Student Questions

Many of our students come to our school after having studied English for many years in normal school, but they still can’t speak English. This can mean that there is a problem with the method in which English is taught in schools, so students need something different.

The way we teach in our school is different to the traditional school approach. As the method is different, it is new for a lot of our students, so students often have a lot of questions… which we are happy to answer!

When you read the answers to the questions, keep in mind that our school was founded 45 years ago. In these 45 years, we have learnt what techniques work and which techniques don’t work, so everything we do is based on experience of what makes students learn best.

1. Why doesn't my teacher always correct me?
So that you have an opportunity to speak. Correcting you for every error would mean that your teacher would interrupt you constantly and you would lose the confidence to talk.
Teachers plan their lessons carefully and they will have an aim for each stage of the lesson. If the aim is accuracy, your teacher will correct you when you make a mistake with language you are studying or something else that is more useful.
If the focus is fluency, you will also notice that your teacher will often do some corrections at the end of the lesson. The teacher does this at the end of the lesson so that it doesn’t interrupt you when you speak and it also gives the rest of the class to think and learn from the mistake.

2. Why do I have to talk to my partner? I want to talk to directly my teacher.
Let’s say there are 10 people in the class and that the teacher talks for 25% of the time. That means for an 80 minute lesson, there are 60 minutes split between 10 people, so each person speaks for 6 minutes.
Would you like to come to an English lesson and speak for just 6 minutes? So the reason you speak to your partner so that you get more speaking time.
It is also another way to learn. Your partner may use a word that you don’t know and you can ask what it means. Alternatively, your partner might make a mistake and you can help him / her.
Also, when you speak English outside of the lesson, you will often speak to French people, Spanish people, German people and people from all around the world. Speaking to your partner is a way to prepare for this.
It also allows your teacher to monitor and give you feedback on your speaking.

3. Why do you make us repeat words all together?
To help with your pronunciation. To say a new word, your mouth will often need to make strange and new positions that feel very unnatural and it is important for your mouth to become accustomed to doing this, so the best way to do it is by repeating.
Your teacher will first of all ask you to do it as a class so that nobody is embarrassed. When you repeat it as a class, your teacher can hear who is pronouncing it correctly and who isn’t. Repeating in this way makes it less embarrassing for the people that are having difficulty.
After you repeat the word with your class, your teacher might ask you to repeat it individually, but at this point you will feel more comfortable with it and a lot less embarrassed.
It is also important for you to hear words in your own mind (your ‘inner ear’). This will make the language more accessible in the future.

4. I want to see the word written before I repeat it…
As you know, English spelling is often very different to how the words are pronounced. So if you read the word first, you will often pronounce it wrong.
Let’s look at an example:
The word ‘mountain’ has a silent ‘a’ in it and is pronounced ‘moun-tin’.
If you see this word before pronouncing it, you will say ‘mountAin’ which is the incorrect pronunciation.
For this reason, your teacher will ask you to repeat it first, so that you can become comfortable with the correct sound of the word without being confused by its spelling.
After this, the teacher writes the word on the board so that you can also learn the correct spelling.

5. I want to understand every word when I listen…
There are many things skills that you have in your native language that you don’t know about. For example, when you call your mother to ask what time dinner will be ready, it’s very possible that she will talk for a long time about things that are irrelevant.
In this case, you probably don’t listen to most things she says, but you listen to the part that interests you. We try to give you these skills in English by asking you to do listening exercises where you don’t need to understand every word, just the parts that are relevant.
Understanding the sense is always more important than understanding every word,

6. When we read things my teacher doesn't give me time to finish.
Similar to the previous point, when you read in your native language, you have the ability to find the most important parts of the text very quickly. For example, if you are reading the report of a football match, you are probably not very interested in every small detail, you just want to know the result and the players who scored the goals.
Or if you read a newspaper article about an important issue, maybe you don’t read every word, you just read the main points so that you have a general understanding of what happened.
For these reasons, your teacher gives you a time limit to complete the reading exercise to help you develop these skills in English too.

7. Why are we still studying basic grammar? I want to do the hard stuff
Learning a language is not like another subject at school. Learning a language is very different to learning maths, or learning science, or any other subject at school.
After you study the past tense in English, this does not mean that you know it. You need to study it many times to remember it and to consolidate it.
There is also a difference between knowing something on paper and know it well enough to use when you speak. So you might think you are studying something that you already know, but you are studying it so that you can use it freely and with confidence.
Learning a language is cyclical and you will often revisit language points to revise and build on your existing knowledge; a solid understanding and use of more basic grammar will allow you to add more complex language more efficiently.

8. Why do we play so many games in class?
Playing games create positive emotions in the classroom and this helps you to learn better. As you know, children play a lot of games and children also learn languages faster than anyone else. So copying what they do helps us to learn faster as we learn through playing.

9. Why does my teacher make me move places?
This is for your benefit. Studies show that we lose our attention very quickly, so when your teacher asks you to move, it is to make sure that you keep your concentration.
Also, by moving place, you will have the opportunity to speak to different people which creates a new interaction and helps to keep the lesson dynamic.

10. Why do I need to study outside of the class if I come to lessons?
Learning a language is like learning a musical instrument, the more you practise, the better you will become. We want you to make progress with the language as quickly as possible, so we ask you to study outside of the classroom too.

So, how do you know all of this?
We only employ qualified teachers who have studied about teaching and learning English. Our teachers are all lifelong learners: they constantly receive input and also have lessons that are observed. This is all done to give you the best learning experience.
In fact, a lot of teachers from Sicily and all over the world come to our school to study how to become a teachers and learn from our expert teacher trainers.

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