Teaching English to Adult Students

Editor’s Note: In an effort to provide more information about what it’s like teaching English in Medellín, we invited Nancy Kiernan to share her experience. If you’re a teacher who would like to contribute, please contact us.

Webster´s Dictionary defines motivation as: “a force or influence that causes someone to do something.”

I teach English to adult students who have a driving motivation to learn the language. The reasons are as varied as the students.

Some must know English for their jobs, some want the opportunity to progress in their careers, others want to travel to English-speaking countries, and the rest want to be able to speak English in social settings. Whatever the reason, it is the driving force behind their motivation to learn.

My students include executives from Bancolombia, Solla, Sofasa and Alianza Valores. They are balancing their time between careers, family life and studying. Because of this, I take a practical approach to the way I teach.

Homework is limited to only one exercise per class, and it is always relevant and productive.

For example, if we are studying persuasive language, the homework assignment might be to write an advertisement for a product or service. Keeping it relevant improves the likelihood that the homework will actually get done.

While motivation is high, the demands of their jobs and personal life often conflict with classes. There are many cancellations or classes rescheduled due to business travel requirements or family commitments.

This can (and does) wreak havoc with my own schedule. My day can change in a matter of hours from being scheduled for four classes in a day, to having only one.

The vast majority of my students really just want to be able to have conversations and write emails. Most don’t like learning grammar, but then again, who does?

I try to be creative with my lessons so that they don’t really realize they are studying grammar. It is embedded in the theme of the lesson.

I never start the class with “today we are going to study the present progressive tense.” Their eyes would glaze over and I´m sure a sudden emergency would develop.

All of my students want to be corrected when they make a mistake, especially in conversation. They take pride in speaking English “like a native.”

Most of them also want to learn the slang and idioms of the language. One of my most well received lessons was about the use of colors in expressions (e.g. blue blood, green thumb, not all black and white).

I enjoy teaching English to those who want to learn. It gives me great satisfaction to watch them progress. The very best part of my job is the smiles on their faces when THEY realize they have learned something new.


About the Author: Nancy Kiernan is a Massachusetts native who moved with her husband to Medellin in May 2012. She currently teaches English and is attempting to learn salsa and tango. Find her on Facebook.

About David Lee

David is the Editor in Chief of Medellín Living and Go Backpacking, and the Co-founder of Travel Blog Success. Connect with him on Facebook and Google+.

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  1. Andy Bowes says:

    Just curious. How good does one’s Spanish have to be to effectively teach English?

  2. Thanks for the article!

    I am in Bogota now and will be in Medellin next week. I’m a CELTA certified teacher from Los Angeles and am wondering how hard is it to make enough money in Medellin teaching English? I’d like to teach only adult students and plan to supplement any job I might find with private lessons. Also, can one support themselves solely with private lessons? I’ve been offered a job in Bogota which looks like good one but I don’t really love the city so much. Any help is very much appreciated.



    • Hello Jason, just wondering if you’re available in Medellin for private english sessions. Let me know to my email. thanks

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