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4 Challenges of Teaching English And How to Overcome Them

Ask any English trainer -- it’s extremely rewarding to teach English. There’s no greater feeling than watching your students’ language skills progress, and knowing that you’ve made a positive difference in their life. However, it is a complicated language, and almost every learner of English encounters some common roadblocks. If you’re feeling defeated by reviewing the same concepts over and over with no results, don’t worry -- our experienced English teachers have dealt with the same problems time and time again, and have plenty of tips and strategies to overcome them.

1. Prepositions

By G0h4r (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

English is notorious for having an especially large number of prepositions -- too many, most learners of English will say. Indeed, it can be exceptionally difficult to learn when to use “for”, “from”, “to”, “of”, “by”, or “with” -- and that’s just six of over thirty prepositions in the English language! However, there are several ways to help students master prepositions, including fun games, activities, and classroom exercises -- check out the full list of ways to teach prepositions from one of our veteran English teachers.

2. Punctuation

English is notorious for having words that are tricky to spell. Perhaps for this reason, almost all English classes and course books emphasise the importance of spelling. However, often times, the rules about punctuation get lost in the shuffle. Still, punctuation is a crucial part of being able to write clearly in English. Our teacher, Rosie, has several suggestions regarding how to teach the correct usage of apostrophes, commas, hyphens, and more. Consult her article about teaching punctuation to get some ideas for your next class.

3. Irregular verbs


Have you ever had an experience in which one of your students “forgetted” the irregular past tense of a verb? Indeed, English verbs are littered with exceptions, and memorising all of them can seem impossible -- not to mention boring. To make the exceptions really stick, try presenting them in a fun context, such as a game. For example, this English verbs race is a fun, low-pressure way to review irregular verbs, which will make an otherwise unpleasant task both educational and fun.

4. Informal expressions and slang

Due to the nearly global presence of English-language media, many of your students will be eager to learn about the various words and expressions that they’ve learned through watching movies and TV series. Indeed, teaching informal expressions is important, as it lets students know how English is actually spoken in the real world. Still, it’s vital to have a detailed lesson plan so that you don’t just spend the whole class watching episodes of Friends. Eric, one of our experienced English teachers, offers great advice about how to teach slang in the classroom through a variety of activities like role-play and listening exercises.

Looking for a fun, informal classroom activity with your adult students? Check out our regional map of American slang, and talk about your favourites!

Learning a language is a long-term process, and periods of ebb and flow are to be expected. And while it may seem like you’ll never stop correcting your students’ use of prepositions, don’t be discouraged -- our teachers have got your back. For more advice about teaching English, or any other language, check out the rest of our language teachers’ handbook, written by our seasoned language teachers. With over 100 articles, it’s sure to have an answer for any language teaching-related question you might have!