List of Goals to Teach English Language Learners

by John Shortino

For students learning English, much like learning any language, the overall goal is to be able to communicate clearly and effectively in the language they are learning. For most students, this will mean having a grasp on the mechanics and grammar of the language, and being able to speak, listen, write and read in English.

Internal and External Goals

In her essay on English language learners (see Reference 2), Vivian Cook divides the goals of English language learners into "internal" goals, which relate to the students' sense of achievement or mental development, and "external" goals, which can be demonstrated in speaking, reading and writing the language. External goals assist students with using the language in a practical setting, allowing them to communicate with native speakers in a country where English is the dominant language.

Difficulties of Learning English

English can be a difficult language to learn, particularly because it is grammatically more challenging than many other languages. While other languages tend to have strict rules regarding conjugation, grammar and verb tenses, English does not always work the same way. Take a simple word like "is": There are many ways to conjugate this word (am, was, were, will be), few of which sound alike. English also has a large number of homonyms, words that share sounds and spellings but have different meanings.

Speaking

A major external goal for English language learners is to speak the language. Being able to ask questions in English is a valuable skill for someone adjusting to a new country, trying to find work or beginning studies in an English-speaking country. By focusing on how English is spoken and paying close attention to the sounds of individual sections of words, a student can slowly learn to approach native speakers and ask for necessary information.

Reading and Writing

Two other major goals in English language learning are being able to read and write the language. Lessons should not be limited to speaking, as students will find it necessary to read signs, paperwork or literature in English-speaking countries. This goal should also be approached slowly, allowing students to become comfortable with words and then beginning to utilize them in sentences of increasing complexity. Writing should be approached simultaneously with reading: Have students copy single words or longer passages from English books.

About the Author

John Shortino has written for numerous publications, including the "Philadelphia Inquirer." Some of the subjects he has written about professionally include books, film and business. He is currently pursuing his Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at Temple University.

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