Saturday, February 5, 2011

Teaching Adults – Part 1

Is teaching adults different from teaching children?  Do adults learn the same as children do? There is no clear-cut answer. In some respects, no; in others, yes. While that may not sound terribly helpful, I shall try to clarify what I mean. 

For adults, learning a new language can be painfully slow and often a frustrating experience.  While everyone would like to quickly acquire the ability to converse in a foreign language, the reality is that it is not easy - there is a whole new set of rules to learn, let alone thousands of new words and expressions. It can be very burdensome to have to, in effect, go back to grade 1 and start all over again. 

Teachers also have to be aware that adults do not learn the same way that children do. Sure, there are times when learning is the same, but often it is very different. 

Adult learners are comfortable with abstract thought patterns. They like to call on their life experiences and know what they expect from an ESL course.  Adults have developed methods of learning that work best for them and, when they apply those methods, their discipline is far more evident than one sees in children.  Partly, this is because their brains are fully developed but they also have better motivation. 

Motivation is one of the main differences. Often children take English as a Second Language in school because it is part of the required curriculum. They must learn it whether they want to or not. Unless they have practical opportunities to use English outside the classroom, the learning process will be long and drawn out. 

Adults on the other hand are usually in an ESL class because they want to be there. An exception, of course, is where their company tells them they have to take the course. Even so, they generally recognize the benefit of learning English.

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