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How effective is TEFL?

Moderator: Tempo Gain

Re: How effective is TEFL?

Postby Gain » 09 Jun 2016, 08:39

Ermintrude wrote:I'm guessing you got the basics from schooling, though, however slow it was.

Yeah definitely, but I feel like it's really hard to go beyond the basics via schooling, unless it's like a school in Australia or the American School in Taipei.

That's pretty understandable though. It's impossible to achieve that when you're sharing limited resources with dozens of other people.
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Re: How effective is TEFL?

Postby Ermintrude » 09 Jun 2016, 09:07

Gain wrote:
Ermintrude wrote:I'm guessing you got the basics from schooling, though, however slow it was.

Yeah definitely, but I feel like it's really hard to go beyond the basics via schooling, unless it's like a school in Australia or the American School in Taipei.

That's pretty understandable though. It's impossible to achieve that when you're sharing limited resources with dozens of other people.

Yeah, basically. Same for maths, your L1, art, music, everything, really. Small class sizes are the key. Input and some kind of feedback on your production, such as your internet forum interaction.

However, it's not feasible across entire populations, so we do what we can and try and spark something that make the kids want to teach themselves beyond the intermediate level. If you have x00 hours, there's a limit to what you'll do in anything. Students at my place have 9hrs x22 weeks tuition. 95% of 'em do fine. Some of 'em go from high school English to confident, articulate, accurate users. Some learn fine but don't ever become articulate.

One of my engineering girls worked her balls off because she wanted a prestigious internship working on earthquake engineering projects in Haiti. She did her interview in English and French, having learned French for six months, and having had 6 months' post school EAP classes. She made it her business to build on the work she'd done in Chinese high school because she is engaged with the world. My role? I did a class on how engineering can provide cheap fixes and save lives. I put her in touch with my bud who manages the French program. I helped her deal with the lazy fcks in careers so they helped her find the internship. And I gave her 'permission' to get the highest grades in the class despite the commonly held view in China that girls aren't good engineers because they are emotional and not good at maths. And input. But only 60 hours, in my class.

And just to be clear, I don't favour these students over others. I actually prefer, personally, working with kids who think English is boring and it's kind of a waste of time.
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Re: How effective is TEFL?

Postby Tempo Gain » 09 Jun 2016, 13:05

Gain wrote: I joined an internet forum when I was in high school where the users were from all over the world, so naturally English was the only language being used. Then over the years my English improved quite a lot by posting crap and reading crap posted by others, and I started to be able to 'think' in English.

Cool. That's pretty impressive.

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Re: How effective is TEFL?

Postby ironlady » 09 Jun 2016, 20:33

In academic terms, that was "extensive reading" of language made comprehensible (through looking stuff up, through context, through following the discussions) and the language was very compelling to the learner (OP chose to participate in those fora and wanted to be able to -- there was a clear purpose beyond simply improving the language). That is the experience that most people who become very fluent have, underneath it all.

This was the way I managed to go from college-graduate level Chinese (not very impressive at all) to being able to function as an interpreter (still not very impressive but functional) -- seven years spent reading everything I could get my hands on. Being in the environment didn't help that much, especially for getting the kind of language I needed as an interpreter (which is why I can point to reading and be pretty sure that's where it came from -- nobody in Taiwan talks in the kind of language you need for interpreting, most of it is "That's NT$35, giving you $5 in change".)
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Re: How effective is TEFL?

Postby Abacus » 10 Jun 2016, 16:43

Gain wrote:This is more of a general question, not just about Taiwan, but virtually all places in which TEFL is a business.

I've had quite a few this kind of teachers growing up, mostly in the (public) schools I attended, and maybe a couple in cram schools/kindergarten when I was like 5, and for me I genuinely felt like it didn't really help improving my English proficiency, at least not substantially. I mean they were all really nice people (well except for one ... who's the nastiest bigot I've ever personally met in my life. He was basically wearing the biblebelt, talking shit about homosexuality all the time, and saying stupid crap like 'Lady Gaga and Angelina Jolie are total sluts' ... people like him are exactly the reason why religion is in such a drastic decline in the West), and many of them were really making an effort to teach, but I feel like most of the time they were like artists performing in front of a bunch of unresponsive pumpkins. :2cents:

Obviously you guys are at the opposite end of the table. I'm just curious, have you seen any truly brilliant progress from any of your students, Taiwanese or not, because of you, as a native English speaker, teaching them the language? Do you think it only works for a certain type of students? Or do you think the whole thing is just a fraud the cram schools came up with to make more profit, and the native English speakers are simply using it as an excuse to live abroad for a couple of years?

Going back to the OP a little.

Yes, I have seen excellent progress from many of my students during the 5 years that I have been teaching at the same school. Most of the students only stay 3-4 years but I have seen them go from learning ABC's to being comfortable in general conversation about things that are happening around them. I think the students enjoy classes but the reality is that most of them go because they are forced to and don't spend any time immersed in English outside of class. They would learn more with more input but I am happy with what they have learned. For those that continue studying after buxiban I think they will be able to function abroad for travel or even work if they wanted to.

I definitely do not feel that my participation in TEFL is a fraud. The part that I feel conflicted about is that the TEFL industry in Taiwan is only available to those that have (money). Unless a student studies in a buxiban then they do not learn (varying degrees of what is learned in a buxiban though) in the public school classes.
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