Do you need a teacher?

Torsten   Wed Sep 20, 2006 7:40 pm GMT
Hi, for those of you who have been learning English as a second language, what do you make of teachers? I mean, do you think you need an English teacher to learn English?
Robin   Thu Sep 21, 2006 12:58 am GMT
I am a Native Speaker, but as a question of observation of Polish people in Aberdeen, I would say that they do benefit from Language Classes.

Language Classes are structured, and mistakes are picked up.

I have just started my Higher in English, and I think that I will get a lot out of it. I am fortunate in that I have a very nice teacher, who is very tactful. Also, I can see where she is being tactful with other students, and when she is trying to make a point.

I can imagine, that it is quite easy to be at logger heads with your Teacher. My son's English Teacher, who used to spend the lesson shouting, has gone off on long term sick leave. She told the Class that they could study any work of fiction they wanted, she then told my son that a 'Warhammer' book was not literature.

I saw my teacher do something similar with a Student. She said that the 'Da Vinci Code' did not contain any character development, and consequently did not count. She also said that Chick Lit, was not included.

If you think about it, it is quite difficult to tell someone, that their taste in books is rubbish. How to say it in a way that does not offend. "Don't you think it is time you grew up." "Start behaving like a sixteen year old boy with spots."
torsten   Thu Sep 21, 2006 10:23 am GMT
Hi Robin,

Thanks for your comments. Could you please tell me exactly you need a teacher for? I mean, is there anything a teacher can give or tell you that you would not be able to get from another source? Also, do you think you can learn a language in a classroom where you are surrounded by people who are trying to say something in the target language but have to be constantly corrected?
Robin   Thu Sep 21, 2006 2:45 pm GMT
Hi, I have just started a new topic called "A skittle of Milk", which I hope answers some of the questions that you have raised.

Teaching English in a class is an economic activity. The class has to be of a certain size before it is worth employing a teacher. Either the students have to pay to be taught or someone pays for the teacher to teach the students. Even if the students do not have to pay anything to attend the class, they have to make an effort to be in a certain place, at a certain time, on a certain day.

Looking on the bright side, there can be a social side to a class, which is not there if you are trying to learn something on your own.

So, a lot of things can be said about learning English in a class, that could be said about any learning activity.

(I have just corrected the grammar of the above sentence, by changing the tense. By answering your question, I am getting practice in typing and in using the English Language. In this particular context, I am more aware of things like 'tense' and even grammar. Particularly when communicating with a foreign speaker, I am more likely to correct confusing patterns of speech, and replace them, with more orthodox grammar.)

English is a language, and at some point you should be using it to communicate. So, learning English should not be a solitary activity. Funnily enough, a lot of Authors say, that writing a book is a solidary activity, so like every thing else, there are no hard and fast rules.

Your description of the class, makes it sound as if it is not very much fun. However, I think you will find, that a lot of people are prepared to do things in a class, that they would not like to do on their own.

Something that is often said, is that 'learners' have common problems. So you can benefit, from overhearing what the teacher says to other students.

At the end of the day, you have to make your own decision. One of the things that you could do, is to approach the Class Teacher to express your concerns. It could be, that it is the wrong class for you.


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Torsten   Thu Sep 21, 2006 3:06 pm GMT
Hi Robin,

So basically what you are saying the main purpose of an English class and its English teacher is to motivate the students. Other than that I can't see any benefit that an English class could bring. All language activities you have to do in order to learn a language can and should be done outside of a classroom. Why? Simply because your English doesn't improve when most of the time you are exposed to bad grammar and pronunciation. Also, if your English teacher is responsible for your learning progress, then he or she selects the kind of materials you have to use. Why can't you select your own materials and work on your own? I guess the answer to that question is this: Most people need to be led, they need some kind of authority to tell them what to do and why. It's a bit like in kindergarten where the kids wouldn't know how to behave. An English class is pretty much the same. A bunch of grown up kids sitting in a room waiting to be told what to do...
Boy   Thu Sep 21, 2006 6:37 pm GMT
English classes are only good for dating ;) lol..this is kinda trend I am witnessing day by day outside ESL schools where I live.

