Travel, Teach, Live in China

How to Teach English to Seniors in China
By:Flora Richards-Gustafson

Teaching English to seniors in China is an adventure in many ways: you're in a new country surrounded by a new language, customs and students who aren't in grade school. When seniors in China want to learn English, it's usually because of a few different situations: they want to visit an English-speaking country; they want to pick up a new skill for their business, such as a tourist industry; and they want to take on a new hobby.

Before You Begin

1

Measure the senior students' level of fluency. Your students may already know how to speak some English and may feel it's a waste of time to start from square one if they are already familiar with the material being covered.

2

Understand your senior students' needs. Find out why they want to learn English. Knowing this information can help you plan your lessons around your students' goals and prepare the proper take-home materials.

3

Let your students know they can succeed at learning English and don't let age be an excuse or barrier to learning. Celebrate small achievements and thank your students for her participation. A senior student will be more willing to learn English if she has self-confidence.

Don't Mix Vocabulary and Grammar

1

Start your English lessons by building up English vocabulary skills. This can be done with the help of visual aids like flash cards and magazines.

2

Gradually introduce salutations. Adults learning English want to at least know how to greet someone who speaks a different language. Work on different greetings and responses in every lesson.

3

Incorporate songs and familiarity in to lessons. Many adults learn quickly through the use of patterns found in songs and will often listen to the music and lyrics as background music when they are not in class. If there is a traditional Chinese song that has been translated into English or has had lyrics added to it, the English words in the song may be easier for the senior to remember.

Build Grammar Skills Slowly

1

English grammar is one of the most frustrating things for a Chinese adult to learn. Go slowly and remind your student that it's going to take time and a lot of practice.

2

Encourage your senior students to speak in English all the time---even if they make mistakes. Many adults feel self-conscious about sounding silly, but one of the best ways to learn is by making mistakes.

3

Use videos and books. Use movies the senior student is familiar with and have them watch it in English with Chinese subtitles. Encourage your student to read as well. Many ESL books for adults are adapted versions of traditional Chinese stories that are printed in English and Chinese. Seeing and hearing English grammar will help the senior student understand it easier.

If helpful, have your Chinese student use a puppet when practicing English, so the prop is making the mistakes, not the student.


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