How to Teach EFL Students to Speak English

Written by renee williams
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How to Teach EFL Students to Speak English
Give students the tools they need to speak to each other in English. (talk button image by Wolfgang Zintl from

English teachers don't have to know students' native language to teach them English. Many schools prefer the immersion approach, immersing students in the language with little to no support from their native language. Students comprehend using visual cues such as pictures, eye contact and facial expressions. They learn how to speak by listening and modelling your pronunciation. English-language learners are highly motivated to learn the language, even in non-English-speaking countries.

Skill level:

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  1. 1

    Show pictures and pronounce words. Because EFL students in foreign countries have trouble comprehending English, use pictures of simple objects to bridge the communication gap. For example, in a lesson about homes, show a picture of a house, bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. Display the pictures and say the corresponding word, asking the students to repeat. When they have mastered the pronunciation, show the pictures again and ask them to identify them without your verbal prompts.

  2. 2

    Use language software. Most EFL classrooms have bilingual language learning software to instruct students in their own language. For example, in South Korea, the software instructs students in Korean to repeat after they hear words in English. Students can hone comprehension skills through lessons presented on this software. Simple lessons appropriate for beginners include English greetings, the days of the week and the months of the year.

  3. 3

    Practice through games. Choose games that encourage students to speak, using the vocabulary they have learnt. EFL students enjoy playing American board games. Play a board game with English words and phrases. Students must pronounce the words and phrases to advance in the game. English picture-card games, in which students say words and match the word cards with corresponding pictures, are also appropriate.

  4. 4

    Encourage conversation. Create short, simple skits in English, asking students to perform the skits with a partner or in groups. Skits will reinforce what the students have learnt and help shy EFL students use the language with peers. Teach the skit through repetition. As the students become more familiar with speaking, allow them to create their own skits and perform them. Eventually, the students will have authentic conversations with you and their peers in English. This is particularly challenging for students who have few opportunities to use English in their country.

  5. 5

    Check for understanding. Teach students to use signals, which demonstrate understanding and lack of understanding. For example, when you ask students if they understand, they can give you a thumbs up, signalling that they understand. A thumbs down symbolises a lack of understanding. Sometimes EFL learners lack the language skills, are too timid or are embarrassed to tell you that they do not understand the lesson. Signals are a fun and easy way to communicate.

Tips and warnings

  • Make sure any hand gestures used are acceptable to the students' cultures.

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