Resources: Notes on Life and Language in the United States

Advice from a Top-Notch Native English Teacher

Posted by Lindsay McMahon on Tue, May 15, 2012 @ 09:21 PM

native English teacherToday we are excited to bring you an interview with Andrea Giordano. Andrea is an ESL teacher, traveler and speaker. She is the creator of ESL Basics and is the assistant director of ESL programs at Campbellsville University. Andrea has some fantastic ideas about how English language learners can improve by engaging in what interests them and by connecting with people, not by memorizing grammar rules from a textbook. To get some great advice and tips from Andrea on how you can improve your English, check out today's interview!


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 Q: Can you tell us where you are teaching and what’s unique about your region of the United States?

A: I teach in the heart of central Kentucky at Campbellsville University. We’re a small liberal arts college nestled in the rolling green hills of the bluegrass. My town is unique because despite its size (11,000 people) some of the most gifted, inspired, and artistic people I have ever met live here.


native English teacher BostonQ: How would you describe your teaching philosophy? What’s important to you as a teacher?

A: Personal connection and context are hugely important to me as a teacher. I’m a huge believer in drawing students out based on their interests and skills, rather than pushing my agenda. I believe language should be acquired as a whole, rather than split apart into a million pieces and examined. I also believe that it takes dedication to learn a language, both by the teacher and the student. That’s why I throw myself into every lesson I teach. My goal as a teacher is to be intentional about helping learners discover English.


Q: Tell us about your video series. What is unique about your videos and how do they help students learn?

A: The videos I produce for students are my attempt at including students in the context of language while learning vocabulary, idioms, and pronunciation. I’m not just reciting a memorized definition when I tell them what a “bike rack” is. I’m standing in a plaza in Austria, showing them what it is and giving them real-life examples of how to use “bike rack” in conversation. My hope is that students who previously just kept their noses in grammar books will join the conversation and engage with native English speakers to acquire English.


Q: In your opinion, what are the 3 most common pitfalls for English language learners? How can students avoid them?

  • english teacher native bostonNot making friends with native English speakers. This can be in-person or through the internet, but an exchange must occur. I’ve noticed that at my university, students who progress the quickest are the ones who have American friends.
  • Looking at learning English as a hurdle to jump over in order to get to their dreams. The difference between success and failure at language learning often has to do with motivation. External motivation, such as learning English to get a good job or because you have to pass a test, will only take you so far. Intrinsic motivation, such as learning English to communicate with a new boyfriend, can be a powerful force. Students must fuel their motivations in order to truly succeed.
  • Focusing on immediate results. You will have bad days on your language learning journey. The important thing is to focus on putting in the work, making it interesting, and not worrying about the short-term.


Q: What personal characteristics do you see in the most successful English learners?

A: Hands down, the most successful English learners are curious learners. The students who stop me mid-sentence in order to clarify what I just said are the ones who have it right.

teacher english nativeQ: Do you have one more piece of advice about life in the US or learning English?

A: My advice would be to let yourself be immersed in the culture while you’re in the U.S. The more English becomes a way of life rather than a subject to be studied, the better off you’ll be. Find out what local festivals are nearby and show up. Join a recreational softball team. Attend an interesting church. Live with an American family for a summer. If you absorb the English of real life and apply it to what you’re studying, you’ll do very well.


Andrea Giordano is the creator of ESL Basics, and an avid traveler, teacher, and speaker. Andrea is the Assistant Director of ESL Programs at Campbellsville University, located in central Kentucky, where she has been teaching for 6 years. She is happily married to a talented cyclist/baker/craftsman named Mike, and they are parents to North, the most huggable baby in the world.


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Photo credits: North Cascades National Park, Horia Varlan,

Topics: Advice for English Students, How to Learn English

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