Friday, July 27, 2007

Correcting ESL Students

As an ESL tutor, it's part of my job to correct my English as a Second Language students when they make errors. I use my professional judgement about how often to correct students and what to correct them about. When my primary objective is to get students to speak, I might make less corrections than for other students. I don't want to discourage them from speaking by adding to their fear of making mistakes.

However, as a native English speaker going about my daily activities, I never correct people who aren't native English speakers, UNLESS they ask me to.

I was talking to one of my advanced level students today and he asked why Americans never correct his English. He wants them to. I explained that for some reason we feel that it is rude to correct people whose first language isn't English. Or we just don't think about it at all. (We'll leave out the small percentage of English monolingual speakers who feel people don't belong in the U.S. unless they can speak perfect English.)

My ESL student was surprised at this and asked why. I couldn't tell him why we feel this way. I really don't know.

It's probably a good idea to tell ESL students that if they want native speakers to correct them, they need to ask them to do so. Also, it's best to tell your students to not ask the native English speaker "why." Most of us don't know "why," we just know "how."


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