Teaching Functional English Skills

Teaching Applied Language Skills

A reader asked:

I want to ask about the functional notional approach in teaching English.
I mean how to teach English as a function or way to communicate

A GREAT topic!

Simply put the “functional notional approach” is about teaching “functions” or the uses of the language rather than teaching the more traditional grammar-focused lessons.

I believe that teaching functions is FAR more useful for students and increases their motivation to learn. Especially with adult students when you are teaching them occupational language.

What is communication and conversation?

Simply the back and forth of questions and answers, No?

The best way to think of how to teach functions is to fill in the blank here: Asking and answering questions about ________. (weather, your job, hobbies, your weekend, etc.) That is a function statement. The point from which you might begin to build your lesson.

Teaching functions affects student motivation as they can see that there is a REASON for learning the language in the lesson above and beyond just learning how to use, for example, the Present Perfect Continuous forms of verbs. That even puts me to sleep . . .

TED’s Tips™ #1: Use functions based lessons rather than grammar based lessons – particularly if you are teaching adults or occupational language.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Go over and take a look at Business English eBook to see lots of function based lessons and topics. It will help you understand the idea better. It is quite simple but can seem abstract to some people until they see a few examples.


The Slightly Older TEFL Teacher

Staring Teaching English Abroad at 40+

Another reader presented the following situation:

I am curious to know what you think of Oxford Seminars. Worth while?
I will be 41 in December. I have a BA in Philosophy and have spent about 5 years as an Associate Teacher [a.k.a. Substitute].
I was offered a job, and awarded E2 Visa sponsorship from a school in S. Korea. At the last minute (days before I was to leave) the recruiter informed me that the school was retracting the offer.
So I figure a TESOL/TEFL Cert. will be a great benefit/ make me more marketable.

Most Online and In-ClassTEFL programs are fine. If taking an in-classroom course, it is important to check is that it meets the acceptable international guidelines which are generally agreed to be a minimum of 100 in classroom hours and at least six hours of observed teaching practice with REAL EFL students (not your teacher trainee peers) and that you receive detailed feedback from an experienced EFL teacher.

All that said, most people would agree that it is best to take your TEFL Certification in the country where you first intend to teach.
That may not be possible in Korea though.

Don’t give up – I was exactly 41 when I took my first EFL job – also in Korea. My first six months were a real mess – but I got past it and the last 17 years have been just fantastic. Nothing wrong with getting all the bumps in the road smoothed out right at first!

Training? Great idea. Though, particularly for Korea I wouldn’t assume that is why things fell apart at the last minute.

Never hurts to build the resume and improve your skills though – can’t hurt! Even an online TEFL Cert shows that you are interested and at least put some time and energy into learning more about the job and how to do it.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Don’t worry about starting out a bit later than the “youngsters”, you have a life of experience to offer.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Do consider either an online or in-classroom TEFL course to help you market yourself.


Go get ‘em!


PS: a good reference for TEFL programs is the website:


LOTS of good info there for people considering TEFL training.

Negotiating Your First TEFL Job

I am taking a little vacation so the posts for the next few weeks will be responses to questions and topics suggested the readers of the blog.

What Do YOU have to Offer?

Following are some comments from an email sent to me by someone seeking a job in Korea and my responses to their requests (demands!) of a potential employer.

A reality test here . . .

I was wondering would you know of any reputable recruiters for South Korea? I want to secure a position with the least amount of BS as possible!!

Some BS is inevitable as it would be when seeking a job even in the States, no? Don’t expect it to be too different overseas. Most recruiters are reputable, Footprints is well known and good.

You also wrote:

I hope to land a position in a public school teaching ages 5-8, Monday-Friday, 8-4 or 9-5. No night shifts, no Saturdays (unless paid overtime) single accommodations (in a somewhat quieter location that central Seoul), internet and water service available BEFORE my arrival, round trip ticket paid by the school, salary of 2.3 mil KRW or more, at least 10-14 paid vacation days, and I do not want a commute of more than 30 minutes by transportation or 15 by walking.

