During the TEFL course that the UCT English language Centre hosts 3 times per year, the trainees receive ample opportunity to watch our expert English teachers in action. These observations form part of the learning process, and trainees watch a whole host of different kinds of lessons including, general English and ESP (English for Specific Purposes) such as English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and Business English.
Last week, some TEFL trainees joined in the final part of teacher Alex’s EAP course, and I decided to tag along because I thought it might be interesting to see what they were up to.
One of the first things I noticed about the class was that the level of English expected by the teacher was quite high. In other words, teacher Alex was not slowing down his speech for anyone. After all, this is what it is like at a university – no professor or lecturer will speak more slowly because there are some people who don’t speak English as their first language.
The second thing that became very clear, very quickly, was that this class was not about learning English. This class was about learning to use English in an academic context.
After Alex had gone through a recap with the students about the lesson last week, they watched a video of a real business university lecture. Students needed to listen to the content of the lecture (and the lecturer was not slowing their speed of talking) as well as complete tasks about recognizing analysis and evaluation stages in a lecture and recognizing language for introducing evaluation. In the process of completing tasks, students were not only learning about note-taking during lecturers, but were having to really note-take during the lecture they were watching. There was a fair bit of multi-tasking going on in this classroom!
Our EAP class is only available to students who are at an upper intermediate level or higher. After attending Alex’s class for a little bit, I realised that ensuring students are at a high enough level is really important. The class is demanding, and requires a high degree of analytical thinking on top of the language challenge. Students who are not yet at a high enough level of English will really struggle in this class, and will quickly become frustrated. Not only will this be problematic for the student in question, but it will slow the pace of learning for other students and make the teachers job very difficult.
If you are interested in attending our EAP course, I can certainly vouch for the high quality of it, but I would also make sure that you as a student feel 100% ready and committed to take on the challenge. Speak to your teachers and the Director of Studies about your level and the requirements for the class.
Good luck, work hard and you will succeed!