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Ebaby's ESL Teacher

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mitchelkSuper Member!

United States

February 6, 2008

Are they learning? It sometimes seems like students aren't learning. Or even worse that they are simply forgetting everything that they learned. It is important to remember that language learning is not linear.  

Students create a complex interlanguage, while learning English. An interlanguage is a mental construct-- a language that only exists in the learner's head. The interlangauge may be similar in ways to a student's native languages (L1) and the target language  (L2), but it is in many ways different. The diagram below from www.ncela.gwu.edu/pubs/jeilms/vol14/duran.htm illustrates how interlanguage is similar and different from the student's native and target language. In the diagram  Language A and L1=native language and Language B and L2=English



Many language educators may be very aware of interlanguage. Students' interlanguage is individual and may follow completely different rules than their native language or English. Interlanguage rules are also more fluid and dynamic than normal language rules. Students' perception of how past tense is made, for example, may be ever changing and developing. 

This happened in my English class. The students "learned" simple past several months ago. They successfully completed two tests on the subject and used simple past correctly in classroom discussions, but NO ONE remembers it now. Sure they know some irregular verbs, but they don't know how to ask questions or negate sentences. 

Before I or any other teacher get too frustrated, we need to remember that language learning is not a simple progression from knowing one language to knowing a second language. Students are going to be constantly adjusting their interlanguage rules and sometimes that will make them perform more accurately and other times it will make them perform less accurate. 

How can we as teachers overcome the frustration of learners' mistakes?

I think, we need to remember that they are creating a complex interlanguage. And their interlangauge will become more and more like English, but it takes time.  And it is not linear!



More entries: Writing with Structure in the ESL Classroom (60), TOEFL, my life!, Emotions in the ESL classroom (1), ESL Classroom Atmosphere and Friendships (10), Interlanguage and Teacher Frustration (16), Fun Online ESL Writing and Reading Lessons (1), Wikis in the ESL/EFL classroom! (7), Students as Teachers...hmm (12)

View all entries from Ebaby's ESL Teacher >

11:17 PM Oct 16 2017

United Kingdom

Without a doubt you are great at instructing yet everyone ought to comprehend that If learning English is muddled so do educating. One of the Dissertation Help UK of Birmingham said in his magazine that educating is the most confused calling among numerous callings.

06:02 AM Oct 06 2017

United Kingdom

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08:46 AM Jan 27 2016

United Kingdom

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05:46 AM Feb 15 2008


Serbia and Montenegro

I can't agree with you more...I'm not an english language expert, but I am an english language teacher in primary school (age 6-10)...My language has an alphabet where is one sign for one vowel, so it is little bit harder to understand why is same letter read differently in two different english words... well, it is just one of the things making learning harder for my little pupils.. I have also experienced some of those difficulties myself...and the biggest one is the fact that I don't have with wnom to talk to and improve my own talking english skills...  would you like to talk to me, teacher mitchelk?

04:25 AM Feb 15 2008

Fidel Ifulu
Congo, Democratic Republic Of The

It seem very professinal that many would like to learn from you. Would you mind being helpful to me and many other people in my sitation?

Thanks in advance.

05:07 PM Feb 14 2008


United Kingdom

could i make friends with you

02:31 AM Feb 13 2008


Eager to be your student!!!Cool

11:31 PM Feb 12 2008

nate_straight guy

I absolutely agree with you and also Stitch.

In my opinion, the process of
learning English as a second language,
espcially in Thailand,
is totally contrast with our natural.

In our mother-tongue language,
we first learn by imitating our parents' voice
without even knowing its meaning.
Then we remember more words
and the usage of language.
which may take time for 3-4 years.

At this step, you already know
how to handle language to a certain level
as well as correct pronunciation of words
without knowing any single alphabets!

After that, we then start to write and read.
In education system, we study
more words and complicated ideas.
Reading novels and literatures also help us broaden
our view of the world through language.
Besides, being and hanging out with friends
play an important role for you
to learn or even make your own langauge.

But what's going on with most ESL students?
First, they are forced to write A B C...
then remember words, by head not by heart.
I mean we have to recite:
A ant, B bird, C cat, D dog, E elephant,...
(this is the way we do it in Thailand)
without any feeling about it.
We do it as if we were robots
with perfectly wrong pronunciation.

Then here we are at the part of
a bitter pill to swallow.
Yes, it's GRAMMAR.
Did you know how many
rules about articles we have to remember?
It's 21, twenty-one rules.
You use "the" when you refer
to something ...bla bla bla.....
And TENSE.... hahaha. I'm sure that
most ESL students couldn't agree more with me.

That's all for studying English
in formal education system.
If you really want to commucicate with foreigners,
you will have take lots of
listening and speaking classes and so on.

Then ten years has gone by and Bang!
You still cannot use English with confidence.
Most Thais regard westerners as monsters.
It'd be better to stay away from them... The end.

Here the processes of learning language:

mother-tounge language:


English as a second language--:

It's completely reversed!

I think that's already too much for your blog today.
Anyway, I'd be my pleasure
to share more on this topic with you later.

01:04 AM Feb 12 2008


Hi! Mitchelk!

It will be a sad news if a student just studies for the test.

Few students will keep the good habit of reviewing and previewing.

So, no doubt, after the test, most students forget what they've learned.

And I like this article.

Thanks for informing this news to me! Mitchelk!

Happy Mittwoch!


11:13 PM Feb 11 2008


Hello, mitchelk. I'm glad to make friend with uSmile

I wana practise my english. So i need your help. my msn is JESSEY-13@hotmail.com  If you were free, pls add me.

07:41 PM Feb 11 2008



I'm not a teacher, but I'm a "experienced" ESL student.

I think students share similar frustration as their teachers. As a Chinese as L1 speaker, there was no existence of the "Verb Tense" concept in my head. It was simply the most frustrating thing to learn (and I still make mistakes and get frustrated with it at times after living in the U.S. for many years), also because it is in every English sentence. Knowing the rules and passing the tests are definitely not enough.

This is why I think people should use English, baby! I deeply believe that we learn language through using it. What we learned in classes was valuable to establish a framework, but the languages really comes alive when they are used. English, baby! offers a fun and encouraging environment for students to use what they learned in class in real life. I think it helps the development of students' Interlanguage toward English.

09:51 AM Feb 11 2008



you are a good teacher!language is complex we need time......

09:50 AM Feb 11 2008



you are a good teacher!language is complex we need time......

12:57 AM Feb 11 2008

Saudi Arabia

hi i want to chat with you  on MSN if don't mind


12:52 AM Feb 09 2008


i couldn't have agreed with u more·~~~~~~thanks ~

04:46 AM Feb 07 2008



- You pretty good. You can be friends?.
I come from China.
How many of your MSN.