Wow! It is good that you know what you want, but I don’t hear anything about what you have to offer for all the things you want. Have you taken a TEFL Course so that you know how to teach? Do you have any ideas about how to structure a class? What do you have to offer other than a degree in an unrelated field? What if a potential employer wants you to teach 10-12 year olds? Perhaps a Saturday morning class? Would you accept that job?

Do you have enough to offer that you can demand all the things you “want”?

Become more realistic for just a moment and pretend you are an employer reading what you have written. How do you think they would respond? In your note/email would they have heard anything about how you enjoy teaching? About how you would like to help their students improve their skills? About what you have done to learn to teach English?

I’ve read only “me” “me” “me” – nothing about what you can provide.

Come on, get real. Who would hire a teacher who sends a note only of their demands? I wouldn’t. Would you?

At the very least get a fast TEFL Certification at somewhere reputable like TEFL Boot Camp to back up your demands for all the things you want.

I hope my comments help you see the world from a slightly different perspective and help you market yourself better than you have to this point.

TED’s Tips™ #1: You never know who is going to read your email, job application or resume. Be careful how you word what you want and what you have to exchange for what you want.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Take time FIRST to say what you have to OFFER – rather than just want you want.

For people looking for an inexpensive Online TEFL Course, TEFL Boot Camp has a lowest-price guarantee. There is no need to spend a huge amount of money on a fairly simple learning process. A good part of the website is FREE for self study.

What’s up in China? Learn about a great internship program on offer if would like to Teach English in China

How to Teach English Overseas and Secrets to Success Abroad
TEFL Boot Camp  is offering a free download of their new publication Seven Secrets of Success Abroad – and along with it comes a bi-weekly installment and revision of their eBook called How to Teach English Overseas.

Great reviews for the Secrets of Success eBook – in spite of the hokey name – and the How to Teach English eBook is being updated and rewritten and sent out in installments as it is ready.

Here they are – click on the eBooks to get your FREE copies! Great information and the price is right, from our friends at TEFL Boot Camp – CLICK HERE FOR THE FREE EBOOKS.



Please let me know what you think of the ebooks – use the comments section below.

I confess both eBooks are written by yours truly – hoping to inspire others to head overseas and live life BIG out in the real world. I would value your feedback!

TEFL Jobs and Contracts

Contrary to Popular Belief,
Contracts are not as Important as you Might Think

I read some promotional material today from a TEFL course provider and it was about checking on the details of your contract before being hired. I agree that you certainly need to check on the basic details of your contract before signing a deal and heading across the world to take up a position.

But, be aware that there is a bit of a problem in the thinking of legalistic and litigation minded Westerners when they start talking about contracts.

Away from the Western world, much more is done with a handshake and a smile. And if the agreement doesn’t work out, you vote with your feet, not your lawyer. In most countries including Western countries, only the lawyer wins. I’ve seen people spend thousands of dollars chasing hundreds of dollars. It just doesn’t make sense.

And, in fact, in most countries the best way to have your contract honored is to be willing yourself to go outside the contract and make yourself valuable to your employer. The benefits can be great. I was once given an end-of-employment bonus much larger than what the contract required. I’ve been given much paid time off that was not required in my contract.

But then I have never niggled over little things in my contract and I have, in fact, never had a serious problem with a contract. Sure, I was cheated by a school once, but that is only once in about 15 years of teaching abroad. And I harbor no anger or animosity toward that school, that culture or that country. Other than that one occasion, I’ve always been treated very fairly.

That doesn’t mean that there haven’t been cultural misunderstandings, miscommunications and other problems. Of course there have been. Life is life no matter where you are living. Some people expect that because they go abroad all the world’s problems will just slip away . . . . la la la la la . . .

Approach your contract as your employer sees it, as a working document. That’s all. Most non-Western employers do not see contracts as being written in stone. You give a little, you take a little. You give a lot, you will probably get to take a lot.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Go along to get along. Avoid the negative ninnies out there as their goal is usually to drag you down into their negative world.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Other than the basics of an agreement, don’t niggle too much on the details. That way your employer is much more likely to give you some slack when you want or need it.

For people looking for an inexpensive Online TEFL Course, TEFL Boot Camp has a lowest-price guarantee. There is no need to spend a huge amount of money on a fairly simple learning process. A good part of the website is FREE for self study.