In the first of our ‘Tips from the Teacher’ series, we spoke to Claire Hunter, EFL Teacher and long-time IELTS expert, about her top tips for people learning English as a Foreign Language.
For how long and where have you taught EFL?
Only in Scotland. I taught at Basil Paterson for six years and have been at Edinburgh School of English for three years now.
From your experience, what are the biggest hurdles for a student learning English as a foreign language?
Putting the language that they’ve learned to use! Students learn all sorts of grammar rules etc, but need to develop a ‘feel’ for the language, and you can only do that by actually using it!
Also, the range of vocabulary and structures that we have in English can be difficult for learners. There’s not only one correct way to say something – that can be daunting!
What are your top three tips for students preparing for an IELTS test?
1. Strike a balance between: a) language improvement, b) test techniques and strategies, and c) test practice. All three are important, not just the last one!
2. Don’t worry about speed/timing straight away! Get your techniques right, then get faster. Think of it like driving; you don’t drive at 70mph straight away! Master the techniques at slower speeds first!
3. Read as much as you can of whatever you can! Read, read, read! It’s a great way to collect vocabulary and grammar, and see how it’s used. You’ll also start to get the ‘feel’ of the language. Take every chance to talk about what you’ve read too. This helps recycle the vocabulary and structures you’ve learnt.
Where have your students gone on to study/work?
Everywhere! They’ve been all around the world, including: Oxford, MIT, Edinburgh… I’ve had students go on to work at the Roslin Institute (think Dolly the Sheep), Ernst and Young, as well as a number of fine artists, doctors, pilots…the list goes on!