classroom language: 10 things you might be saying wrong

If you’re a non-native speaker of English and you’ve recently embarked on a teaching career, chances are that you might be making one or two classroom language mistakes you’re not even remotely aware of. After all, as an advanced student, you were probably never corrected in class if you said something like “open your books on page 20″ because, well, you never had to say it in the first place.

Here’s a list of 10 common grammar and vocabulary mistakes that novice teachers sometimes make. If you have any other suggestions, write them under “comments” and, who knows, there might be a sequel to this post one day. Remember: We’re focusing on examples of classroom language here.

1. Open your books on page 20.
Use to instead: Open your books to page 20. At is also possible in British English.

2. OK! Time’s over!
At the end of a game or timed activity, say Time’s up.

3. Do you want me to explain you the rule again?
You explain something to someone: Do you want me to explain the rule to you again? Or simply: Do you want me to explain the rule again? Remember: Explain me / him / her etc. is wrong.

4. Pay attention in the example.
You should say Pay attention to the example. You can also say Pay attention in class (=pay attention when you’re in class). 

5. Ask question four to Raul, please.
Most verbs followed by two objects can take either to (She gave me a present = She gave a present to me) or for (She bought me flowers = She bought flowers for me). Ask is different. With ask, don’t use to or for: Ask Raul question four, please.

6. Today we’re going to discuss about politics.
You discuss something, not about something: Today we’re going to discuss politics.

7. These are slangs.
Slang is uncountable. Say These are examples of slang. Remember: a slang is wrong. Say a slang word / term. By the way, evidence is uncountable too: Please find the evidence / a piece of evidence in the text.

8. I gave you a homework last class, didn’t I?
Homework is uncountable. Say I gave you some homework. You can also say a piece of homework / two homework assignments. By the way, you can also assign homework. 

9. Are you with your students’ book?
This one’s probably due to Portuguese interference (“Vocês estão com o livro?”). It’s far more natural to ask Do you have your student’s book? By the way, different publishers call their coursebooks student’s book, student book or students’ book

10. Does anyone have any doubts?
If you want to know whether students understood the new rules, for example, it’s more natural to ask Does anyone have any questions? In English, doubt usually implies a lack of belief or certainty rather than a lack of understanding: I have my doubts that the plan will work. More details here.

Special thanks to Natália Guerreiro, Higor Cavalcante, Jimmy Astley, Danilo Pereira, Cecilia Nobre and Adriel Ramos for the input.

Thanks for reading.

Comments 43

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *