Scared to speak Ingles?

I have been teaching hard working mexicano adults English as a Second Language once a week. These are individuals who have been in the U.S.A anywhere from a year to several years and mostly women. Several have expressed that their interest in learning English is because they want to be able to communicate with their children and grandchildren. I have been thinking about why they haven’t learned thus far. I understand some of the factors preventing them from learning such as long-working hours & familial committments, but as I get to know my students I have come to the realization that they are scared. Scared to speak English, scared to learn English, scared to try and use it outside and inside the classroom. As a bilingual teacher I frantically begin to consider Krashen’s theory of the “affective filter.” He states that when the affective filter is low second language learners are more apt to respond to comprehensible input. But still they seem very uncomfortable with the some of the strategies I use to encourage them to speak in class. My assistant, whom learned English in her thirties reminded me that many of our students have limited schooling. They may not know how “to do” school. So not only are they uncomfortable speaking a foreign language they are also uncomfortable in the classroom setting.

One of the most crucial decisions I have made and have been contemplating given our geographical location is the use of “code-switching” vs. English immersion instruction. My students have chosen English immersion complemented with strategies, both visual and physical, that support speech production. I have been most attentive to their response to English immersion, but am still unsure as to whether this is the best way to teach a second language especially to scared adults.

Feedback from foreign language teachers would be really appreciated!!!

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