of language most ESL students have learned. For example, “Now look at page 2” is very simple, but “Now, what I want you to do next is I want you to turn over the paper and look at the back side” is unnecessarily complicated. Think of this as “pruning” your speech. Gardeners prune out weaker, unnecessary branches to make a tree stronger: in the same way, you should cut out unnecessary words and tangled structures to make your speech simple and strong. (If you’d like guidance on which grammatical structures are the “trouble-makers,” feel free to ask any of the ESL teachers.) Next slide Previous slide

  10. Effective delivery Next, you need to think about how you deliver your message. The way you speak, the way you stand, even the way you write on the board–all these are very important in keeping students’ attention and making your message understandable. Let’s look at: • Volume, speed and pauses • Pronunciation • Body language • Helping students understand Next slide Previous slide

  11. Volume, speed and pauses Your voice can be a powerful communication tool. Learn to use it consciously and effectively. Slow down a bit, even if it seems unnatural at first. Speak more clearly than you would in ordinary conversation. Talk loudly enough to be heard easily, but don’t shout. Use pauses and variations in speed and intonation to make important points stand out. Pausing for a few seconds between important points helps listeners realize that you’re moving on to a new point. It also gives them a chance to “catch up” and process what they’ve heard. This is especially important for lower level students. Next slide Previous slide

  12. Pronunciation Most ESL students who are new to the U.S. are not used to typical, casual American pronunciation. Depending on where they learned English, they may not have heard much spoken English at all, or only the careful, slow speech in the recordings that went along with their textbooks. To help students understand what you’re saying, use more careful and distinct pronunciation than usual. It may feel unnatural to you, but it will help get your message through. Avoid using overly contracted forms. For example, “Whatcha doin’?” is much harder to understand than “What are you doing?” Next slide Previous slide

  13. Body language Your eyes and facial expression are also powerful communication tools. Strong eye contact helps keep students’ attention focused on you. Look at each person in the room for a few seconds at a time. Be sure you make contact with every student. Smile. Positive body language also helps keep students’ attention.Stand up straight, and don’t lean on the whiteboard or a chair. Be aware of the gestures you’re using. They should support your message, not detract from it. Your body language should convey confidence. Next slide Previous slide

  14. Help students understand. Spoken words tend to go in one ear and out the other. To help students catch your meaning, write key words and information on the whiteboard. If students really need to know and remember something, write it on the board, even if the information is also on a handout. Write neatly, preferably in printing. For ESL students whose native language doesn’t use the Roman alphabet, variations in handwriting can be hard to decipher. Arrange your notes logically on the board. Avoid using abbreviations that students may not be familiar with. It’s better to write out complete words, even if it takes longer. Use gestures, facial expressions, diagrams, and actions to support students’ understanding of what you’re telling them. Next slide Previous slide

  15. Think like a teacher. When you stand in front of a class, you’re not just a student anymore; you assume a role of authority. Here are some “teacher tips” to help you in that role. Get the attention of everyone in the class before you start talking. Think ahead of time about how you’ll get attention. What will you say? What will you do if students don’t immediately pay attention? It really pays to take a few extra seconds and get everyone to look at you before you start to talk. When you’re explaining important information, if you find yourself shouting to be heard over students’ talking, stop and get attention before you go on. It is not OK for students to talk while you’re explaining something important to them. Next slide Previous slide

  16. Give instructions effectively. Give instructions simply and clearly. Think ahead of time about what students need to do, and plan how you can explain this in easy steps. Give instructions one step at a time. Give students time to do one thing before you explain the next. Don’t assume that students already know what to do or that they can figure it out on their own. Nobody can read your mind. You need to tell them clearly and specifically what to do, even if it seems obvious to you. Next slide Previous slide

  17. Check for understanding. When you ask students if they have any questions, wait a long time for an answer. (Counting to ten is good.) Watch students’ faces for puzzled or blank looks. Even if they nod and say they understand, it doesn’t necessarily mean they do. Check their understanding by asking them questions about what you’ve said and by watching to make sure that they’re doing what they should. You may sometimes think, “Of course they know this. I just told them.” But the sad truth is that explaining something often doesn’t mean that the message got through. If students seem confused, repeat the main points patiently. Rephrase them more simply. If someone asks a question that you’ve just answered for someone else, don’t get upset. This happens every time, guaranteed. Just repeat the information patiently without making the student feel foolish. Next slide Previous slide

  18. Practice makes perfect. For practice… • Record yourself giving instructions or explanations and listen to the recording. How would it sound to you if you were an ESL student? • Ask a friend to be the audience for your practice presentation. It helps to have a second pair of ears. • To become more aware of the grammar and vocabulary that you use, record and transcribe your presentation. Share the recording or the transcription with an ESL teacher if you’d like comments or advice. Next slide Previous slide

  19. Thank you for your attention! Next slide Previous slide