Every time I get a new student, I ask them a question:
"What do you want to do with your English?"
Sometimes I'll get a very specific answer:
"I need a band 7 in IELTS"
"I need to understand my English-speaking colleagues"
However, many students aren't sure about what they want except to make their English "better".
It's normal for students to be unsure about what they need from their English course, but I believe that with the right questions, teachers and students can work together to create courses that produce much larger gains, and give the student far more of what they want. In this article I'll give you some advice on how to ask questions that will help your teacher to provide the language course that's best for you.
Lots of them! You want to make sure that your teacher has a plan for you.
What material will we be using? Where am I weak in English? What can I improve on by myself at home? What strategies would you suggest for self-study? Are there books I should read? How many lessons should I take?
By asking questions, you not only get an idea of how experienced/prepared your teacher is, but you also give your teacher the information that they need to create a framework and a course plan tailored to you.
Short and long-term goals are equally important. First, sit down and decide what you really need English for. Do you want to get a job in an English-speaking country? Do you want to go to an English university? What will you need to be able to do for that? Be specific.
Then, decide what short term goals you need to set to reach those long-term ones. For example:
"My long-term goal is to get a job in Dublin working in IT. To do that, I need to be able to understand Irish accents, and I need people to understand me when I speak. I have a good knowledge of the vocabulary I need for the job, but I know that my grammar isn't the best, particularly the tenses, so I need to work on those. I also need to work on my pronunciation. Finally, I need to be able to understand the people I'm working with, and particularly people from Dublin. So, my short-term goals are:
2. To improve my pronunciation.
3. To improve my comprehension, specifically regarding the Dublin accent."
With this information, a teacher can work out a real course framework and set of deadlines for you to hit in a way that just isn't possible without those specific goals.
As well as this, goals do wonders for motivation. There's nothing worse than thinking that you're not improving in a language because you can't see the progress you've already made, but when you have a target to reach and can see the improvement, it's one of the greatest motivators for further study.
Feedback is one of the most useful things we as teachers can get from our students. It's the best way we have of making sure we're providing a course that really suits the needs of the people we're teaching. With 5-star ratings, you can see if you're doing a good job in general, but the thing I really love to hear from my students is specific, constructive feedback on my lessons; it's the greatest opportunity I have to get better at my job and provide better services. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that I provide a class that's enjoyable and gives my student what they want, and if I'm falling short somewhere, letting me know helps me to adjust and make sure that happens. Tell your teachers if there's something you'd like to do that you aren't doing! Ask them for specific lesson topics that you want to cover! Teachers are here to help you, and we want to know if we can do better 😊
Helping your teacher helps you. So, in that spirit, if you think I missed anything, let me know in the comments below!