7 Tips for Teaching a Foreign Language

What you’re about to read are 7 of the best tips I’ve heard from other teachers on how to teach a new language. For these 7 tips, I can’t provide any evidence that they’re the most effective methods for teaching a foreign language, but what I can say is that they’ve worked well for students.

Be Open to Flexibility

If your students aren’t learning, then you’re not teaching them effectively. And the same goes for this same if I’m the student and I’m not learning, then you’re not teaching me effectively. For both parties, try opening up to new techniques.

Go Way Back to Basics

Some people will say that once you start teaching, you should leave no stone unturned. Who knows what a student has already learned in each lesson? Well, it’s important to get back to the basics. I started this article in an ESL class where the teacher was trying to teach the students English names for animals.

As we went along, the teacher kept repeating one of these words: horse. But the kids kept getting it wrong. We know horse, we say “horse.” Then I asked the students what they call a horse in their language, and all they could say was suka. It’s a useless term in English.

What went wrong? I believe that the teacher taught animal names for an entire lesson without starting with any basics. The students were so busy learning new vocabulary that they were unable to understand what they were supposed to be learning at all.

Prepare the Students to Learn New Vocabulary

You can introduce new vocabulary in a gradual way. Start with a few tasks like building sentences, explaining what’s going on in a movie, or playing games that involve guessing which images relate to each other.

For this type of lesson, you need your students to be attentive and eager learners. Do you know how this is done? Each time you say something related to the material being taught, ask the students for feedback. This gives them a feeling that they’re right there with you, and you can gauge how much they understand.

Use Picture Books as a Fun Way to Learn New Vocabulary

Picture books are wonderful for getting students interested in learning new vocabulary. These books are multi-sensory, meaning they provide visual, auditory, and tactile access points for the student to understand what’s being taught.

Children’s films and TV shows are wonderful for this as well. They’re on television constantly, so you can find them on YouTube, Netflix, or cable access.

Use Fluency-Building Activities to Get Students Talking in the New Language

The best way to teach a foreign language is to get your students to speak the new language fluently and naturally. This is done by using activities and games that present fun opportunities for them to use their new vocabulary in natural conversations.

If you’ve never done this before, it may seem easy, but it’s difficult to make your students do it correctly. If they’re not speaking in the new language naturally, they’ll feel like they’re just repeating the words you taught them. So be sure to have many opportunities for them to practice speaking fluently in the new language.

Use Gamification to Foster Motivation

Students need the motivation to try new things. This is especially true for a language class. If they don’t like the subject material, they’ll give up on it very easily when the time comes. Teach them to have fun by using “gamification.” You can use games like Catan or Pictionary to get them talking. You can even give them their very own language account if you go that route.

Practice Reviewing the New Language

Managing student motivation can be a real challenge. So what if you’ve already taught them new grammar rules, new vocabulary, and new structures? The more these things are practiced, reviewed, and recapped, the better they will be committed to memory. Taking this extra time will greatly improve their fluency overall.

These 7 tips can help you get started with teaching a foreign language. Remember that every student is different.