In the TEFL classroom: level or competency?

In the TEFL classroom we spend a lot of time focusing on mistakes, pronunciation and perfect grammar.  We do however often overlook confidence in the classroom.  I  have recently been developing level testing to help companies with the interview process for jobs that need English. After working on it for about a year, one thing I have learnt is that it is certainly not just a matter of a person’s level, it is matter of confidence and competency.

I am a great example of this.  If I take a level test, I come out as pre-intermediate (B1).  Yet this is such an inaccurate reflection of my Spanish.  My grammar is a little shocking at times but I feel extremely confident speaking Spanish – I have set up a business, bought a house, pitched to clients and had a baby, all in Spanish.  My competency in Spanish is extremely high.

In the classroom you will often see very high level students with excellent vocab, grammar etc but take them outside the classroom and they are unable to produce their English as they lack confidence in their own abilities.

I recently met a Spanish mum through my son’s nursery that I get on with very well. We have always spoken in Spanish and at times I have struggled to find a word, conjugate a verb in the past etc and it has taken me a few moments to say what I needed to say. She recently came to TtMadrid for the free English classes.  I spoke with in her in English and to my utter shock she is advanced – really advanced.  I asked her why she had never spoken English to me and she said that her English wasn’t very good.  This to me sums up many English students in Spain – a complete lack of confidence in their own ability.

As a teacher we need to think more about helping with a student’s self confidence so they are able to get out there and use their English.

There is no magic formula to this when there are so few opportunities for students use their English outside the classroom but over the next few blogs I will be discussing what teachers can do to help with this issue.  I would love input from any teachers with methods they are currently using in the classroom.

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