Teach English to Non-English Speakers: Early Years Children as a test case

By Samira Zain

University of Cambridge

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Teaching English as a Second Language is a worthy endeavor, but it is not for everyone. If you're thinking of entering the field, you should make sure that it's a good fit for your academic and professional needs.
Unlike lots of languages, English has uppercase and lowercase letters which many children find confusing as each letters has two shapes. In this article, you will find a number of ideas about new ways in teaching English alphabet to your children.

Based on a research published on Twinkl website, there are lots of options to teach English as a language online for non-English speakers. As mentioned "If you’re reading this after 2020, please tell me we’re allowed out again?" So, being able to work with your slippers on is one big advantage. Plus, there’s the flexibility involved – you can get to the point where you’re able to choose your hours and work anywhere in the world. 

But the best thing about teaching online is that you get to be a teacher. You get to connect with people all over the world and help them make their lives better. Also, you spend a lot of time organising games – what’s not to love?  

What are the downsides?

Well, there are some things that are not loved by ESL teachers working online. 

Firstly, the financial side of teaching English online isn’t that straightforward. Even when you get a job with an online company, it can take a couple of months to start getting classes, and another couple to build up enough hours that it’s a full-time job. So if you’re thinking about doing this, factor in the time it will take you to get established as an online English teacher. This is especially true now - a lot of people are looking to become online English teachers so if you want to get a job, you'll need to make an outstanding application - see our tips below. 

Secondly, this is an unregulated industry to a large extent, and there are a lot of people who are left feeling discouraged. Many employers discriminate by age, race, country of origin, gender… the list goes on. There’s also no safety net when it comes to your employment status, and there’s no pension for most online English teachers. There are calls for the unionisation of TEFL teachers for this very reason. 

And then there are the day-to-day issues of online teaching. Students have problems with the technology. Parents have issues with the technology. You get the fatigue of saying ‘GREAT JOB!’ to your computer 100 times a day. The hours aren’t 9-5 - they’ll depend on where you are, and where your classes are. If you’re teaching kids, sometimes the parents will sit next to them and whisper the answer into their ears. If you’re teaching adults, sometimes there’s a kid whispering the answer into their parent’s ear. It's difficult to keep kids motivated, especially for long periods of time, but luckily we have some tips below to help you make enjoyable classes. And there are a lot of tools and resources to keep the children enthusiastic all the time.


How can I get hired as an online English teacher?

There’s a lot of competition out there for jobs teaching English online at the moment. Whether or not you’ll get a job – and the quality of the job – depends a lot on your qualifications and experience. Like I said, this is a vast and mainly unregulated industry, so people’s experiences vary wildly – I can only give you generalisations. 

You might – *might* – be able to find a job without a TEFL qualification, but it’ll be much harder. China now requires a teaching certificate and as this is the biggest source of employment for TEFL teachers, you should be highly suspicious of a company that doesn’t require a qualification. 

Once you’ve got your qualification, you can start applying for jobs. Connect with agencies on Twitter and LinkedIn. Spend your time doing applications – it’s better to do one really good application than copy and paste 50. Find out what skills, experience and qualifications each company is looking for to make sure you’re applying for a job where you meet the criteria. Then, make sure that your application showcases how you meet the criteria. I’ve made an example one, so you can see the process - look how the letter on the right responds directly to the requirements on the job ad on the left (I’ve highlighted the matching areas by colour so you can see how it’s done). 

Once you have an interview booked, check out YouTube videos with tips on how to pass the interview. Some big companies have their own, but the tips are worth bearing in mind whatever company you’ve applied for. Sometimes they even tell you the specific questions you’ll get asked, so it’s worth checking. If you’re prepared, that’ll come across to the interviewer. 

Some general rules to follow for job interviews to teach English online:

  • Make sure you have an appropriate background. Maybe something colourful, a bookshelf or even teaching posters (like this one with the alphabet on). 
  • You should also be dressed appropriately – think how you would dress for a face-to-face interview. 
  • If you’re asked why you want the job, instead of saying ‘Oh, I need a bit of cash’ or ‘The hours work for me’, think of reasons why you’re passionate about teaching. 
  • Have a suitable question prepared that shows that you’re a motivated person, such as ‘What continuous professional development do you offer teachers?’ or ‘How do you recommend learning about your platform?’
  • Take the time to research exactly what their school does, as well, and what you admire about them. Focus on what you can do for them, not what you’d like about the job. 

When you apply, a lot of companies will ask you for a short introduction video and photo. Even if they don’t, it’s a great way to show to them that you’re personable and enthusiastic, so it’s well worth your time to do. For the video, keep it short (a minute is fine) and complete the sentences ‘Hi, my name is...  from… I have (whatever qualifications and experience you have) and I love teaching because…’ 

Make the video in landscape mode and have your camera still so the image doesn’t shake. Upload it onto YouTube (or similar) if possible so that you only have to send potential employers the link, as large files sometimes don’t make it through China’s firewall. 

How should teachers start?

Unlike lots of languages, English has uppercase and lowercase letters which many children find confusing as each letters has two shapes. In this article, you will find a number of ideas about new ways in teaching English alphabet to your children.

How can this set of Alphabet Pictures help students in lesson?

A set of picture cards covering the main vocabulary for this topic. Why not laminate and discuss the topic with the children? The cards have various objects and animals then begin with each letter, this will help students learn and remember how to sound the letters. 

Originally, the alphabet that we know today was developed by Semitic people who lived near Egypt. Their idea for the alphabet was based on the idea developed by the Egyptians, but instead used their own symbols. It was quickly spread and adopted by neighbours and many who had relatives in the East. 
What is one of the oldest languages in the world?
One of the oldest languages is Chinese, it is the single most spoken language in the world today. 1.2 billion people have it as their first language. Origins of the language can be dated back as far as 1250 BC, making it one of the oldest languages in the world. 
Case, or letter case if the distinction between letters that are in the upper or lowercase. Uppercase characters are large letters , also known as captial, whereas lowercase characters are small letters. 
This kind of free resources are among the most used resources online to help teachers continue their online teaching during the pandemic.



Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Samira Zain (2021), "Teach English to Non-English Speakers: Early Years Children as a test case," https://stemedhub.org/resources/4455.

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