Thank you Edward for agreeing to participate in our interview.
Edward, could you tell us a little about yourself. What is an ESL professional and how do you go about becoming one?
I'm a teacher of English as a Second Language (ESL) with over 15 years of classroom experience in Japan and Canada. I've always enjoyed developing educational materials and creating a stimulating learning environment for my students. About four years ago I started writing an idiom and vocabulary-based textbook for advanced ESL students. A Year in the Life of an ESL Student is now available through Amazon.com and Trafford Publishing.
It's sometimes thought that any native English speaker is automatically qualified to teach ESL. I disagree. An ESL professional is someone with a solid background in education and linguistics. He should have a proven record of achievement in curriculum development, lesson plan presentation, and classroom management. He should also be aware of cross-cultural issues and the individual learning expectations of his students. I believe it's only when an ESL teacher has these attributes that he is truly professional.
When did your passion for teaching English as a second language begin? What kept you going?
After completing my Education degree, one of my professors encouraged me to enrol in the ESL diploma program at UBC. I was hooked as soon as I started taking courses in the ESL department. I found second language acquisition to be a fascinating subject and something I wanted to pursue further. Upon completion of my studies I went directly to Japan to teach English. I had such a positive experience while working there that I ended up staying for almost four years. Since returning home, I've enjoyed teaching ESL to international students at Pacific Language Institute in Vancouver, B.C.
The attitude my students have towards learning is what keeps me going. Every morning when I walk into class I'm surrounded by a group of young adults who are ready and willing to learn. Teaching students who are truly motivated is an absolute pleasure and something that not every teacher gets to experience.
How did you come up with ideas for A Year In The Life Of An ESL Student: Idioms And Vocabulary You Can’t Live Without?
The school I work at asked me to create a four- month course that would improve a student's comprehension and usage of idiomatic English. Each Monday morning I would ask my students about the idioms/expressions they had heard over the weekend. To my surprise, my students were providing me with all the ideas I would need for my textbook. I decided to present the idioms in dialogues that revolve around the experiences that ESL students actually have while studying in North America. I believe the dialogues make an impression because they are written about and speak directly to the very people who are studying from them. Students recall the language that's presented because it relates to their current learning environment and will continue to be relevant as long as they speak English.
What challenges or obstacles did you encounter while writing your book? How did you overcome these challenges?
When I first started writing the textbook I had no idea just how much effort it would take to see the project through to completion. If I had realized this at the beginning, I don't know if I would have attempted to do it. The writing, classroom testing, editing, layout, illustrations, cover design, publishing, marketing, and advertising were far more involved, and time consuming, than I had expected. The learning curve is pretty steep for someone such as myself who is self-publishing for the first time. However, as I got further into the process I realized that I had to see it through to completion. Maybe I'm stubborn, but giving up just wasn't an option I allowed myself.
Any unique ways you'll be marketing your book that is different from how others authors market their books?
I'm fortunate because the market for my textbook is very well defined. Private ESL schools are my primary focus. There are approximately 125 private ESL schools in downtown Vancouver alone. I'm currently setting up appointments with the curriculum co-ordinator at each of these schools to see if my textbook can be incorporated into their program. Beyond that I spent several months developing a mailing list for every private ESL school in the rest of Canada, the United States and Mexico. I then sent each and every one of them a postcard announcing the release of my book and information about my website. I've also started attending book fairs at ESL conferences whenever possible. Having a booth that these book fairs is an excellent way for me to develop a rapport with my fellow teachers and promote my textbook. My next big challenge is to make use of the contacts I've developed in Asia over the years. It remains to be seen if I can sell my textbook in this potentially lucrative market.
What is your biggest reward as a teacher of a second language?
I take great pleasure out of hearing about students of mine whose lives have improved as a result of studying English. It's wonderful when students tell me about getting a high score on the TOEFL exam, being able to understand a television news broadcast, or managing to get a better job placement for themselves, all as a result of their English language studies. It's rewarding when, as their English teacher, you feel like you contributed to their success.
Do you personally have any new innovative suggestions as to how the learning of a second language should be taught?
Know who you're teaching. The type of material and teaching approaches you employ will vary depending on the students you have. The needs of a mature immigrant student who's trying to get by in a new country will completely differ from a college-aged foreign student who's here for six months in order to brush up on his English. The material you're using really has to be adjusted so that it's presented in manner that the student will find relevant and engaging. A student should never feel like he's being forced to study something that has nothing to do with his needs.
Is there anything else you wish to add to our interview?
If any of your readers have questions about my textbook, they can contact me through my website. I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank you for taking the time to interview me. It's been a pleasure speaking with you.
Thanks once again Edward and good luck with all of your future endeavours.
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