ELT Experiences

Experiences of an English Language Teacher

First In-Person Korean Language Lesson

I was fortunate to have joined up to Korean language lessons through a programme, that has returned post-COVID, to help teachers feel a little more at home in South Korea. Personally, though, this is the first time that I have attended an in-person lesson and was unsure what to expect. However, being involved in the teaching of English and bringing UK culture to my students, it is great to be on the other side of the language learning fence.

Yet, before I share my experiences of learning Korean within a physical classroom, as insightful as it may, I would like to explain that I was able to register for Korean language classes through the local Immigrant Community Centre, free of charge. This local programme is very similar to the charitable ESOL programmes that are organised for immigrants to the UK, with volunteers as well as teachers doing their bit to aid or support the integration of certain members of the immigrant community to their new found land.

On Saturday, I attended a Korean language course where things were relatively structured, a coursebook was suggested, and a curriculum was followed. We learnt a variety of grammatical terms – much of which was a wonderful reminder of what I had forgotten since I had last lived in South Korea.

During the two hour online course on Saturday, we studied things such as countable units as well as connectives. Interestingly, in Korean, there are a variety of countable units such as how to quantify bowls, animals, pages, even houses. It was a wonderful reminder with the unique two counting systems in Korean. When having to tell the time, the two counting systems combine and minds are melted. Anyhow, fast forward a few days, and I had my first in-person lesson and I was expecting much of the same. How I was mistaken!

There were a few levels offered through our university for budding professionals keen to adapt to Korea and learn more about the culture. The first level was to help with basic needs such as learning how to read and write Korean (한글), while the next level was to learn more complicated grammatical constructions as well as a variety of verb conjugations.

When I first arrived to the class, I replied to the Korean teacher when she greeted me in Korean. And in front of the class, she placed me on the spot to read the title of a Korean song. Not sure whether it was charismatic charm or whether it was the provision of a Korean name to go with my English name when we were doing our basic introductions. Nevertheless, the lesson started immediately with the introduction of a rather melancholy song titled, “당신은 사랑 받기 위해 태어난 사람” (“You are born in order to be loved”), with this musical number being played in the background to the delight off all in attendance.

당신은 사랑 받기 위해 태어난 사람 – You are born in order to be loved!

The song was deconstructed with much less emphasis on grammar and more on communication – something that I relish with my focus with a Dogme-esque approach to teaching English – and the Korean teacher was attempting to explain vocabulary through context and explanation. The lesson was spontaneous, natural and, at times, reactionary which was wonderful to witness, and I was starting to gain confidence in communicating with my limited Korean and focus less on translating to or from English.

In terms of my learning Korean, my current notebook contains no English and when I find things so confusing do I resort to translating the most basic terms immediately into English. The less I translate, the more I feel the importance of communicating and, with our experience of teaching English to those who find it being their second or third language, the more we understand that immediate or automated translation can sometimes lose the essence or meaning. Thus, I attempt to learn Korean through interaction, communication and negotiation with other Korean speakers. This is more memorable than automatically translating vocabulary, much to the annoyance to English teaching professionals when we have to explain this to English language learners. So, I do hope this pays off in the long run, but I am finding myself having to deal with a variety of situations or receive phone calls and having to negotiate (and apologise profusely) Korean and achieve little milestones.

Many thanks for reaching the end of this post and I hope that it kind of chimes with others that have put themselves through learning Korean in the past. I shall keep you all posted at how I get on, but for now I need to take a break from my Korean language learning, with tomorrow being a new day.

I have finally arrived in South Korea

In my previous post, I shared the announcement that I was relocating with family to South Korea. There were a number of challenges that I was facing with regards to my work and visa before relocating, as nothing had been confirmed at the time of writing. If you are interested in what I had to do prior to my arriving in South Korea, I uploaded a video where I documented my month leading up to my relocation.

What did it take to get to South Korea with family? Watch the video to find out!

On Friday 18 August, I finished my eight week pre-sessional course with my international students and said goodbye to them all. I also had a final online meeting with the course convenor and fellow tutors, and said my farewells. Two days later, my family and I left the UK for an indeterminate amount of time and headed off to Korea. My brother-in-law has been a lifesaver and sorted out our accommodation, and we moved in after staying in temporary accommodation for two days.


