Learning English

“Never make fun of someone who speaks broken English. It means they know another language.”

Harriett Jackson Brown Jr., American author
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LESSON OVERVIEW

This free ESL lesson plan on learning English has been designed for adults and young adults at an intermediate (B1/B2) to advanced (C1/C2) level and should last around 45 to 60 minutes for one student.

The fact that you are reading this right now shows just how important learning English is in the world. As the international language, English allows you to get more out of travelling, study in a different country, or apply for a better job. But English is a funny old language, with peculiar pronunciations and grammar points, making it difficult to learn for many people. So how did this language, and not say, Spanish, become the international language? While some will undoubtedly tell you it was because of the historical importance of the British Empire, the truth is that English is the language of international business. And when business went global, so did the language of the world’s economic superpower: the United States. In this ESL lesson plan on learning English, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as their experiences of learning and using English, their preferred qualities in an English teacher, and how English can help people achieve their ambitions.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for English Language Day, which takes place in April. For more lesson plans on international days and important holidays, see the calendar of world days to plan your classes for these special occasions.

For advice on how to use this English lesson plan and other lesson plans on this site, see the guide for ESL teachers.

PRE-CLASS ACTIVITIES

Reading activity
Before the English class, send the following article to the students and ask them to read it while making a list of any new vocabulary or phrases they find (explain any the students don’t understand in the class):

BBC | How the English language became such a mess

The article looks at why pronunciation in English is so complicated compared to other languages. At the start of the class, hold a brief discussion about what the students thought about the article. What do they think about the issues raised in the article? Do they agree with what was said? Can they think of any ways they might disagree with the content of the article?

Video activity
To save time in class for the conversation activities, the English teacher can ask the students to watch the video below and answer the listening questions in Section 3 of the lesson plan at home. There are intermediate listening questions and advanced listening questions so teachers can decide which would be more appropriate for their students. Check the answers in the class.

The video for this class is called “Where did English come from?” by TED Ed which looks at the various historical influences on the English language from the Anglo-Saxons to the Normans.

IN-CLASS ACTIVITIES

The focus in the class is on conversation in order to help improve students’ fluency and confidence when speaking in English as well as boosting their vocabulary.

This lesson opens with a short discussion about the article the students read before the class. Next, the students can give their opinion on the quote at the beginning of the lesson plan – what they think the quote means and if they agree with it. This is followed by an initial discussion on the topic including why the students want to learn English, how they can improve outside of the classroom, and what they know about the origins of English.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with learning English such as native speaker, lingua franca and fluency vs accuracy. This vocabulary has been chosen to boost the students’ knowledge of less common vocabulary that could be useful for preparing for English exams like IELTS or TOEFL. The vocabulary is accompanied by a cloze activity and a speaking activity to test the students’ comprehension of these words.

If the students didn’t watch the video before the class, they can watch it after the vocabulary section and answer the listening questions. Before checking the answers, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video and what they thought about the content.

Finally, there is a more in-depth conversation about learning English. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as the standard of English teaching in their countries, whether it is better to learn from a native speaker, and whether English could replace all languages in the future.

HOMEWORK

After the class, students will write about their opinion of learning English. This could be a short paragraph or a longer piece of writing depending on what level the student is at. The writing activity is designed to allow students to practise and improve their grammar with the feedback from their teacher. For students who intend to take an international English exam such as IELTS or TOEFL, there is an alternative essay question to practise their essay-writing skills.

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