How do I teach intermediate-advanced (spoken) ESL students how to write?
June 29, 2008 8:31 AM   Subscribe

ESL teaching for non-professional teachers! Help me teach native Farsi speakers with intermediate to advanced spoken English skills how to write grammatically correct business English. Example correspondence and other documents needed.

I am temporarily filling in for a guy who due to unforeseen circumstances is not able to teach his ESL class. The class consists of about twenty native Farsi speakers, all of whom have intermediate to advanced level spoken English skills, with a fairly deep verbal vocabulary and proper grasp of spoken grammar.

However, they need a lot of help with writing. Specifically the questions are about phrasing, grammar and idioms used in English business emails: Relations between vendors, suppliers, wholesalers, import/export, contract language, writing RFPs/RFQs/RFIs, SOWs, etc. We have a textbook which offers plenty of written mail examples, suitable for use with postal mail, but 98% of the business correspondence these students are conducting (all white collar professionals) is done via email. The students are very bright individuals who seem quite intelligent in face to face or phone conversations, but do poorly communicating with suppliers and other contacts that they have never met face to face.

I am searching for a large selection of sample business correspondence and formally worded documents covering a variety of topics. Any suggestions will be very much appreciated.
posted by thewalrus to Education (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
OK, I forgot to mention. If anybody has sample documents they would like to contribute, please feel free... Remove all identifying details like company names, personal names, email addresses. I will fill those in with John Doe type information. These would be copied/pasted and projected on a white board from my laptop for group discussion and diagramming/analysis of grammar, idioms, slang, explanation of synonyms for less common words, etc.
posted by thewalrus at 8:39 AM on June 29, 2008

I'd strongly suggest you get the Ss to supply your model texts. It is easier for you and MUCH more relevant for them. Why would they want to work with "Dear John Doe" who works with plastic grommets, at COmpany XYZ, when their inboxes are full of REAL letters, from real people, in a real context that they are familiar with... (please note the key word here is "REAL")

They can fwd you email they've received that they have found it difficult to respond to - you write a "good" response as your lesson prep - the class responds during the lesson (writing in teams) - compare your good model to what they've produced - take it from there!
posted by Meatbomb at 3:03 PM on June 29, 2008

And re-reading your lesson plan: don't show them a good example until they have written something to compare it to. Grammar and idiom is not nearly as useful as stock expressions - a tonne of what goes into business / transactional email is absolutely conventional / cut - and - paste stock phrases and expressions. The non-native sounds "off" in writing because he is using grammar too much - making up his own new sentence that perhaps communicates the message but isn't quite the stock phrase a native would naturally use.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:10 PM on June 29, 2008

Sorry, keep thinking of more to say.

So, in relation to above, it is much more useful when presenting a good model to have the Ss identify "bits they can copy" rather than identify and explain use of tenses and stuff like that.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:13 PM on June 29, 2008

I came here to give the advice that Meatbomb already gave. I urge you to follow it!
(and ask follow-ups if needed, I'll try to keep an eye on the thread)
posted by Busy Old Fool at 6:31 AM on July 1, 2008

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