Why I Chose Teaching ESL Online

Why I Chose Teaching ESL Online

“Teacher!” The word “teacher”, how does it sound like to you? What makes a good teacher? And why did I choose to teach ESL online? Many think teachers aren’t making a lot of money. Maybe it’s true especially in actual schools. Nowadays, however, things have changed for online ESL teachers. I will not discuss any salary rates offered by different companies in this field on the internet though.  This is more of being sentimental. It is all about answering the question “What makes you happy as an online ESL teacher?”

A Happy Teacher

In school, you are the second parent of your students. In online schools, you can’t be a parent to a 45-year-old manager nor a 50-year-old businessman. But you can be their friend, son or daughter, or their confidant. Teaching English is not all about helping them become successful because most of them are. Teaching English is like constructing a bridge for them to reach their goals. It will also help them to widen out. When you hear your student express himself confidently not being bothered to have the correct words and phrases, or the perfect grammar, it motivates you to do more for him.

Teaching English is not only helping your students understand grammar rules or correcting their pronunciation. It is far more than that. It is an amazing privilege! You are planting a seed. You are watering it. You watch how it grows to a tall, bulky tree. It grows on its own. And when your job is done, watch how far your words of wisdom have reached the hearts of your students; powerful enough to change their lives. You also get to learn more from your student’s culture and it helps you grow.

One time, one of my students asked me: “If you are in my case, which opportunity would you choose?” This is one of the most difficult questions I had to answer while in this career. The one who’ve asked is in a managerial position. Two competing CEOs are offering her top management position in their respective companies. In all honesty, I feel humbled and honored, though am not certain if I gave her the best possible answer. It is because I think I’m not even qualified to work as an employee in their company in the first place! But the trust she gave me boosted my optimism, to do more for her and to my other students.

The Ups and Downs

Of course, there were unfavorable circumstances I had to go through like accepting the fact that a student doesn’t like you, or you unintentionally hurt their feelings. These are normal pitfalls that you have to deal with. At the end of the day, when you know you gave your best shot, though you failed, it is still a good learning experience. It makes you become wiser, tougher and keeps your feet on the ground. Your perseverance to hardships helps you appreciate the value of your job.

Again, being an online ESL teacher is a privilege. That’s why I’m enjoying it. It is definitely not a boring vocation. Actually, it is a profession you can be proud of absolutely!


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Top 8 English Words Commonly Mispronounced by Filipinos

Top 8 English Words Commonly Mispronounced by Filipinos

Many elderly Filipinos, especially those who were already born before or during the World War II, are very good at speaking the English language. Several people often tell me that when one had reached Grade 2 back then, they could already speak in the English language with fluency.

The only thing that needs to be improved though is their accent and pronunciation. On this blog, you’ll find some of the most commonly mispronounced words by Filipinos.

1. Chocolate – /ˈtʃɑk·lət/ (US)

Many Filipinos, including myself, are used to pronouncing chocolate as “Cho-co-leit” (Cho-co-late) as a three syllable word. Notice, however, that the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) symbols for this word has only two syllables -ˈtʃɑk·lət. We are also used to pronouncing its last syllable like the English word “late”.

Listen to the proper pronunciation of “chocolate” by playing the video below.


2. Indigent – /ˈɪn·dɪ·dʒənt/ (US)

I usually hear this word when people are talking about the qualifications to be considered as “indigent” (they pronounce it “in-day-jent”) for a certain Philippine Government program called 4Ps or “The Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.”

Listen to the proper pronunciation of “indigent” by playing the video below.


3. Youtube – /juː.tuːb/ (US)

There is a consideration on this one. If you’re using British accent, then it is okay to say youtube (ˈjuː.tʃuːb) sounds like “yu-choob”. However, in the Philippines, it is common to imitate the American way of enunciating words. So the pronunciation sounds like “yu-tub” without the “ch” sound for the last syllable.

