Peer teaching Impact on Learning English

Teaching and learning English as a second language is important to many people from different parts of the world. In the United States of America for example, multiculturalism is becoming the norm. This means an increase in the number of people who may not speak English as their native. These people need to be considered and to be taught English in such a way that they use the language to understand other subjects in school such as Science, Mathematics and history. Peer teaching often involves having another student take up the role of a teacher while teaching and it aims at helping both students improve their language abilities. In other parts of the world, there may be no student whose native language is English. The students usually have different first languages. However, the mode of instruction in the schools that they attend is English. As a result, these students need to have a good understanding of the language. This paper will look at the role of peer teaching in helping students whose native language isn’t English learn English.

            Among adult ESL learners, it has been seen that per teaching helped the students in their comprehension of the content in the English language learning classes. Usually, the peer tutors use a variety of methods to help the students. These methods include learning logs, discussion groups and reading the course material out loud. The theories that are employed when this system of learning is used include the information processing theory. This theory affects mainly the cognitive processes and helps in making sure that the students get the most from the environment that they are in (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). Often, the peer teachers are native speakers, or people with greater English abilities than the students that they deal with.

            Learning English is often affected by the culture of the people from. Most cultures often have different belief systems, lifestyles and these are often expressed in different languages. Sometimes, speakers of the same language express themselves differently if their dialects are different. These factors often affect how people interact with each other especially when learning English. The peer teacher for example, may not understand that some words in a certain language may express a socioeconomic organization differently when translated to English. An example is politeness. This is a virtue often considered universal in nature. However, the way different languages express it is often very different. Attempting to translate words may often make it such that the politeness is lost, or expressed in a way such that the native speaker of the tutor finds rude. In most cases however, a different observation may be seen. For example, people learning English always seem to show excessive gratitude in many situations (Lantolf, Thorne & Poehner, 2015). Even to a point where it embarrasses the person that is speaking. This is a feature that a person teaching a non native English speaker should have in mind any time that they are attempting to speak to them.

            Learning English should aim at making sure that the learners are proficient in the language. However, it should also be understood that proficiency in English alone is not enough. The most important thing is to be both proficient and socio-culturally competent. Peer teachers help the students with both of these instances. They help them with the understanding of the language. In addition to that, they also make sure that the learners learn how to interact with people in that language, and in that culture in different socio-cultural settings (Swain, Brooks & Tocalli-Beller, 2002). They act as the first introduction to the social and cultural set up that the learners will be speaking to and with while using that language as a primary most of communication.

            Learning the second language is complex, but adopting the second culture is even more complex. There is a concept of the invisible culture that exists and that must be tackled before understanding the complexities of learning the new culture. The invisible culture is what determines how people interact with the students who do not speak English as a native language. For example, most teachers understand that it may be difficult to convince students to speak in front of their classroom. On other occasions, it may be that the students do not let another student speak in front of the classroom. Peer teachers come in in this situation and help the speakers to be able to practice the language skills without interference or fear, and with minimal judgment from the other students (Lantolf, Thorne & Poehner, 2015).

            The cultural effects that the learning process may have should be understood. Sometimes, certain acts done by certain peer teachers are understood differently from how they are intended. For example, when the students in a class fail to share books and other learning material with those that do not have, it may be interpreted as though these classmates do not like them. However, it could be that the sharing process is tedious or that the means of communication is unclear. It could also be the fact that English speaking communities tend to value intellectual property which may not be the case with the other student (Lantolf, Thorne & Poehner, 2015).

            Another thing to consider both in the general learning of English and in peer teaching is how the gender and the age of the students affects the learning of the language. Most cultures have a specific written or unwritten way that dictates how people of different ages and genders interact with each other. This is usually part of their cultural values. Often, these are different from what the English speaking people have. When learning, these may affect the learning process and may either make it difficult or easier for the students to learn. Younger students tend to adopt to the English speaking culture’s ways more easily than older ones. This could be due to the fact that older students already have a fixed view of how things should be while younger ones have not yet had this mind set (Lantolf, Thorne & Poehner, 2015).

            Peer teaching is also a good way of determining the specific learners needs and goals. Among peer teachers and students, it is usually easier to determine the means that a person uses to learn a language best and those that make them uncomfortable and unable to learn. There is usually a difference between learners who live among English speaking communities that aim at learning the language and those who only learn the language as part of their foreign language requirements. In the first case, a good interaction with the culture is necessary. In the second case, it is often the competence and expression in this language that is necessary. In each case, however, peer teachers are necessary and required to understand the different situations of these students and to help them adjust accordingly to these situations (Lantolf, Thorne & Poehner, 2015).

            Peer dialogue is a common way in which people learn English as a second language. Apart from dialogue, there is the need to learn to write and express oneself in writing in English a second language. The role of peers in the case of writing is to provide feedback. However, this may be done in a number of ways. For example, it is common to set up the students such that they come up with a story together in written form. Often, the students may both be learners of the second language but that share a common first language. This way, they are able to correct each other along the way as they come up with the story. They may need the guidance of a more qualified English speaker along the way but most of the time, the peers are able to correct themselves with the main mistakes (Lantolf, Thorne & Poehner, 2015).

            One of the benefits of peer teaching is that there is more time for individualized learning instead of instructional learning that may not cater to their individual needs. Having more time for this makes sure that the students are able to interact with the language themselves as opposed to passively hearing it. They may even develop their weak points on their own and help in the correcting of these points. Another thing about peer teaching is that it creates room for practice and more practice. This is one of the best ways to become competent in the language. Peers tend to encourage conversations both in written and in spoken form (Lantolf, Thorne & Poehner, 2015). Often, these conversations re at the level of the speaker which makes it easier to master the language.

            In conclusion, it is clear what peer teaching is, and why it should be encouraged. Peer teaching is both useful for both adults and children who are learning English as a foreign language. Some students may want to learn it so as to interact with people who speak that language. Some may want to learn it so as to tackle all the other subjects in their academic work. Others may want to learn the language simply as a requirement for their foreign language learning. In each of these cases, peer teaching is an easy way to achieve both cognitive and cultural understanding of the language and should therefore be encouraged.


Lantolf, J. P., Thorne, S. L & Pehner, M. E. (2015) Sociocultural theory and second language development. Theories in Second language acquisition: An introduction 207-226

Richards, J. C., & Rodgers, T. S (2014). Approaches and Methods in language teaching. Cambridge university press

Swain, M., Brooks, L., & Tocalli-Beller. A (2002). 9 peer- peer dialogue as a means of second language learning Annul review of Applied Linguistics, 22 171-185

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