We spoke to George from the UK, one of the presenters of our Learn English with Cambridge YouTube channel. Read on to discover a couple of times that pronunciation and phrasal verbs have been the cause of communication issues in the classroom and what other language George speaks!
What was it that made you choose to teach English as a career?
I started to consider it as a serious career during my first week of teaching in Bournemouth. I really enjoyed interacting with people from countries all over the world and talking about their impressions of the UK.
How did you get in to teaching?
Oddly enough, I decided to teach English after a conversation with my mum. I hadn’t realised how in demand English teachers were before and it seemed like a great opportunity to work abroad and help people learn an important skill.
What are your favourite English areas to teach?
I really enjoy teaching pronunciation, particularly connected speech. It’s something that a lot of English language learners neglect when they first start studying, but I consider it to be one of the most important aspects of language learning.
Do you have any memorable experiences of working with learners?
Following on from the topic of pronunciation, I remember a Korean primary school student bursting into the classroom to tell me that his parents had bought him a “pig.” It took me a while of questioning to ascertain that it was not a “pig” that he had received but an action “figure.” In Korean, there isn’t an /f/ sound, so some students supplement it with a /p/ sound instead.
Do you speak any other languages? If so, how has that impacted your life?
I lived in Korea for four years, so I speak Korean at a B2 level. For my first year there, I only had expat friends but once I had actually resolved to study the language, it allowed me to make a lot of local friends and understand Korean culture a bit more.
Is there anything you found surprising or interesting about teaching English as a second language?
When I taught my first lesson, I told my students to “get on with” an activity and I couldn’t understand why they were just staring at me with blank expressions on their faces. I later realised that phrasal verbs aren’t so straightforward for non-native speakers.
What does a typical day in your life look like?
It’s impossible to say as no day is the same in my current job. The only thing that’s relatively consistent is my consumption of chocolate cereal in the morning.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I love music so I enjoy playing guitar. I’m not particularly good at it but it’s a great way to relieve stress.
Are there any other languages you would like to learn?
I would love to learn Japanese someday. I’ve been studying it off and on again for a few years but with little success, so maybe that will be my New Year’s resolution for next year!
How are you finding being a presenter on the Learn English with Cambridge YouTube channel?
I’m loving it! It’s particularly rewarding to see that people have found the content useful and entertaining. It has also been fun involving my friends in the videos!
You tend to use role play and bring British humour to your Learn English with Cambridge videos – why do you think that is important when teaching?
I think humour often makes things more memorable. I read somewhere that if you have an emotional connection to a word or a phrase, it makes that word far easier to recall in conversation. Also, I like doing silly things.
What can we expect from you in your future videos in the channel? Are there any particular topics you want to cover or role plays you want to portray?
I’d like to do videos on phrasal verbs and on British pronunciation. As for the role plays, I’m a big film fan so I’d like to incorporate some more special effects and do something with a sci-fi theme.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone who is trying to learn English now?
As language learners, we’re quite fortunate to have the internet because it allows us to have conversations with people all over the world. My advice would be to get on a language exchange website and practise!
Have you experienced any challenges when learning another language? And if so, how did you overcome them?
Whilst learning Korean, I found (and still find) listening to be really difficult. I was frustrated that I could never follow a conversation when I was in a group. That changed when I started to listen to Korean podcasts that feature two or more presenters. Obviously, I couldn’t understand everything, but it felt great when I could follow parts of the conversation and get the gist of what they were saying.
Finally, what is your favourite word in English?
Not technically a word but I love the sound of the expression, “bits and bobs.”