Listen here.


4. Tutor – /ˈtu·t̬ər/ (US)

This is a little bit funny because some of our fellow ESL tutors often pronounce “tutor” as “choo-tor.”

Listen to its proper pronunciation.


5. News – /nuz/ (US)

Whether we are referring to the news media or the news they provide, the proper pronunciation for the word “news” is “nuz”, not “nyus”.

Listen here.


This also applies to the word “new” /nu/. So when you say “New York”, it would sound like “Nu York” not “Nyu York”.

Listen here.


6. Cleanliness – /ˈklen·li·nəs/ (US)

This is a bit tricky because the word “clean” is pronounced “klin”. But in the word “cleanliness”, the first syllable is pronounced “klen”.

Listen here.


7. Cocoa – /ˈkoʊ·koʊ/ (US)

So this is pronounced “kow-kow” not “ko-kowa”.

Still not convinced? Listen here.


8. Debut – /ˈdeɪ·bju/ or /deɪˈbju/ (US)

This means the first public appearance of something, like a music album, song, or film. Many Filipinos usually pronounce this as “di-bu” or “dee-bu”. But the correct pronunciation is ˈdeɪ·bju (dei-byoo)

 Listen for the correct pronunciation here.


If you are unsure how to enunciate an English word, it is always a good idea to consult a dictionary. The online dictionary “dictionary.cambridge.org” provides comprehensive guide to help you pronounce an English word both for US and UK accents.


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Dealing With a “Silent Student” (ESL)

Dealing With a “Silent Student” (ESL)

It happens many times during ESL tutorials. You are in a middle of a discussion with your student and the latter seems more comfortable listening to your explanations rather than speaking.

You only hear the expressions “hmmm,” “ahhh,” “okay,” “aha,” (sounds like the song with the lyrics “That’s the way aha aha, I like it aha aha“), or worse, nothing but silence. Chances are you are not doing it right! I have also committed these teaching mistakes before. When you’re in the mood to talk, you tend to forget the purpose of the tutorial. Later on, you may notice that the class seems tedious. Eventually, your tone of voice becomes boring as well. You think the student is too timid to talk. He’s really having a hard time completing a sentence. Listed here are some of the possible reasons why such students are keeping their mouths shut.

Possible Reasons

  1. You may have been strictly following your lesson materials that you tend to forget encouraging the student to talk.
  2. Not being familiar with the capabilities of your student. You’re lingering on your first impressions on him that he is timid and can hardly speak English. You’re not recognizing his small improvements.
  3. You’re too conscious about the time limit of the class and you answer your own questions.
  4. Not being patient. You are a perfectionist. You try to correct all the student’s errors.
  5. The student is afraid of you, or much worse hates you.

Possible Solutions:

  1. Find out more information about the student as long as he allows you to do so. Know his interests, hobbies and favorite areas in relation to his job. However, avoid asking him direct personal questions. Take note of the situations when the student freely expressed his thoughts. As much as possible, incorporate all the information you gathered about him, like his interests and hobbies into your lessons to persuade the student to speak. Encourage the student to ask you questions, especially when he doesn’t understand the expressions in the lesson materials or the ideas you’re discussing. You can use some of the conversation questions for ESL students found on this website – iteslj.org/questions.
  2. DO NOT compare. Every student has his own strengths and weaknesses. Language development varies for every individual. Have keen interest in their progress. Repeat a certain portion of the lesson material if necessary. Understand that in every class held, the student learns something new.
  3. DO NOT OVERWHELM the student with many information or questions more than he can handle. If he is merely a beginner, it is okay if you can just let him answer some yes/no questions at first. If you can only tackle one or two points within the allowed time, that is good enough. You need to make sure he understands what you are talking about. For adult students, don’t ask them questions like “Did you understand?” especially if the student is a working professional. Instead, ask them questions like “Do you have a question about this part?” or “Would you like me to help you with this?NEVER ask a question which ONLY YOU can answer.
  4. It is a good practice to build the student’s confidence to speak up during the first few classes you have with him. In order to do that, NEVER interrupt the student while he is talking just to correct his errors. Let him finish what he is saying while taking note of his errors and correct them afterward. When to make corrections? That is up to your student. At times, when a student is timid, perhaps the best time to directly rectify his errors is when you have already built good rapport with him. When correcting, avoid detailing grammar rules he is not familiar with. It will confuse him. Other than that, just help your shy student talk with confidence. Give him a chance to correct his own errors by asking him questions like; “Do you think there is a better way to express that?” or “Would you like to rephrase your sentence?” NEVER forget to commend the student for his good performance. You can use the “Sandwich Method” when giving feedbacks.
The Sandwich Method

