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Beginner English Students

Beginners span the gamut of ability, from zero language production to basic language exchanges. For some, English may be completely new, and they haven't studied the language whatsoever. For others, some prior study exists, perhaps years ago, from which they can draw occasional sentences and vocabulary. The learning speed at the initial stages for these students moves along more quickly because of the familiarity that comes with past study. And lastly, for many others, they are currently studying the language and have achieved this ability level.

A class with a mixture of these students, all correctly classified as beginners, makes for a challenging series of lessons indeed!

In general, beginners focus on high-frequency phrases and vocabulary words. The phrases are often limited to elementary grammar structures, and students will plug words into these structures. Experimentation and word play is limited. Sentences remain short, and language exchanges feel abrupt without the ability to add information. In addition, students heavily depend on their native language, so mistakes unique to their mother tongue will often appear. Common problem areas include word order, use of prepositions, third person singular mistakes, and so on.

Beginners often restrict vocabulary to every objects, actions, and simple adjectives for description (big, small, heavy, etc.). These words appear in the everyday lives of the students, and so are easily learned, retained, and put to use.

The mother tongue greatly affects pronunciation, which in turn affects speaking and listening. An English speaker unfamiliar with the usual phoneme errors of the non-native speaker may find communication difficult. What's more, the non-native speaker may have a different image of how words sound in his head. When encountering the word spoken by a native English speaker, it doesn't match the image. This affects listening ability.

Lastly, communication may suffer because of the need for mental translation. English isn't yet automatic, even basic phrases. Repetition fosters a degree of automaticity, but response time is often slower as a question or answer is heard, broken down, analyzed, and a correct response formulated.