Learning a foreign language can be an intimidating task. Sometimes it's necessary when you move to another country or need to know the language for your job or school. Spanish-speaking Mexicans can successfully learn to speak English with the right teaching methods, tools, and practice. As is the case with any foreign language, it takes time to learn conversational skills but anyone from Mexico can learn to speak English and build their vocabulary from words relevant to their work or school environment to carrying on a conversation.

Determine what level of communication needs to be taught. Does your student need to learn several words for better communication and understanding in the workplace or do they want to learn conversational English? If you are focusing on the work environment, look specifically at your student's job description to determine what words are relevant and would help him communicate more effectively. Words like "customer," "flowers," "plant," and "water" would be useful for someone working in the landscaping business. If your student desires to learn conversational English, it is best to start out with common phrases and questions, such as "How are you?" and "My name is...". As you are determining what needs to be taught, create goals so you will have a way to measure progress and know when your student has reached the desired level of communication. One such goal might be "The student will be able to communicate effectively using basic words and phrases revelant to her work environment."

Create word and picture flashcards using index cards. Repetition is very important in learning a new language. Flashcards can be used repetitively and are small enough to be carried around with the student for frequent practice. On one side of an index card, draw or glue a picture of the word you want to teach. For example, if you are teaching your student how to say "house", place a picture of a house on one side of the card. On the other side of the card, at the top of the card, write the word "house" in Spanish ("casa"). Below "casa", write "house." Having the word available in both Spanish and English helps a student to increase confidence as he matches his language's version of the word with the English version. Ten to 15 flashcards per week will have your student off to a good start.

Practice new and previously learned words by playing games. For example, if you recently taught your student the English words for various fruits, place five to 10 of those fruits on a table. Using letter tiles (purchased from an educational store or gleaned from a Scrabble game), ask the student to create the correct word name in front of each fruit. If you have more than one student, you can assign point values to each word and offer prizes at the end of the game. Games can make learning seem more like fun and less like work and are a great way to practice.

Games make learning and practicing fun.
••• word image by dinostock from Fotolia.com

Assess your student on a weekly basis. Before moving onto new words, phrases, or sentences, it's important to determine your student's understanding and retention of the previous week's lesson. Using the words from the previous week, create a simple matching game. Make two columns on a piece of paper. Place small pictures in the left hand column to represent each word taught. In the right hand column, write the English version of the words but place them in a scrambled or mixed-up order. Have your student draw a line from the picture to the correct English word.


Language immersion is a great way to learn a foreign language. Speak only English to your Spanish-speaking Mexican students and use hand gestures and body language to help them understand what you're communicating.


Learning a foreign language isn't easy and students can become easily discouraged, leading them to discontinue their efforts. Praise any progress and encourage students to keep trying.

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