1. Grammar

It’s the necessary evil; a good English course should have some focus on grammar, even if you’re just taking an English conversation course. You must know how the language works, and therefore there should be some grammar teaching involved. A good TESOL teacher will make an effort to teach towards your understanding of the grammar, give lots of examples, and allow you the chance to practise the grammar under their guidance.

2. Vocabulary

You can produce language without knowing words. Vocabulary learning is an essential step in learning English. The vocabulary to be taught will be practical and useful for you outside the classroom, and will be based on certain topics: food, travel, health, entertainment, animals, etc. The TESOL teacher should not only teach what these words mean, but also the correct way to pronounce them, spell them and how to use them when you need them.

3. Pronunciation

Besides learning the pronunciation of new words, the TESOL teacher should also focus on particular English sounds, and help you learn to pronounce those sounds correctly. People learning English will have particular problems with English sounds because of their first language; the English teacher should try to help you produce those sounds as accurately as possible, both individually and in words. Good English courses will put emphasis on proper pronunciation, both in speaking and listening activities.

4. Spelling

There’s no denying that English has some pretty crazy spelling rules! Part of the reason is that many English words have come from other languages. Mastering written English requires a good understanding of the common spelling patterns of English words, and good English courses should put some focus on learning this challenging skill.

5. Punctuation

Some English courses overlook this important part of English writing, as most people learn English for the purpose of speaking it, and don’t want to focus so much on written English. However, English punctuation to writing is like pronunciation to speaking: without it, communication is difficult to understand. A good English writing course should raise students’ awareness of the need to correct punctuation in English writing

6. Listening

It’s the foundation of oral communication; without the ability to understand what you hear, it is impossible to have a conversation. An English conversation course will also include listening practice, while a general English course will aim towards developing reading and writing skills as well. A good English course should provide you with many listening opportunities, as well as exposure to different speakers of English, through CD, video and songs.

7. Speaking

Proficiency in this skill is sought after by all who take an English course. Students want to be able to have conversation with other speakers, including native speakers. Good English courses should provide students with maximum speaking opportunities in the classroom, and the English teacher should be available to correct any mistakes you may make. Don’t be afraid to speak in the classroom – it’s the only way you will improve!

8. Reading

Not a favourite activity for many people learning English – it involves knowledge of grammar, vocabulary as well as reading speed and various other reading skills. But remember, any skill takes time to build and improve. A good general English course should provide students with interesting texts to read, not only to develop your reading skills, but also to introduce different forms of writing that you will likely have to do outside the classroom. Good reading activities should allow you to enjoy what you’re reading.

9. Writing

As English is a global language, there is every reason to develop good writing skills. Again, a good general English course will provide some writing practice, but for more intensive writing opportunity, you may want to consider taking an English writing course. A good English teacher should be able to teach you how to combine grammar, vocabulary, spelling, punctuation and reading skills to communicate through written English in both formal and informal situations.

10. Exposure to English culture

It’s the added bonus to any good English course. While you’re learning to communicate in English, you will also learn about English speaking cultures – British, North American, and Australian, as well as other cultures that are making the English language an important tool of communication. History, entertainment, cuisine, music and customs are some of the aspects of English culture you can expect to discover.

It looks like a lot to learn, but these areas are equally important in learning English. You can be sure that a good English course will provide you with all the necessary tools to communicate effectively in English!

Michael Bunyak

English Teacher at Canadian Education College, Singapore