I would be attending such schools because of talking with girls and making relationships with them not for learning English. One of my friends gave me a very interesting piece of advice: " a language can be learned but can't be taught". so true every word of it. We should not expect from our teachers that they will inject the language into our brains. We have to do a lot of independent learning on our own. That's why I spend my money on buying hollywood movies and sitcoms rather than on joining an English insititute. Can you tell me which way of learning is effective: Watching Shrek1 $ 2 or listening to an English teacher for an hour with his poor pronunciation and a mixture of his native language and English.

There pops up another question. If these teachers don't teach the language, how will they earn money for their living?
Robin   Thu Sep 21, 2006 11:59 pm GMT
<<<< " a language can be learned but can't be taught". >>>>

I have never sucessfully learnt a foreign (second) language. But that statement seems to contain a great deal of common sense.

I would have thought that there are things that can be taught in a class.

OK, most of the content of the class, can also be studied at home. But another advantage of doing a course, is that you are systematically going through a syllabus that is examined at the end.

So, while someone can the 'self taught', there is a lot to be gained from having a little bit of paper.

As a bit of advice for someone spending a lot of money on DVD's etc. There must be cheaper ways of doing it.

Have you tried the sites run by the BBC on the Internet?

I have got into a little bit of a habit of recording a lot of the stuff that I watch on TV. It is something to do with ownership. I genuinely feel that it is really good.

Consequently, I have got loads of DVD's with lots of television on them. The only problem is, that in order to enable them to be played on 'any' DVD player, I have to go through a slightly annoying process in which the DVD player 'Finalises' the DVD. What does that mean?: it just seems to tie up all the lose ends.

I have thought, that if I was to work abroad teaching English as a Foreign Language, my collection would come in very useful.

It is a little bizarre. There are a lot of recordings of "The Vice"
Boy   Fri Sep 22, 2006 5:14 am GMT
<<As a bit of advice for someone spending a lot of money on DVD's etc. There must be cheaper ways of doing it>>

Robin, what are you talking about? Yeah, maybe expensive for foreigners who buy such DVD's in their country but not for me. Last week I bought 100 hollywood movies at the cost of 30 bucks. Is it expensive? No way .....we have a piracy industry here in my city karachi...I also have cable channels on my TV set and I pay $2 per month like for 50 channels. Not expensive at all....If there is anyhting good in my country, is definitely the resources available for learning English. There are shops that sell old novels, magazines and Readers digests at very cheaper prices. Even after all of this stuff avaiable for learning, and still I don't function well in the language then I have no-one to blame for my failures but myself.

I also like the idea of listening to interesting podcasts on my portable mp3 player. I just put it inside my pocket and listen to them during my walks in the park. Students should utilize such gadgets that can help them to spur up their learning process.

I use BBC website for reading sports and political news. I don't like to go through their artificially designed language lessons. I find them boring to do and I forget most of the stuff easily that such websites teach.

I'd learn from those resources that i find interesting and I can focus on them with rapt attention.
Boy   Fri Sep 22, 2006 5:42 am GMT
Robin, one more thing. These online forums work a lot better than ESL classes. Yesterday I watched Collin Farrel's movie "phone booth". The blackmailer spoke this "Do you whack off?" sentence to him. I can ask the meaning of whack off over here on the forum but I can't ask it from a teacher in the class. Even If I dare to ask this question, there is a risk that the teacher would kick me out from the class or would not tell me due to an element of embarrassment involved. or simply they don't know the meaning of the word. Then, I don't know why are these ESL classes good for?

Native speakers on these ESL forums can answer my questions better than those teachers in the class.

<<I would have thought that there are things that can be taught in a class.>>

For example.
Chris   Fri Sep 22, 2006 6:41 pm GMT
My personal experience is completely consistent with what Boy is saying. I'm a native Dutch speaker from Belgium, and in school I got classroom instruction in three other languages: English, French, and German. Now, at least in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, kids get massive exposure to (American) English by watching movies and TV series and almost no such exposure to French (believe it or not!). Unlike what happens in neighboring countries, non-Dutch TV programs get subtitled rather than dubbed. As a result, when I was 18 years old I already spoke reasonably good English whereas my French and German were rather bad. This is despite the fact that for several years in a row our French teacher had been a native French speaker while some of our English teachers were not very good at English! ;)
Robin   Fri Sep 22, 2006 8:04 pm GMT
Like most things that people argue about for ages, there advantages and disadvantages of going to a class with a teacher. Incidently, I have found out what 'whack off' means, I think that it is an American expression.

