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Communicating in a second (or a third…) language can be challenging for even the most proficient of speakers. Because English has developed independently in many parts of the world, there is no guarantee that two English speakers will understand one another all of the time. Common expressions learned in Australia might be a mystery to those who learned English in Jamaica. Likewise, an accent perfected in Ireland might be difficult to understand for those who learned English in the United States or Japan.

Fortunately, it is human nature to want to understand others and to be understood. This is especially true in educational settings where teachers want to teach and students want to learn—even though English may be a non-native language to both. Because teachers often repeat information in lectures and demonstrations, in feedback on student work, and in answers to questions, they can use strategies focused on these crucial teacher-student interactions to become more effective communicators.

Strategies to improve oral communication

  1. Prepare for each presentation or demonstration as you would for a public speaking engagement. Practice in the mirror and/or with a willing listener several times before presenting to your students. In other words, speak out loud, don’t just read.
  2. Meet with a tutor in the AAU Online Speaking Lab (http://blogs.academyart.edu/ols/speaking/online-speaking-lab.html) to practice and receive feedback on pronunciation and presentation skills.
  3. Become familiar with the rubric for each assignment and use similar phrases and vocabulary in your lectures/demonstrations, critiques, and answers to questions pertaining to that assignment.
  4. Speak slowly, clearly, and loudly enough so the whole class can hear you.
  5. Use PowerPoint slides to highlight key points in text.
  6. After each key point, ask a volunteer to explain the concept. This allows you to make sure students have understood and provides an opportunity for the class (and you) to hear the information again in different words.

Strategies to improve written communication

  1. Use the phrases and vocabulary from assignment rubrics when offering feedback.
  2. Write simply. Long, complicated sentences can be difficult to understand.
  3. Write scripts for common responses or comments, make sure they are clear and grammatically correct, and then paste them into discussions and on student work as needed.
  4. Read writing out loud to notice errors that you might have missed while proofreading silently.
  5. Use the Online Writing Lab (https://my.academyart.edu/resources/forms/academy-resource-center/owl) to get feedback on scripts (see #2), and other pieces of writing.
  6. Use proofreading services such as grammarly.com to check spelling and grammar before giving written feedback to students.

Resource created by Chantelle Ferguson, Director of Online Language Support 

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