Soon after my previous video where things were not confirmed, I received an offer of employment with a university in Daejeon. I discovered during my job hunting that many jobs outside of Korea were for private language institutes (also called ‘hagwons’ 학원) which both have advantages as well as a greater number of disadvantages, so to receive an offer of employment with a university from outside of Korea was a blessing and I feel very honoured to be given the opportunity to transfer my employment from the University of Sussex. My main duties will be preparing Korean and international students for their corresponding business undergraduate degrees as well as aiding them with their academic skills. There are opportunities to get involved in other activities, and I am looking forward to seeing how things evolve with time.

Visa Status

My status in Korea is sponsored by my employer which offers less flexibility for my work status. There are other opportunities to do a variety of voluntary activities with my visa, but I initially have a one-year visa despite signing a two-year contract. I also do not have a re-entry visa so travelling on holiday to visiting other countries can be a little difficult initially. However, visas in South Korea are very similar to the UK or Australia in some degrees and I will have to work towards getting permanent residency in a number of years.

To achieve permanent residency, you have to achieve a number of points and there are various ways to gain points, with things such as education, employment, home ownership as well as various other tasks. Personally, during my employment, I would like to take Korean classes to prepare me for the TOPIK as this would be recognised for my applying for permanent residency in the years to come. However, time will make things clearer in terms of getting residency in Korea as I am unlikely to return to the UK, and may stay on with family in South Korea.

Final Points

There are a number of things that need to be completed after starting my employment, these including getting my Korean mobile phone number sorted, getting my bank organised, completing a medical check-up, as well as receiving a refund of my flight to South Korea. All these will take time but much is hinging on the issuance of my Alien Residence Card (ARC) but I have a date to collect this on 6 September – some days after I start my employment.

Although I have a few days before I start, there are some orientations and general meetings that I need to attend – I even went to a compulsory lecture for all professors earlier this week about engaging and teaching Korean university students. I also had the opportunity to meet my fellow colleagues. I am looking forward to joining Korea TESOL Association and going to the regional meetings in the coming months.

Major Announcement: I am moving back to South Korea

After returning from South Korea from a trip during the Christmas of 2019, I was ready to return to my work and continue teaching international students at the University. Things were going well for in the first three months on 2020, until news broke of a virus doing the rounds in China and Italy. About a month later in April, all staff were advised to work from home remotely.

The next few years were rather surreal with our family contemplating on life’s big quests. One thing that became clearer when speaking with family was the desire for us all to return to South Korea, and that sparked our efforts to return for an indeterminate amount of time, once the pandemic was no longer an issue. Therefore, my wife, son, and I have decided to return back to South Korea at the end of August 2023.

I shared our family’s update on YouTube, so take a look here for more information
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My Experience of Teaching on Preply for 2 Years

It has been two years since I started tutoring students from around the world on Preply, and I guess it all stemmed from a lack of teaching opportunities during the midst of a pandemic. Despite registering with Preply back in July 2016, it took almost 5 years to finally complete the registration and making my profile live. Unfortunately, it was perhaps the least suitable moment to find an alternative means of earnings during the pandemic, but I was keen to make it work.

Setting Up My Profile

During the initial stages of setting up a Preply Profile, I was required to send documents which would confirm my identification and proof of address. I suppose organisations of any worth are expected to ensure the proper checks were in place and within half an hour, Preply had received a scan of my passport and a proof of address. All this was done via a smartphone application and the whole process was rather seamless.

Once my registration was accepted, I was able to make a start on setting up my profile. Creating an eye-catching and engaging profile takes time, and is something I spent a few days on. I wanted to make my profile as professional as possible, and to do so requires a bit of time and research.

Fortunately, as the Preply platform is open for all, you are able to view other profiles and see how more successful tutors are marketing themselves online. I wrote down some initial ideas and starting to formulate them into something a little more suitable. I guess one has to consider the learners that you one is attempting to market and teach, while also writing something that is graded for that potential client.

The other aspect that I noticed during my research was that tutors were marketing their profile with a headline such as “Professional IELTS Tutor” or “Qualified English Language Teacher”. Looking at the written introduction certainly helped create an eye-catchy headline for potential students.

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“Academic Writing: Mastering Citation and Referencing” by Paul Murphy

“Academic Writing: Mastering Citation and Referencing”, written by Paul Murphy, is Prosperity Education’s latest publication with it being geared towards learners on pre-sessional university courses or for teachers who are teaching the principles of academic writing and skills. The author, Paul Murphy, is a teacher who has taught on various English for Academic Purposes (henceforth EAP) programmes in the UK as well as abroad. Paul has also co-written the “IELTS Academic Reading Practice”, along with Peter Clements, for Prosperity Education.

Contents list of “Academic Writing: Mastering Citation and Referencing” by Paul Murphy (2023 pp.4-5).

