Andrey came to me with a clear goal, a goal that many students have. He wanted to improve his fluency so he could better perform at his job, which absolutely demands fluent English skills. A little bit worried that he simply did not perform as well as he could at his job, he came to me with this goal in mind.
At work, Andrey is in direct contact with clients from around the world on a daily basis - people who all have different levels of English and different cultural backgrounds. One might say that the more diverse his client base, the more important it is for him to have an excellent grasp of the English language so that he can both understand and reply to each one of his clients properly.
Everybody has a different idea of what “English Fluency” means. I always ask my students “What are your main obstacles when using English - is it grammar, confidence, keeping a conversation going, your accent, or even a lack of vocabulary?”
After a few really interesting lessons getting to know each other and building a comfortable relationship through mostly conversation, something became obvious to Andrey. While he seemed to have no problem talking to me in English, he still felt like something was off.
When he told me what he realized, it made sense to me. He reminded me that he had been learning English ONE way his entire life, for over two decades!
This kind of realization on the student’s end is usually the turning point in every class I teach because this is when the student has their goal right before their eyes and always achieves it, no matter what.
After hours of conversation, Andrey finally realized he had had a completely false understanding of the English grammar, particularly tenses, his entire life. He suddenly had an inkling that he was missing some of the most important basics of English grammar. It was almost like he was in shock - “How could I not know this, I’ve been using English in my job for years and did not ever understand this!”
Once we understood that we needed to build a strong grammar foundation for Andrey, that had never properly been developed, we buckled down and went through grammar lesson after grammar lesson. We would start out by looking at one grammar point at a time, learning when and how it is used. Then, we compared tenses to one another through worksheets I had prepared for him. We would compare Simple Past with Present Perfect Simple, Simple Past with Past Progressive, Simple Present with Present Progressive, and many more. Once we worked through a grammar point, we practiced it over and over in our conversations and through exercises.
I encouraged him to pay close attention to what tenses he uses in his job and the tenses other people use when interacting with him. This helped him build up an awareness he had never had before.
After a handful of grammar lessons, it clicked for him. It was like he was set free. He told me that he had never been taught grammar in such a logical and simple way and that thanks to our classes he finally understands it and is now ready to learn all its nuances and ultimately perfect it.
Thinking about how strongly this will not only impact his communication with his clients but also his confidence when using English, really makes both of us very happy and excited.
We finally understood what was between Andrey and his goal of achieving fluency in English and now, with this new understanding, the road to better communication, more confidence, and all in all better performance at his job is clear.
From Patrick Pittman (https://www.italki.com/teacher/5665598)