Competing as teachers in the online world

Competing as teachers

Competing as teachers

‘Que suerte!’ (what luck!) said Anna when she learnt I was an English teacher.

Anna is my new Spanish-English conversation exchange partner, which means we chat for about an hour each week in the two languages (an informal arrangement with no money changing hands). Anna wants to improve her English for the impending visit of her English-speaking daughter-in-law, I want to improve my Spanish for… everything from asking for directions to possible future negotiations with tax authorities.

Is Anna really lucky?

Does it really make any difference if students are talking to a qualified English teacher?

The bigger question for teachers is how we can compete with all the online and off-line resources available, often for free: exercises, conversation exchanges, chat rooms, grammar games and so on.

What do we offer that is different and worth paying for?

Well, at the end of the first session with Anna I grouped new language for her into grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation; picked out one or two lexical chunks (e.g. ‘would you like to…’); drilled some pronunciation, and gave some homework. Most teachers would almost automatically do the same.

So yes, teachers do offer something different.

Many people can tactfully correct speakers’ mistakes; not everyone can clearly explain the present perfect tense. And in addition we have an understanding of how people learn a second language, knowledge of a range of solid teaching resources, familiarity with different exam requirements and formats, and many other things.

But I sometimes think competing as teachers means we need to be more explicit about our skills when we advertise ourselves and compete with the myriad online aids to self-teaching.

Relevant research findings about the benefits of teaching over fluency practice would also be helpful.

I’ll see if I can find any; watch this space.


July 16, 2015