Friday, July 13, 2007

Amazing ESL Survival Skills

I met with a potential new ESL student yesterday. I can usually tell a little bit about the level of potential students based on the email exchanges we have before our first meeting. Even when I get emails from very advanced level ESL students with absolute perfect grammar, I can still tell that they are English language learners. I've had a couple of students who are native English speakers but want to improve their writing skills. With this most recent potential student, I really wasn't sure what to expect.

It turns out that this ESL student was indeed an ESL speaker. She has been living here in the U.S. for several years. Her speaking was excellent. She had an accent, but that was the only thing that let me know she was an ESL speaker. I tried to do my regular Needs Assessment to find out what her weaknesses were. It took quite a while to hear any problems. She answered all my questions very well. I started to hear a couple of problems with verb tenses, but no consistent problems or serious ones.

As I asked various questions using different tenses, I finally heard what her problems were. The amazing thing was that she was able to maneuver around her English skills limitations. She was fluent and thoroughly grammatically correct with what she did say. However, for things she was unsure of, she just didn't use them. I think these are amazing ESL survival skills; to be able to speak so well that even an ESL tutor is slow to figure out the problems.


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