I have found the following Web Site, which you may, or may not, find helpful.

I think that a Web Site like this, which teaches the basics, is much more helpful than a linguistic study of the language.

I also think that it does help to know the basics, particularly when it comes to reading and writing. As soon as you try to write, you immediately come across a host of problems.

Bye for now

torsten   Sun Sep 24, 2006 7:27 pm GMT
Boy is absolutely right, ESL classes don't have much value if any at all. As for the classroom creating a structure and following a curriculum, that's also not very uself. What kind of structure do you need when you learn a language? Does it really matter if you learn all the personal pronuns first and move then on to the possessive adjectives? Why can't you simply start by watching "Find Memo" and then move on to "Iceage I"? You can create your own structure, don't wait for a teacher to tell you what to do, just do it. You don't normally learn the simple present first and then the present progressive. You can get a little bit of everything every time when you use authentic materials rather than boring and artifial ESL stuff.
Bottom line: English classes are there for the many simpletons who don't want to think for themselves and English teachers benefit from their laziness.
Robin   Tue Sep 26, 2006 6:44 am GMT
This Topic was started by Torsten, who takes rather an extreme view.

Do you need a teacher?

For a lot of people, the question is not 'Do I need ...?', but 'Do I enjoy ...?'

I have taken an interest in the Polish people who have recently moved to Aberdeen. I have tried to help one woman in particular, who is quite outgoing but whose English is idiosyncratic.



Deviating from the customary: bizarre, cranky, curious, eccentric, erratic, freakish, odd, outlandish, peculiar, quaint, queer, quirky, singular, strange, unnatural, unusual, weird. Slang kooky, screwball. British Slang rum, rummy2. See usual/unusual.

Not only that, but communication is difficult because of a lack of understanding.

At the moment she is working through a book of Grammar. I can see that these exercises, are designed to correct a lot of the mistakes that she is making. This book was lent to her by her Teacher, who was able to identify the problem that she had.

So, she is now able to go away, and do some work on her own, to improve her grammar.

She is actually paying quite a lot of money, to attend English Language Classes run by a Polish Teacher in Aberdeen. These classes are enjoyable.

These classes provide an environment away from work, where she can concentrate on her English. I am prepared to help to a limited extent. But if I call round for a 'cup of tea', a social chit chat, I don't want to spend my time taking someone through grammatical exercises. Also, I am not necessarily very encouraging.

In someways, I find it surprising that someone should even ask, "Do I need a teacher?" I think that the reason why people are asking that question is because they have not found a teacher who suits them.

There is another question, which is, 'at what point have a learnt English?' The unfortuate reality is that you don't stop learning English. At a certain point, you no longer need to go to 'English Classes'.
Torsten   Tue Sep 26, 2006 11:33 am GMT
Hi Robin,

Have you read the information on this website yet? You say I take on an extreme view. I think this is because most people are not capable of analyzing the language learning process. They conform and don't think for themselves. We have tried to discuss this before and I'm convinced that the best way of learning how to learn is to read what successful learners have to say. That's the main difference between you and me -- I have been learning English as a second language while you speak English as your mother tongue. The woman you are describing is a rather unsuccessful learner, she belongs to the vast majority of people who attend English classes and try to learn grammar rules. Please take the time to read what these two very successful learners have to say on the subject:
Pauline   Thu Sep 28, 2006 10:53 am GMT
It depend of you, how and why you learn. If you have intrinsic motivation, sufficient resources and exposure to the langauge, in my opinion it's not necessary have a teacher at all.

It depend also of the language you would like speak - if this language is similar that your language, it's not necessary, but if it's very different then probably you will encounter some problems not possible to solve without to ask your teacher.

Experience of foreign languages : your 1st and 2nd you proably must have a teacher, then 3 + you can learn alone.

The other side is the correction of faults. You can't notice this and you require a teacher if you wnat maintain a level of exactness.

I have learned spanish without a lesson ;just read the newspaper and some other things. Also I have a book for learn it. Probably I make many faults but I can have converstaions written, and in the future I would like some lessons for pronunciation also.