There are a total of ten chapters within this book, with each unit focusing on a particular skill in relation to academic writing. Prior to the ten separate units, there is an Introduction which guides the student (or teacher) into the intricacies of referencing: in-text citations, reference lists, the different reference styles, as well as the use of sources used in the publication being fictitious (purely used to demonstrate and offer opportunities for the reader to practise academic skills). The topics selected for each unit offer students the breadth of reading that would be expected for undergraduate or post-graduate studies. It is no wonder that Murphy has selected a variety of engaging topics to guide each of the skills, with those including World Languages, Human Rights, Film, or Business.

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Three Ways to Use Chat CPT with Students

If you have been living under a rock for the past few months and unsure what is Chat GPT, then this is essentially an online AI tool that can be used to generate requested content. There have been many English teachers recognising the potential with language learners, and I thought I would share my experiences so far with private English students with some tips for use in an educational setting.

1. Create Exam Questions

The first idea that teachers could use for Chat GPT for is to generate essay questions, particularly for IELTS students. All you have to do is ask Chat GPT to generate some essay questions for English students and in seconds it provides some inspiration. If you are preparing students for IELTS or a range of Cambridge Examinations, and do not wish to use previously delivered model questions with them, Chat GPT could be used to generate a range of questions for learners.

I asked Chat GPT to create a question for IELTS Writing Part 2 and it produced 5 potential questions!

With the example provided in the image on the left, you could select a question at random or give learners an opportunity to choose. There is also a brief reminder for potential students of the time constraints for the IELTS Writing Part 2 being 40 minutes.

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17 Years of English Language Teaching

The New Year is always a great opportunity to personally reflect on the previous year, but it is particularly important for me as a teacher. This is mainly due to the fact that I started teaching back many years ago in December in South Korea. I have now been teaching English in some capacity for over 17 years and have many fond memories. So where did this all start me?

I was really forced into TEFL in South Korea in the winter of 2005, as I had been job hunting for six months after graduating and had failed to secure any form of employment in the UK. As I was married to a South Korean national, it seemed fitting that we try our luck in her country. We packed our things, shipped them to the other side of the world, and then caught a plane to Seoul. It seems another time entirely.

In the classroom during Halloween with young learners in Anseoung, South Korea.

I arrived in this exotic country, with absolutely no knowledge of Korea, an undergraduate degree in International Business, and renewed enthusiasm to secure employment, doing what I could to support my young family. Anyone who has had the opportunity to travel to South East Asia would particularly understand that the only field that is really available for arrivals – particularly in the early 1990s and 2000s – was to teach English to young children. I was able to secure employment almost immediately with a private language institute (also commonly known as a ‘hagwon’), which was completely different to what I failed to achieve back in the UK for six months.

When first starting teaching in South Korea, I was based in a very small town (about an hour and a half away from Seoul) where I felt like the only foreigner there. Most jobs in the local area for locals were working in factories or in local convenience stores. Back in the winter of 2019 (prior to the pandemic), I recently met up with my boss and had a chance to see how the town had changed. It is now completely different to how I remembered it, with many new towns popping up. Many of the rice paddy fields have now gone now and it resembles more of a small city rather than a remote town.

Anyhow, when I first started teaching children in the winter of 2005, I had no certificate in English language teaching other than completing a weekend course, prior to my departure to Korea, which barely gave me the necessary skills or confidence to teach. However, I bought Grammar in Use, spent all evening planning my first day of classes, and felt like a nervous wreck upon entering the classroom. After a few weeks of planning, and getting used to my new adopted country, I refined my lesson planning, having realised that I had six classes of lessons per day and could plan one lesson per day.

This one lesson could include a variety of tasks within 50 minutes and usually my first lesson would involve elementary students with my final class being with intermediate learners. I could cover the same topic, have the worksheets all prepped within 30 minutes and have an idea of what to do in each class by grading the difficulty or activities. And that was my introduction to English language teaching in South Korea.

A whiteboard filled with flashcards and vocabulary.

After fourteen months of teaching young learners, I really wanted to take my teaching to the next lesson and decided to undertake a CELTA at the British Council in Seoul. The whole process of applying can be a separate post, but I remember starting the first day after commuting a couple of hours to the centre. The CELTA Tutors were incredibly supportive and patient to all trainees, and I still keep in touch with them.

Now fast forward 17 years and I am now based in the UK teaching a range of classes – EAP, Business English, General English, IELTS Preparation to name just a few. I have met many students, taught thousands of hours to both young learners and adults, received many gifts from students, and had the chance to make many new friends. This career has been very rewarding with highs as well as a lows.

