General English is a loose term used to describe the type of English required for everyday situations. It can be compared to more specific English teaching such as Business English, English for Academic Purposes and so on.
What is General English?
Typically following a General English course, students should be able to understand and communicate on everyday subjects such as (depending on their level, of course):
- general greetings
- the weather
- family news and relationships
- general news and current events
- telling stories and relating events from the past
The grammar content of General English courses tends to be taught on a “need to know” basis and is likely to cover the grammar needed for everyday conversation.
Often General English courses will include social and cultural elements as needed. This happens in classes where, for example, the students will be visiting an English speaking country for a holiday where the teacher will include discussions about social etiquette (e.g. queuing, speaking to strangers, paying for drinks in a pub as you take them rather than at the end of the evening).
How to Teach General English
In most situations you’ll be using a coursebook to teach and general coursebooks will include the kind of English used in everyday circumstances.
However, in a General English class it’s always useful to bring in current events and discuss them with the class. For example, any of these can be the starting point for a lesson:
- a major festival in the country/town
- roadworks outside the school
- a member of staff getting married
- someone in class with a broken leg
- the latest episode of a popular soap opera
- your new haircut
In other words, bring everyday life into the classroom.
To help teach and practice language associated with General English you will may well find that role plays are particularly useful. Set the class up in different situations and let them go for it!
Finally, if you are teaching General English be careful about discussing everyday subjects which relate to sensitive subjects and which could cause problems. Here we’re talking about
As a general rule of thumb keep these out of the classroom unless you are sure about what you are teaching and the reaction of your DoS – in fact we would recommend not bringing up these subjects unless you have specifically discussed the lesson with your DoS and received their consent.
Role Playing in the TEFL Classroom – getting the class talking about everyday life
Sensitive Subjects in Teaching English – what not to teach!
Learner Levels in TEFL – how to rank students according to their ability in English
120hr TEFL Course – learn how to teach General English