This means you start by praising him for the positives he has done followed by your constructive criticism or corrections, and finally the overall good points the student has achieved. Always remember, teachers must be quick to commend and slow to condemn!

5. Use “could you,” and “would you,” to sound more polite when making a request to the student to do something. And yes, don’t forget to say “please,” and “thank you.” It sounds very basic, isn’t it? Well, remember the times when our parents taught us to use polite expressions when we were young? That was a vital part of our language learning!

To sum things up, being patient with your student is one of the best ways to help him achieve his goals. Use simple English words as much as possible. Conduct the lesson in a simple but enjoyable manner. Again, make it simple, DO NOT complicate.


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Improve Your Spoken English in 3 to 6 Months

Improve Your Spoken English in 3 to 6 Months


Learning English should be fun, not stressful. This is a free online tutorial you should never overlook. I listed several useful tips for you to improve your English faster.

ESL or English as a Second Language is somewhat tricky to improve for many students. You may wonder why Asians, such as Koreans, Chinese, Taiwanese and Japanese find it difficult to master their English skills. I did some research about the reasons behind this.

As an online ESL tutor, I had the opportunity to interview Asian students about their schools’ method in teaching them the English language. I have also observed their attitude toward speaking the language.

I’m going to classify the reasons in two categories mainly 1) the system and 2) the culture.

The System

In their schools, they start by learning how to read the English alphabet and simple words such as “apple”. That’s fine. The only problem is when they tend to focus on teaching younger students to read but not using proper enunciation and accent. The result is that the student would imitate how the word was pronounced by the teacher using their local accent. They also read with the only purpose of pronouncing the words correctly without understanding the meaning of it or they are not encouraged to speak using the language itself. To make up for that, they require students to memorize lots of vocabulary words or gauge them by spelling exams. They would also require them to memorize poems, or get involved with “scripted” oral discussions and debates.

Grammar is not an exemption either. They study grammar rules most of the times to the extent that they have to memorize a lot of them for the sole purpose of getting high exam scores. To most students, this would make the impression that English language is too technical, difficult to understand, and it’s terrible to commit grammatical error. For them, studying English is just a tool to have high grades or to have well paying jobs in the future.

The Culture

“Do you have a relative or friend whom you can speak with in English?” I often ask my new students. Most of the times, their answer is “No”. And I would follow up my question with “Why? Don’t they know how to speak English?” The usual response is, “Yes, they know, but it feels strange to speak with my friends in English.” Now this becomes a problem. Although they can speak limited English, they have no chance of using it in their daily conversations.

Nowadays, this is also true in the Philippines. When you commit pronunciation or grammatical error, many would laugh at you. One of my instructors before told us that he is more confident giving English talk to Americans than giving one in front of Filipino audience. It feels like as if it is a mortal sin when you make a mistake. The only advantage if you’re living in the Philippines is that you get to speak with a lot of people who are willing to speak English too.

Where to Start?

