Teaching EFL Drives You Crazy! by Diana Abela.


Yes, and here’s a warning - once you’ve done it you will never be the same again. For one thing, many of your friends will drift away, except, of course, those who are caught in the same trap. 

The fact is, no one likes to feel that his use or abuse of language is being observed constantly, neither does anyone like to have his grammar or vocabulary corrected half way through what he considers a thoroughly absorbing conversation. 

If you have children of your own and you opt to teach in a language school, you have found one sure way of driving them neurotic. Gone are the happy, carefree days when you could limit yourself to correcting what they said. Now you feel compelled to correct the way they say it too. 

The trouble is that an intrinsic part of Teaching English As A Foreign Language is what is optimistically termed “Conversation”. According to my dictionary “conversation” is “an interchange of thoughts and words”. In the classroom this is constantly interrupted by correction and subsequent explanation. This habit, although a vital acquisition for use in the classroom, does nothing for one’s naturally courteous manners (!?!) 

I’ll put you in the picture. It’s a “conversation class” and the topic is money. “So”, says a student “you not want to be rich?” I gently indicate the correct version: “: Don’t you want to be rich”? “Yes, of course”, comes the adamant reply, “but why not 'you want to be rich'?” 

We teflers are a brave lot. We invariably breeze into the classroom, sporting broad smiles and proffering a welcome: “Good morning, I’m your teacher, my name is ... It’s a lovely day, isn’t it?” One morning my enthusiastic greeting was met with a cold “No! I not like this room ... it like prison”. I ventured the correction “I don’t like this room, it’s like a prison cell!” “You not like it too?.. I go tell Director” he says. Again I correct: “I’ll, I will go”. “No”, comes the determined reply, “You stay, I go”. 

As any teacher will tell you, one of the hardest nuts for the learner to crack is the use of the Present Perfect tense. So very often we are heard to say “that’s where you use the Present Perfect” or “no, you can’t use the Present Perfect there”. Interminable repetition of the rules can drive one to hysteria .. nightmares even. Here’s proof. 

At about 5 o’clock one morning, my little daughter, then aged seven, woke me up with, “Mummy, I’m SO sick. Last night I’ve gone to the bathroom and ...” Through the realms of dreams I mumbled “You can’t use the Present Perfect there.” In complete bewilderment she trotted off to her sister to announce: “Mummy says ‘don’t use the Present Perfect in the bathroom .... What is it?” 

So take heed all ye who are yet of sound mind and do not venture near the portals of a language school. 



© Malta Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language