I cover this in the Ninja Training Course, but I figured I’d cover it here too as it is a popular question! For example Itzel just wrote in from Mexico to ask:
In your opinion how much of the students’ native language should you speak in a classroom? I teach english in Mexico and I know Spanish as well and I find myself talking to the students a bit more Spanish than English, but I have been told by my teachers this method will never get them to learn English..what do you think??
It’s not so much how *much* of their native language to use, but at what *level* it is at.
The general rule is to use English at “L+1” i.e. the English level of the students plus a little bit. If you need to use English that is too complex they will shut off and you will have attention problems.
So game instructions, motivation talk etc. that are higher than L+1 should be in their native language.
Ninja Tip: Although always simplify things if you can, Einstein said “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” 🙂
And of course any English that you have learnt in class (i.e. L-1) should always from now on be only in English. (And pretend to not understand if they say this material in their native language! Be *very* strict on this, it’s one of the golden keys to success!)
As the students improve, their English Level (L) will get better and better so you can use more and more English.
But in the beginning it means a lot of the class will be their native language.
Some schools advocate teaching only in English – the so called “English Showers” But this is just like a regular shower, you have to do it everyday otherwise you’ll stink! 🙂
And also some schools insist on only teaching in English because it keeps the students’ levels low so they can keep selling them lessons for longer. (I’ll leave the moral side of this for you to decide!)
So to get the kids learning lots, keep the English L+1, use their language for things higher than this, and pretty soon you’ll have a class full of English with near 100% comprehension and attention!
P.S. Ninja Tip 2: If you constantly find yourself needing to say the same phrases in their native language over and over again, then add these phrases to your curriculum so from then on you can say it in English.
P.P.S. If you don’t know your students’ language yet, and are staying in country for more than 3 months, then you have two options, either “get by” or “get fluent” personally I’d go for “get fluent,” it only takes a few months and will be the single biggest thing you can do to improve your quality of life overseas. Plus you’ll be a rockstar role model in the eyes of your students! 🙂
P.P.S. Ninja tip 3: I was very serious about being *very* strict with not using the local language for English you’ve already covered. When I do video reviews of lessons I very often catch even great teachers saying things like “Yes” or “You next” or “Very good” in their local language even though the kids have already know these words. Try videoing your own lessons and you’ll see many instances like this I think! 🙂