Nevertheless, here is to another 17 years.

Lesson Ninja: A Simple Tool for English Language Tutors

With the increasing popularity of online tutoring, there is a growing demand for online tools for tutors to create engaging and interactive activities. Personally, I found it ever so difficult to create automated gapfill or matching exercises within an online environment. However, this is where Lesson Ninja attempts to bridge that gap (no pun intended) and offer intuitive tools for the benefit of tutor and student. In this post, you will learn more about this valuable tool which could support those that are involved in language tutoring.

I was fortunate enough to have interviewed Maciej Szwarc, co-founder of Lesson Ninja, and this video is available to watch below. In this video, Maciej shares his website as well as the tools that are available.

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Book Review: “101 EFL Activities for Teaching University Students” by Hall Houston

It was a surprise to receive Hall’s most recent publication to review, “101 EFL Activities for Teaching University Students”, during the summer, and I was keen to share my thoughts and ideas. However, it has taken a while to write out and create a video, but I appreciate Hall Houston’s patience in the meantime. Nevertheless, I hope I do this review justice.

Watch my immediate reaction to this new book by Hall Houston

Overall Impressions

When I first opened this book on my computer, I was surprised how many different activities were included within the publication. Of course there are 101 activities, but it is sometimes hard to visualise the number of tasks within the contents page. The contents page covers three pages in length and the book is split into three key components: ‘Getting Off to a Good Start’, ‘Maintaining Motivation and Interest’, and ‘Ending the Semester Gracefully’.

The intention is obvious with the book offering ideas for the beginning, middle, or end of the course or term. There are a number of activities which are within each of these three components:

  • Getting Off to a Good Start: 38 activities
  • Maintaining Motivation and Interest: 38 activities
  • Ending the Semester Gracefully: 25 activities
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How To Teach ‘Too’ and ‘Enough’

In this brief post / video, I share how I go about teaching the difference between ‘too’ and ‘enough’ with pre-intermediate or intermediate learners of English. These are some tips and feel free to either adapt or ignore this as what may work for me might not work for you.

1. Introduce Adjectives

The first step is to introduce common adjectives to learners with the use of flashcards. Print off some flashcards which represent common adjectives such as cold, hot, expensive, etc. and then elicit from students the language. While language is being elicited, board it up and check pronunciation by nominating students.

2. Students Predict Situations

Get students to think of particular situations with the selected adjectives, for example with the image of someone tired they could have worked for twelve hours. Give an example to all students with one flashcard and ask students to work together in pairs or small groups, noting down possible situations. Once students have written down some ideas, nominate groups to share their ideas, writing down them on the whiteboard.

3. Creative Dialogue

The next step is to get students to create a dialogue based on their predicted situations. Provide an example for all students to get them started: referring to the picture related tiredness:

  • Person A: Could you write the report for me by tomorrow morning?
  • Person B: Sorry, I am really tired!

Get students to work together in small groups or pairs, thinking of potential dialogue using the adjectives and scenarios as an idea. Give learners some time and then monitor them, helping where necessary. Check whether any learners have used the target language with ‘too’ or ‘enough’ so that you can nominate them for later. After ten minutes or so, ask students to read out their dialogue in pairs or small groups and share them with the rest of the class.

Make a note of any particular language such as the example dialogue above or the target language and write this up on the whiteboard for all students. If none of the students use the target language, you will have to present it to the class. For example, write the situation above and write the start of the sentence ‘I am too tired to … as I didn’t get enough sleep’ and get students to complete the sentence in small groups.

4. Using Target Language

Ask students to use the language ‘too’ and ‘enough’ with the images and situations, working together in small groups or pairs. After a short period, nominate groups to provide their example sentences using ‘too’ and ‘enough’. You could highlight the grammatical structure with the target language so students are aware of how to construct it.

The next step is for students to consolidate understanding and to review with the use of a gapfill exercise. Get students to complete this individually, and monitor or assist learners where necessary. Once students have completed this, get learners to compare answers in small groups or pairs. Here is an online gapfill activity which you could get students to complete.

5. Situational Complaints

The final task for students to undertake is for them to complain about certain situations using the target language. Hand out or board up some situations for students to share their complaints with others. Monitor learners and then provide feedback where necessary. I have included some topics in the Word document below which could be used with students.

I hope you found this grammar teaching post / video useful and that it gave you some ideas for teaching the language point, ‘too’ and ‘enough’. If you would like a future grammar teaching series to be included, kindly let me know in the comments.

Happy Teaching!

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