First, you need to know what is holding you back from improving. Consider this, your parents didn’t bother teaching you how to read before you could say the first ever word from your mouth. We did not even learn grammar rules nor memorized vocabulary words when we were learning our first language – our mother tongue. We became accustomed with that language simply by listening to our parents. We tried to mimic the way they speak. This pattern should also be followed in order for us to learn another language more quickly.

In my case, English is my third language. Iloko (Ilocano) is my native language and Filipino (Tagalog) as the second. I still can speak two more languages namely Hiligaynon (Ilonggo) and Itneg (a dialect in Abra). The process is the same; learning the language by listening and speaking it.

Now here’s a good example to explain further. I definitely did not become fluent in Filipino (Tagalog) just because I learned it from school. No. I became fluent by listening when everyone speaks the language. I usually use it every time I speak with my friends and relatives from the city. I wasn’t that fluent in Filipino when I was little but now I can give a 30 minute talk in this language. The secret? Listening and speaking! I’ve been using it on a regular basis. Mostly, the shows in local Philippine TV and movies are in Filipino. This was the primary language we used in school. The books I read, the music I listened to are mostly in Filipino. So, isn’t it obvious that the main reason behind my fluency in Filipino is merely because of my exposure to the language?

The same is true with English. My parents weren’t college graduates and are not fluent in English. They can understand basic English words, though. Thus, I didn’t have someone to talk with in English since I was a child. I learned English in school. I felt like the learning process was a little bit slow. When I finished high school, my English wasn’t very good. Studying in college helped me a bit to improve it somehow.

What Really Helped Me in Speaking English?

After I graduated in college, I applied as a part-time teacher at the school I graduated in high school. I was surprised when the administrator entrusted me the English subject for the freshmen. I wasn’t that good in speaking the language back then. Of course, I had to rely with English textbooks to teach my students. Nevertheless, what really helped me were the conversations in English I had with them. I had to speak with them in English everyday in class.  After several months, I noticed the improvement with my oral communication skills. After a year, I had the opportunity to be the emcee of the school’s graduation ceremony! So it’s not the fluency; it was the confidence to speak. I didn’t mind committing errors.

Steps to Improve Your English Now


Enrolling to online English tutorials, of course, will help you improve your oral communication skills. However, there are essential things you need to do to improve faster.

  1. Talk as often as you can to people who can speak in English. Speak English everyday! The longer, the better. If you can’t find someone to talk with, use the “Mirror Conversation” or “Shower Conversation” techniques. A mirror or shower conversation with yourself for at least 5 minutes on a daily basis would definitely help you develop your spoken English. You need to feel comfortable in speaking English. You need to get used hearing yourself speaking the language. Mimic the expressions of native speakers (except swearing). Imitate how they express themselves in different kinds of situations.
  2. Listen carefully to conversations in English movies. Search for the words you don’t understand. Listen and enjoy singing English songs. Watch informative videos on YouTube in English. Listen and imitate. Use dictionary.cambridge.org or other dictionaries for that matter, to check the proper pronunciation of a certain word based on the accent you would like to learn.
  3. Be open to corrections. Mind you, my English is not perfect. It’s not my native language after all. As long as we can express ourselves in this language, never mind the mistakes. Many online teachers usually say it’s okay to commit many mistakes. For me, not really. Of course, we need to accept the reality that we can’t speak English with a perfect grammar or pronunciation. Nevertheless, we should try our best to minimize the errors or at least make the mistakes barely noticeable. It shouldn’t be that obvious. On the other hand, do not become a perfectionist. When you try to make your grammar perfect all the time, you may fall into what we call “perfection paralysis”. This means that before you  speak, you are trying to make sure that your sentence or phrases are grammatically correct. It often leads to some unnecessary fillers and expressions like “uhmm”, “ahh”, “errrr” and much worse – complete silence!
  4. Positive mindset. Be patient with yourself. There’s definitely no short cut to this. Learning at least 1 new vocabulary word a day and being able to use it in your own sentence is already an achievement. Speaking English every day is practically the same as improving your spoken English every day.
  5. Familiarize yourself with the proper use of a word or phrase. You need to know the differences between two commonly confused words. For example, will vs would, think vs thought, can vs could, confident vs confidence, etc. Again, familiarize, DO NOT memorize.
  6. Have the right goal. What are your goals in learning this language? To pass an exam? To have a better job position? These purposes are fine, but the main goal should be to communicate well in English with confidence.
  7. Remember, English is not a subject, it is a language!

