10 Tips and Tricks for Teaching English as a Second Language

Sean Hopwood
In this post, you’ll learn some of the best tips for teaching the English language

Teaching English as a second language is a task that is often easier said than done. Even for an experienced teacher, successfully leading your first ESL class can be challenging.

However, teaching ESL, at its core, is the same as teaching fluent students because you still need to apply basic classroom principles. Your lessons need to be structured to cater to an array of learning needs too. But you’ll also face some unique challenges when working with English language learners.
Teaching language skills while compensating for different cultures, learning styles, and educational backgrounds, all while trying to break through language barriers, can take some getting used to. But with the right tips and tricks up your sleeve, teaching your students the English language can be an extremely rewarding experience.

Let’s take a look at some essential language skills and teaching tips every ESL teacher should use to achieve success in their endeavors! How to be a Pro at Teaching English as Second Language:

1. Ensure you’re backed up by proper qualifications

Although you might be fluent in the English language, that doesn’t mean you’re qualified to teach others. Anyone serious about teaching English as a second language should obtain a bachelor’s degree (in any subject) and complete a 120-hour TEFL certification course. Whether you choose to do your TEFL certification or master’s in TESOL online or at a physical college is up to you. After you’ve been certified, you’ll receive the resources you need to apply for teaching positions and set off on your new career, whether that’s in your home country or abroad.

2. Keep things simple

Native English speakers might not think that adding a few extra words to a sentence can cause confusion. But from the perspective of a foreign language learner with limited English proficiency, there’s a major difference between “put your book on the shelf” and “would you mind placing your book back on the bookshelf?” Whenever teaching a new language to beginners, try to use the simplest of sentences with plain vocabulary, and speak slowly. You can gradually introduce new English words once your students have the building blocks in place that will ensure they understand the basics of the English language.

3. Visuals are your friends. Use them often

Visuals can be words on desks, handouts, and even drawings. Regardless of whether you’re teaching kids or adults, visuals can help your students better relate to physical objects, which speeds up the process of picking up on words outside of their native language. A pictorial wall is also a great way to help expand the vocabulary of your students, and every great teacher knows this. You can also give your students time to watch movies in the English language, perhaps they could be subtitled to encourage active participation in the activity. In the ESL class, the old saying that a picture speaks a thousand words couldn’t be closer to the truth.

4. Bring the fun back

Language learning can feel bland and boring if you’re going at it in black and white for hours on end. And this is the last thing you want your learners to experience, which is why you need to find fun ways of sprucing up each lesson with interesting verbal and written instructions. Perhaps incorporating the interests of your students into the lessons helps them engage and broadens their understanding of the topic. Separating the class into teams that compete against each other is also a fun way to encourage students and ensure you’re adding an element of excitement to the learning process. And when learners are excited and interested in the subject, they find it easier to relate to the new language, which makes bridging the language barrier easier.

5. Become a master of lesson planning

All the best teachers know that lesson planning is the foundation of teaching success. Your students are unpredictable, and winging it is never an acceptable thing to do in the classroom. What you need is enough worksheets for the entire class and lesson time that’s gracious enough to cover the lessons you have planned for the day. But you also need a backup plan for when an activity isn’t working as well as you planned it would. How will you introduce new topics of language to the class? When are your students to move on with the syllabus? Which aspects of the syllabus need to be revisited? All this needs to form part of your lesson planning.

6. Respect cultural differences

If you’re teaching English as a non-native language in a foreign country, you’ll most probably face cultural differences. As a teacher, it’s your responsibility to gently shift a student’s mindset to work with your teaching methods. Certain cultural norms, like dress code and aspects of non-verbal communication, must be respected. Still, the first step to understanding and ultimately overcoming these cultural barriers is bonding with your students in a supportive environment and making them feel comfortable around you. This creates a positive learning environment where you can establish boundaries and set expectations for your English learners.

7. Use tech for teaching English language learners

Just like the rest of the world, teaching methods are continually evolving. Translation technology and tools like Google Translate are becoming more prevalent in multilingual classrooms. Chalk and a blackboard have almost completely disappeared in classrooms of the digital era, and the use of technology and digital tools isn’t just optional anymore; it’s almost vital. From using video clips to language apps and music in your classroom, there are many ways in which you can harness the power of technology in language learning. But remember, all English language learners might not have access to a smartphone or tablet, so make sure the technology you plan on implementing in your lessons is accessible to everyone in the classroom.

8. Help your English language learners set goals

A great way to keep language learners motivated is with short- and long-term goals. Whether the goal is to read an English novel by the end of the year or acing an exam on English language skills, you need to encourage all your students to set targets for themselves to help them keep track of their progress. Once you’re aware of their goals, it can also help you create appropriate activities and lessons centered around their goals, making the learning process more exciting and engaging for your students.

9. Map out a timeline for your foreign language course

Right from the start through to the final lesson, you need to set a clear completion timeline for your English classes. This helps you (and your students) stay on top of the objectives at hand. You can also use checkpoints throughout your timeline to evaluate the progress your students made and assess whether they’ll reach their next goal in time. This will help ensure you’re meeting the needs of your students with your lessons and that they are making progress in their English learning journey.

10. Include interactive activities to promote language skills

A great way for an English teacher to boost language acquisition and the confidence levels of their students is through interactive activities. Group work and interactive activities help students practice their new vocabulary and polish their verbal communication skills. And since it’s a social activity, it can also help inhibited learners come alive in the classroom environment.

Wrapping up

Teaching English as a second language might seem like a daunting task and can be a little more challenging than the average teaching job, but it’s one of the most rewarding teaching roles out there. This is so much more than a career. It’s a meaningful endeavor that gives back and helps bring the world closer together, one word at a time. Each teacher might have their own style, but the ten tips we’ve highlighted in this post should help you foster stronger relationships with your students and equip you to set them up for language learning success.

Written by Sean Hopwood for EnglishClub.com
Sean is a language polyglot that can speak 7 languages with varying levels of fluency. He is the President of Day Translations, a global translation and interpreting services company. He also founded Day Interpreting, an over-the-phone interpreting services provider.
© EnglishClub.com


  • Ester Safiel says:

    This tips its very useful and very importat, so how can i get nots for english cause?

  • Mohamed says:

    I found your tips very useful for my colleagues and me being working as supervisors of English. They are initiatives to be built upon for the benefit of our students. Thank you so much

Leave a comment