English class. Grammatical categories Verb Tenses and Aspects

The Need of ELT Coaching

We have all been there before, learning a new language, or simply A language. Even if we don’t remember, we’ve all been learners of at least one language in our lives: our mother tongue. We might think it was easy back then because we were babies, but it must have been a real challenge for our brains to build a whole new language in our heads! The passion for this project was born in the exact moment we realised this: we have all been language learners at some point in our lives, and yet teachers sometimes tend to forget how that felt. Through our research, we realised how little of academic findings is actually brought into the classroom or taken into account when practicing; we had to do something.

Most of our interests were born from curiosity. We wanted to know what happened in our heads when we switched from one language to the other, wanted to understand why we made mistakes in languages we believed ourselves to be confident and proficient in. This curiosity turned into pure passion and insatiable interest, which brought us to our classroom experience and to today. We realised that when we detached from the canonical ways of practicing, applying the knowledge we sought and researched into our lessons, the students showed clear improvements and benefitted from it.

An example of such non-canonical approaches to practicing is the recently developed teaching method called “Teaching Unplugged”. This consists of three main ideas. The first one is to make ‘speaking’ the core skill and use this as the main vehicle to teach. This has many advantages especially for students who have specific needs and contextualise the language into a more natural setting. The second one is the limiting external inputs and course books, so to limit the risk of approaching teaching with the one-book-fit-all mindset. The last foundation of this method is letting the student drive the topic and content of the lesson. Some consider this method avant-garde and praise its advantages, but it also requires some awareness of language learning and a familiarity with needs assessment as well as quick thinking. Another fallback of this approach is that not every skill can be applied to all students in the same way and in all cases, so the centralisation of the speaking skill could be counterproductive. Moreover, not all learners benefit from the same approach in the same ways and this is paramount to remember.

One of the challenges of the co-existence of different techiques is that they might require different approaches to the method and they won’t all work for every student. Each learner is different in the way they learn and process the language. Therefore, knowing how to apply one method is often not enough unless there is a thorough understanding of what that method can do and for what type of learner. Sometimes, the best approach is a targeted blend of multiple approaches.

How do we get our head around this? The answer is perhaps to understand the students’ needs, ask ourselves and them the right questions, and most importantly seek guidance. Therefore, the need of direction to English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teachers, and especially state and private teachers abroad, is evident. We noticed how some European countries have good education systems but fail to provide students with the sufficient knowledge to use foreign languages. Sadly, teachers within the UK suffer a similar fate with a considerable lack of guidance and support in many fields including English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), English as an Additional Language (EAL) and Modern Foreign Languages (MFL).

An example of this is Italy. The main requirement to become an English teacher is to hold a degree in English Language and Literature. Degrees in which you are expected to take exams in English and study the literature, but are not trained on how to teach a language. Thus, you might find teachers who are perfectly capable of speaking fluent English but have no idea how to pass that knowledge on to their class. In our career we have met many of these professionals who had exceptional language skills but needed help in appropriately channelling this knowledge towards their students. 

A common lapsus that we language practitioners make is forgetting that most of our learners approach the new language bringing with them “linguistical baggage”. They will already have a set of linguistic knowledge and learning habits developed through their upbringing and heavily influenced by their native language and cultural background. 

This, however, could be a point in our favour! Understanding the main principles of language learning and language awareness and how to apply these into the classroom, allows us to predict the students’ struggles and address them confidently. It might sound difficult but it’s really not! This awareness becomes fundamental when evaluating the most appropriate approach to adopt in our teaching and grade our lessons to the learners’ needs. The real problem is that very few people have reflected on this, and decided to do something to direct teachers towards such awareness..

Our desire to provide technical and practical support to teachers started taking shape the moment we “linked the dots” and realised how wide of a gap there is between theoretical research and in-classroom practice. 


Such connections weren’t only framed within our academic experiences of course, but rather came from our practical nature and experience as teachers who wanted to do right by their students. More importantly, we drew from our experience not only as teachers and linguists, but as learners because, to put it in R. J. Meehan’s words “as a teacher you have to be committed to learning for a lifetime to lead your students down that path”.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *