English Language Students

How To Teach English

Lots of FacesEL or English Language Students are the ones learning English!

They come in all shapes and sizes and could be almost anyone. But here we’ll discuss very generally the kind of students you’re likely to find yourself teaching as a TEFL teacher around the world.

Who are EL Students?


You could find yourself teaching almost anyone. In my time teaching I’ve come across the following learning English:

  • refugees just arrived from a war-torn country
  • the sons of a Saudi prince
  • a footballer from Italy playing in the English premier league
  • a team of circus acrobats
  • homeless children who came for a lesson and some food
  • doctors and nurses
  • business people
  • a dentist specializing in gum disease
  • a South American beauty queen
  • kindergarten children

And although you could end up teaching anyone, the chances are that you will teach teenagers at some point. In fact, probably the biggest number of learners are teenagers in foreign countries who are learning in either a state school or a private school.

What do they Learn?

Well of course they are all learning English, but not just any old English.

The majority of learners are after General English which is a vague term which means they’ll be able to hold a conversation on a non-specialist subject; they’ll be able to follow a film or watch the news and so on.

But other groups will want more specialized English:

  • Business English – for those doing business abroad
  • English for Academic Purposes – for those going to study in an English speaking country
  • English for Tourism
  • Survival English – for those just arrived in an English speaking country

But you’ll find even more specialized courses. The footballer above needed specialized language to understand his teammates and the manager; doctors and nurses will require specialized knowledge and you may well end up having to teaching highly technical language in your classes.

But in the majority of cases you’ll be teaching General English and this will be heading towards an examination.

What Level are the Students?

All levels!

They could be from complete beginners without a single word of English to extremely advanced learners who perhaps need to perfect a specialized aspect of their English. Perhaps, for example, they are extremely competent speakers who rarely make a mistake but who would like to polish off their accent or perhaps be able to write specialized academic texts. Who knows?

English teachers talk informally about beginners, intermediate, and advanced students and you may well find yourself teaching any of these.

Where do they Learn?

Again, almost anywhere.

Most teaching is probably done in a small language school or a state school. However, you could find yourself teaching anywhere from a huge multi-media lecture theater in a university to the corner of a room in a rundown drop-in center for underprivileged kids.

Sometimes, of course, you’ll be teaching private lessons and these can be held either at your place, your student’s place or even in a public place like a cafe.


But this is what makes teaching English as a foreign language so wonderful.

You meet such a vast range of people of the years and every single student is different. You can teach young learners at a school in the morning, middle-aged housewives in their homes in the afternoon, and body-builders in the gym in the evening*

* a friend of mine actually had this combination one memorable month

But you do keep to roughly the same system to teach. You start with a good needs analysis where you work out what it is they need to know, then you give them what they want.

It’s as simple as that!

Useful Links

Needs Analysis‏‎ for TEFL – how to work out what you need to teach

General English‏‎ – what most students learn, certainly to begin with

TEFL Certification – learn how to teach English

How to Speak to English Language Students – how you should talk to your students learning English

Image © Zohar Manor-Abel

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