While perhaps not as popular as general or business English, English for tourism is a class that you may be required to teach during your career as an ESL teacher.
Whether your students are preparing to work in the tourist industry or simply interested in improving their language for future vacations, English for tourism classes contain information essential to operating in the English speaking world. English for tourism lessons have the immediate benefit of demonstrating inherently useful, real-life situations to students. Unlike some lessons where students struggle to understand the purpose, each tourism lesson is concrete and necessary. Your job as a teacher is to make sure that your classroom stays lively and engaging.
Approaching a tourism course for the first time can be intimidating – the material might be new to you and often students are taking your class with a specific goal in mind. One of my students was taking my six week course and traveling across Europe for a month immediately after the last lesson. Talk about pressure!
Take a deep breath, try to manage your students' expectations, and here are some tips to make the most out of every lesson:
How to Make Most of English for Tourism
Don't (Necessarily) Rely on Coursebooks
While there are many decent textbooks for tourism English, they often focus too heavily on grammar and written tasks. Of course these skills are critical to language learners, but they are not usually the primary focus of the more common, conversation-based English for tourism courses. If your school allows you some flexibility in terms of course material, you should consider creating your own course and lesson plans. Creating your own course and planning lessons from scratch may sound like a lot of work, but in fact English for tourism is an easy topic for doing just that. Each lesson can focus on one aspect of tourism – for example at the airport, taking a taxi, at the hotel, etc. Very quickly it becomes clear that planning a personalized curriculum is not such a burden after all. Not only does planning your own course allow you freedom to explore topics your students will find most interesting, but your exercises and activities are almost certainly more exciting than forcing students to work through a textbook.
Planning a 60 - 90 minute lesson can take about 15 minutes once you understand the basic structure of your lesson plan. (Another bonus: not too many materials are needed!) Most lessons could go something like this: warmer (revision from the last lesson), introduction (discussion questions related to the topic of the day), vocabulary (a few worksheets and games to introduce vocabulary), set up a role play (explain the role play and read through the role play as a class), conduct the role play, and feedback (5 – 10 minutes of error correction from the role plays). If you have time, you may want to play a game at the end of class to revise new vocabulary or language points.
Fairly simple to prepare and execute, a custom class has high impact for English learners.
Embrace Role Plays
Because students are preparing to interact with native speakers, it is critical for teachers to expose students to useful and authentic structures as much as possible. Role plays are particularly useful in the English for tourism classroom because most interactions students will have while abroad are easily anticipated. Many situations, such as checking in to a hotel, can also be quite formulaic. It is much easier to anticipate what questions custom officials at security or concierge at a hotel will ask, rather than what a native speaker might talk about while at an office party.
Role plays can (and should) be used for every topic taught in an English for tourism classroom. To ensure success, it is most important that students should already be fairly comfortable with the the target language in the role play. Teachers should explain the premise of each role play simply and thoroughly – nothing is worse than students stumbling through a dialogue with an unclear goal. For lower level students, it is useful to provide a full example of a dialogue; allow them to read through the dialogue several times as is, and then introduce situations that require students to change details, while retaining the target language structures. For more advanced students, you may be able to simply elicit the structures you would like them to use and allow students more freedom in this speaking activity.
Tourism role plays are easy to create and tailor to a specific class or theme. Regardless of your students' proficiency in English, you should provide role plays as examples of what students should expect when abroad.
Preparation, Preparation, Preparation
Like any kind of conversation class, English for tourism requires slightly more work than a general English lesson where teachers go straight through the book. There is nothing worse than feeling unprepared as you head into a classroom; you know it and very soon after your students know it. Keep your students' trust and interest by spending time with your materials before lessons. This is particularly crucial for conducting role plays. A badly explained role play will lead to confused students, a frustrated teacher, and disastrous dialogues. Remember that your class is like a mirror: an unmotivated teacher reflects back and makes for an unmotivated class.
Let Them Make Art
Many teachers think that English learners older than elementary age aren't interested in creative activities. This simply isn't true! One way to bring color into your English for tourism classroom is to plan art-based activities. Examples of art projects for the tourism classroom include brochures and posters on any number of subjects: countries, cities, guided tours, etc.
On the surface, art lessons are a way to give teachers and students alike a break; in fact, there are a multitude of educational purposes to such tasks. First of all, for mixed ability classes these projects may level the playing field. Weaker students who don't speak well may have a chance to show off their skills in drawing or organization. Stronger speakers are able to lead group discussions and help weaker students. Creative projects also create a relaxed, informal environment that doesn't put pressure on students. Secondly, an interesting task will be far more memorable to students than a simple worksheet. Art projects allow students to revise and reproduce learned knowledge and does it in a way that they are re much more likely to remember. Finally, each project should come with a lot of student talking time. Students should discuss ideas in English while working on the project. Be sure to allow time for each group to do a short presentation about their final product.
Ensure Equal Exposure
In my experience, it is natural for teachers to gravitate towards the students who like to talk a lot in class. Although it is wonderful to have at least one student who always has an opinion, remember that your job as a teacher is to include every student. Ensuring that the shy or unconfident students get talking is difficult, but necessary for them to get their money's worth during the course. Remember that in the real world there may not be someone else to answer for them. There are various ways to encourage quiet students, and you as the teacher should tailor these tips to each individual student.
One easy way to encourage students to talk is by playing games. Games like 20 questions require students to speak, but in an informal, low pressure situation. By introducing the target language before the game begins, the pressure is off the student; knowing exactly what the teacher wants is a major relief and motivates students to get talking. Partnered role plays are also excellent models for unconfident speakers. Again, a clear structure of the desired output can give confidence to even the quietest student.
Which Errors to Correct?
In many cases, the English for tourism classroom does not have a specific focus on grammar. Instead, classes focus on vocabulary and key structures that can be memorized and used in various situations. Keep this in mind while error correcting. If your class does go through grammar exercises, then feel free to correct grammar mistakes. However if your class is more conversational, it doesn't make sense to correct too many grammar mistakes unless it impedes understanding or directly relates to the lesson's target language.
Focus on errors of target language, pronunciation, and vocabulary. For most students learning English for tourism, oral fluency is more important than grammatical accuracy. Keep that in mind as you choose the errors to focus on in you feedback sessions.
English for tourism classes are an exciting chance to teach your students language that is real-world applicable. To ensure that students will remember what they have learned, it is important for teachers to keep students talking and classes lively. If you follow these tips, who knows? Maybe next time your student is showing his passport and answering questions at passport control, he will think of you!
Have you ever taught an English for tourism course?
Do you prefer English for specific purposes or general English? Did you customize your lessons or did you prefer to stick to a coursebook?