The student brought an essay we had reviewed in our last session, which he had rewritten per my suggested revisions and corrections. The rewritten essay was vastly improved, and he admitted he had spent much more time on it (1.5) and had some help from his stepfather. The essay was well written with only a few errors, and was similar to what I would expect from a native English speaker who is not a language major. We discussed how, as he works on writing, he can use a simpler sentence structure -- noun, verb, etc., and doesn't need to create complex, compound sentences. The simpler sentence structure is often used by skilled writers (TV reporters, Hemingway), and it is understood by all. When he has that mastered, we can move to move complex sentence structures. I mentioned that since most Americans read at an 8th grade level, he is close to perfect for that level. Because he wants to be an attorney or in business, he will benefit from advancing to a more complex written and spoken word.
He will need to work on verb conjugation, which he was not taught because he entered America and was first immersed in spoken and written English when he was 11 years old. We discussed the four elements of language: understanding the spoken word, speaking, reading and writing, and how these skills are very different and learned separately if we are not raised with them. He rated himself on each skills, and knows there is room for improvement in each.
Because his mother does not speak English fluently, his home life does not totally immerse the student in spoken English. All this means that at age 16, he needs to "catch up", largely through exposure to parts of speech, verb conjugation (regular and irregular), and how to use the many tenses of verbs. I explained to him that this means he will have to purposefully study and then memorize this information, which is harder as we get older, but he is willing to do it. He has a good memory and is highly motivated to succeed in his professional life. I can see he grasps concepts quickly and learns them. He also knows that if he spends more time on an assignment, he can get it right. For now, focus, memorization and then practice will have to be his approach if he wants to catch up and then move beyond his fellow students.
We reviewed "its / it's", from last week. He has mastered that.
We then did some pronunciation work per ESL. His spoken English is above average, given his background. We worked on "the" and "L" sounds. He has been substituting "dd" for "the", e.g., "mudder" versus "mother." He immediately was able to say "the", and simply needs to practice it mindfully. His "L" sound was also incorrect, and again, when I showed him how to properly make that sound, he was able to immediately do so. This means he has a good ear, and (again), grasps concepts and has the capacity to correct himself and repeat to learn the lesson. Since these mispronunciations are simply a habit that had not been corrected, he will have to pay attention as he works on correcting his speech. Our goal is to eliminate his accent so that his English approaches that of a native speaker, which is possible given his abilities.
We then discussed vowels. He does not have the vocabulary to describe vowels and their long-short sounds. He did not know what "consonant" meant, again strictly a vocabulary issue. More study and memorization needed. I suggest flash cards with vowel sounds.
He says he wants to increase his vocabulary. He discussed how he will hear someone use a "new" word, and then likes to research it and will then use it, a good approach. I asked him if he would agree to learn 10 new words a week, and he was hesitant to do so because that is not how he prefers to learn. We need to find a way for him to do that, whether it is simply going into a dictionary or Thesaurus, or by reading. I want this vocabulary expansion to be structured, not casual!
I also suggested that he find and begin using a phonics app, and he found one online during our lesson. If his stepfather works with him on phonics basics and the vocabulary that goes with it ("vowel, consonant, long / short"), his English language skills will advance much more quickly. I believe this will be a bit tedious for him, but will pay off in the short and long run.
He will research how adults and children acquire languages and email me a short essay on both. I have asked him to highlight nouns and verbs in the essays in different colors so that he is aware of those parts of speech and makes sure there is noun/verb agreement.
He performs amazingly well given his background. He is a motivated student who generally succeeds at what he is asked to do. I appreciate working with him.
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