Tips on Communicating
by Judie Haynes
Show your school's mainstream teachers and students how to communicate with your newcomers from the very first day.
Mainstream teachers and students can communicate with new non-English speaking students from the very first day. ESL and bilingual teachers will find it worth their time to help them learn to communicate. When classroom teachers communicate with newcomers, that communication must to be comprehensible.
Show them how to use drawings, gestures, actions, emotions, voice variety, chalkboard sketches, photographs, and visual materials to provide clues to meaning. Adding visual and kinesthetic support along with the language will provide additional comprehensible input.
Encourage mainstream teachers and students to allow your new learners of English translation time when listening and speaking. Explain that newcomers are translating the language they hear back to their native language, formulating a response and then translating that response into English.
Remember that there will be times when you will not be able to get an idea across to newcomers. Give each classroom teacher a list of students in your school who speak the newcomer's language. You will be able to call on these students to act as translators if necessary.
Provide clues to meaning
- Use drawings, dramatic gestures, actions, emotions, voice, mime, chalkboard sketches, photographs and visual materials to provide clues to meaning.
- If necessary, repeat your actions using the same simple structures and actions.
- Simplify your message as much as possible breaking them into smaller, manageable parts to give newcomers a chance at comprehending.
- Make sure the student's attention is focused.
- Don't insist, however,that students make eye contact with you when you are speaking to them. This is considered rude in many cultures.
Modify your speech
- Talk at a slow-to-normal pace, in short sentences.
- Use a pleasant tone
- Use simple sentence structure (subject-verb-object) and high-frequency words
- Use names of people rather than pronouns.
- Pause after phrases or short sentences, not after each word. You do not want to distort the rhythm of the language.
- Avoid using the passive voice and complex sentences.
- If you have something important to convey, speak one-on- one to the newcomer rather than in front of the class. The anxiety of being in the spotlight interferes with comprehension.
- Ask simple yes/no questions so that newcomers have an opportunity to respond.
- Accept one-word answers or gestures.
Be an active listener
- Give full attention to your newcomer and make every effort to understand his / her attempts to communicate
- Talk in a calm, quiet manner. Raising your voice does not help comprehension
- Demonstrate your patience through your facial expressions and body language.
- Give your ESL students extra time to respond.
- Encourage new learners of English to act out or to draw pictures to get their meaning across.
- Don't jump in immediately to supply the words for the student.
- If the student response is heavily accented, correct by repeating the words correctly. Do not ask the student to repeat the correction. This can be very embarrassing.
- Resist the urge to over correct. This will inhibit newcomers so that they will be less willing to speak. Allow students to use a bilingual dictionary for words that can not be acted out.
Check comprehension frequently
- Don't ask "Do you understand?" unless you have taught it. This is not a reliable check since many students will nod "yes" when they don't really understand.
- Teach the phrases (or have a bilingual volunteer teach them) "I don't understand," "Slowly, please," and "Please repeat."
- Write down messages so students have a visual as well as auditory input. Make a list of phrases you want your student to learn and to understand. Ask a bilingual volunteer to work with the student on those phrases.
© 1998-2004 Judie Haynes, www.everythingESL.net