Of course, there are other several ways you can do to improve your English. However, the points mentioned above are essential if you are really serious in learning the language.

How about you? What other techniques or tricks you’ve done in learning English or another language? Feel free to share your ideas by commenting below.


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3 Things Schools Don’t Usually Teach You

3 Things Schools Don’t Usually Teach You

1. Bill Gates and Other Wealthiest People in the World Did Not Finish College (Others Even High School)


When you reached senior high school, your teachers often encouraged you to look for a prestigious university, enroll there  and become “successful” in life. What they don’t actually tell you is that many successful businessmen don’t even have college degrees. Bill Gates, founder and CEO of Microsoft and the richest man in the world today, does not have college degree. Ever heard of the founder and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg? Or Larry Elison, the CEO and founder of Oracle? The late Steve Jobs of Apple? They are all college dropouts. In fact, even the second richest man in the world, Amancio Ortega, never finished high school! Many other names on this Forbes’ list do not have college degrees. So what’s the point? A college degree helps you get the job you like, but perseverance and optimism will bring you to where you want to be. The people mentioned here never gave up to their dreams.

2. You Will Certainly Suffer Real Life Failures


The level of competition is so high even in high school. It often impresses to the minds of students that once you graduate college, you have to be superb in decision making, always right and on top. And if you don’t make it in your initial attempt, you will be viewed as inferior. But in the real world, you have to expect that you’re going to fail at something, not just once but many times. Unless you are a narcissistic, someone who doesn’t admit flaws, you need to accept the fact that even the greats suffered downfalls. For example, take a look at the founder of KFC Colonel Harland Sanders. Online narrative has it that when he was looking for restaurant owners to sell his chicken recipe, they responded 1,009 “NO’s” before he got the “YES”.

3. Learning English by Memorizing Lots of Grammar Rules and Vocabulary Words Actually Hinders You to Become Good At It


If English is your second or third language, you may have wondered why you’re still not fluent in speaking the language. You have been studying English since you were in grade school, but why is it that you still find it hard to express yourself in this language? The answer lies in your attitude toward learning the language OR the methodology of how you have been taught. Frankly speaking, memorizing a lot of grammar rules and vocabulary words does not really help you in becoming fluent in the English language.

Think of your mother language for example. Did your parents compel you to memorize grammar rules and vocabulary words when you were just a kid? Of course not! You learned by listening, mimicking others how they say something, speaking and expressing yourself when you were throwing tantrums, you were happy or sad, when you were broken hearted. Your parents used your mother language when they speak with you. They did not require you to memorize any rules or words, did they? You just listened. You started to speak on your own. You used your mother language in your daily conversations. You only have been taught of grammar stuff when you went to school.



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Commonly Confused Words and Phrases – “I think” vs “I thought”

Commonly Confused Words and Phrases – “I think” vs “I thought”

 “I think” vs “I thought”

Use “I think”

1) To agree on something at the present but not totally sure.

Boyfriend: Do you love me?
Girlfriend: I think so.

2) To state an opinion or belief.

“I think you are beautiful.”

Use “I thought”

1) To talk about what you were thinking in the past.

“When I was teaching in high school, I thought of making this blog.”

2) To state a belief you no longer believe in or opinion you no longer have.

Wife: Am I beautiful?
Husband: I thought you were.

3) To confirm something you believed it was and is now a known fact.

Girlfriend: I admit you are not my first boyfriend.
Boy: I thought so. But I still love you no matter what.


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