Unlearning Your Bad Habits: An English Teacher’s Guide.


Let someone else take your entrance test. Most schools require you to take a test which determines your level (A1 to C2). A lot of these of schools allow you to take the test online before you arrive. It is rare but I have seen students arrive into a B2 class with barely one word of English. Once I look at their test it is clear to see that they have gotten a friend to take it before they came because they didn’t want to be placed in a low level.

Cheat on the weekly exam. If you think that doing well on your exam but not participating in class during the week is going to get you moved up, think again! We’re all adults here. Resorting to teenage behaviour is benefitting no one.

Ignore feedback. Students who listen to feedback and try to make improvements will obviously progress much quicker. Don’t ignore advice from people who know what they’re talking about and then complain about not moving up.

Pretend you’re in a class of one. I understand that there are many different kinds of learners and even promote independent learning in my classroom. BUT you need other people to practice your communication skills with. I’ve seen students who are very good at grammar when it comes to written exercises but who don’t bother participating in a speaking activity.

Avoid practice. Perfecting a skill requires practice, practice, practice. Don’t come to class and copy the homework off your friend. Don’t translate every piece of vocabulary you come across. And don’t automatically speak your native language the second you get a chance to.

Come to a country to “study”. Ireland, like some other countries, gives students the opportunity to work while they study. While this is fantastic as it means students can earn money and sustain a life in the country some students do abuse this and forget about classes. If you are attending classes solely for a visa requirement do not expect your teacher to be lenient and put effort into you.


Put in effort and acknowledge small achievements. In my experience the majority of people who go abroad to study another language are below intermediate level. If you put in effort you will make improvements every week. Even if these improvements are very small it is still progress! Don’t stress by comparing yourself to others or worrying about why you haven’t moved up to the next level. You will get there if you work hard!

Ask questions. If you don’t understand something ask the question. If you have a question guaranteed at least one other person also has the same question. Be brave, ask and progress.

Take initiative and be an independent learner. Sometimes students finish activities early or have to repeat a topic. Don’t just sit there on your phone. You are in class for such a short amount of time each day. Use every single second of it. Talk to your classmates, test yourself, practice the grammar and vocabulary.

Make friends with people from different countries. I have seen students who exclusively hang out with students of different nationalities or sit beside them in class because they don’t want to speak their first language. This is fantastic as it shows how committed the student is to improving their English but also to making the most of their adventure abroad.

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