1. Think about why you decided to teach adults
Adults are generally more interesting (as people) than children. You can have an interesting and honest conversation with adults, and talk about topics that might be off-limits with children, such as good bars to visit, relationships and issues with money, work, accommodation, and other topics that are very important to adults, but not children. I also find that adults learn in different ways to children. They are not necessarily learning new information about the world, that just want to translate it to a different language.
I don’t think adults will be more fun to teach, but I do think they’ll be more interesting and it’ll definitely be a change from what I’m doing now, and that’s important to me, to keep changing and growing.
2. Think about what you, as an adult, bring to this learning situation
While I sometimes feel old, I know that in the adult scheme of things I’m not really that old. So I do feel nervous teaching adults who are my age or older. However I recognise that I have more life experience than many younger teachers, and many people learning languages are young university students or young professionals looking to improve their career prospects. As an adult who has worked ‘in the real world’ as well as a teacher, I’m able to understand my students a little better, and as someone who have lived in four different countries (soon to be five), I am able to adapt to and (try to) understand the culture of where I am living. I think as long as you are an effective teacher and try your best for you students, then that has to be enough. If you are failing your students, you need to do something about that or change your career path.
3. Look at your answers to 1 and 2 and use these ideas to write down what characterizes adult learners.
Adults learn differently to children. You can teach a child about solar energy for example, in English, and that way the student is both learning new content as well as the English language. I think in most cases, things you teach to adults will be things that they already know, like business English, or terms to help them on their travels. I think this usually means that adults need more specialized teaching, i.e. teachers who specialize in Business English for example.
I also think that adults can use their knowledge of their native language (i.e. how grammar works) and apply that to the language they are learning. So if I am learning Korean, it’s easier for me if the teacher explains that the verb goes on the end of a sentence. That way when I am speaking and I get stuck, I know the ‘rules’.
I think adults might also be willing to talk to you in a conversational manner because they actually have something to talk about. Children might hesitate to talk to you because they don’t know what subjects you’ll be interested in, and they might be shy when speaking to adults.