When we refer to the language learning field, a large amount of this sector is private. Learners invest a great deal of money in their education and we need to provide a quality service. As head of studies of a language school in Spain, as well as working intensively online (HERE), I have identified a key issue between teachers and students that can impede progress. Communication! The language barrier between the ‘native teacher’ and students (or their parents) is a real problem that many schools face and can lead to issues such as mistrust or the slow progression of students. English teachers are in great demand all over the world, but whose responsibility should it be to ensure that teachers can get messages across to non English speakers? (The teacher’s or the head of studies’ responsibility maybe?). I know that this sounds like an extreme message, but in my opinion and experience, to be an effective teacher in this field it requires an effort on both sides, teachers need to know at least the basics of their student’s native tongue. This is greatly appreciated by everyone and also makes everyone’s life easier. It shows mutual respect and also that the teacher has experience and know firsthand what it is like to be a language learner. By doing this, teachers generally see greater motivation and effort from their student. It will also save time in terms of organisation as teachers will be able to explain this more clearly. Of course novice teachers need to avoid the case of using too much of the student’s first language in class as it will prevent the development of the necessary listening skills needed for communication (HERE).
There are other ways of communicating with students or parents. My suggestion of the day is, set up a blog in which you can show the work that goes on in class. With a simple consent form it is easy to do. With this in place you can provide extra information about learning strategies, events and even examinations, see our post on the changing role of the teacher (HERE). Also, give each teacher a work email address so that students and parents can contact them outside of class time. These strategies have always worked for me and would be a great improvement for any language school!