How to Customize English Tutoring: Native Language as a Factor

I’ve been working hard on my French, Italian, Russian and Turkish. Not only do I love learning languages, as an English teacher and tutor I feel it’s extremely important to remind yourself of how much hard work and discipline it takes. Additionally, learning more about the first language of many of my clients is extremely helpful in teaching them. In doing so, I’m able to target specific transference issues during our English lessons.

The difficulties English learners might encounter are very specific to their first (and even second) language depending on their level of language proficiency. Russian speakers have trouble with articles, and the pronunciation of specific vowels such as the "a" in "black". French speakers struggle with the pronunciation of the "h".

A lesser known fact about French English learners is that they have a tendency to overuse more academic words in the wrong context. A good example is the word "profond/e" which means "deep" in the sense of "deep water" in French whereas "profound" in English means "deep" in a much more idiomatic sense such as "profound knowledge".

Arabic speakers struggle with a similar problem worsened by the lack of Latin- and Greek-based vocabulary in Arabic. A key here is working on Latin- and Greek-derived syllables that are taken for granted by most speakers of European languages such as "poly" and so on. Arabic speakers also struggle with the pronunciation of the consonant "p" since Arabic does not have that sound.

Spanish speakers have trouble with the conditional sentences and tend to assume that the use of the Simple Past in the Conditional II implies that we are talking about the past here which is not the case.

These are just some of the transference issues many of my English students struggle with during our tutoring sessions.

Marike Korn