Interview with IELTS Expert, Don Oliver from IDP

In the twelveth segment of the interview, Don gives his thoughts on English learning for beginner-level learners. He explains the importance of learners knowing their style of learning and advises to never start with learning materials that are too difficult for their English ability.

12.Important factors for beginner-level learners of English

Interviewer: The next question would be geared more towards English acquisition and also approach for different English-level students. What are the suitable approaches to English acquisition for the following English learners in terms of the learning environment, studying format? By format I mean should it be classroom-based, lecture-based or reading-based, etc, etc. And also suitable educational equipment, what to be very conscious of when studying, all sorts of factors. So first off, what are some important factors that should be addressed in terms of beginner-level English learners who have just started studying English?

Don: I think the first thing to say is that there are different types of learners. Classically, they talk about people who are visual learners and the people who use their ears to learn, you know, other people who learn by action. There are different ways that people learn. So there isn’t just one way for every learner. And I think you need to understand what sort of learner you are and what suits you, “How do I learn?” So, a little bit of self-analysis is important. And of course, a teacher needs to know this too, you know, to vary tasks, to vary activities so that everybody is catered for. But you ask about elementary learners, people who are just learning. Well, it’s a beautiful thing to be an elementary learner because you can make huge progress very quickly. You learn one word and then if you learn two words, you’ve increased your language by 100%. So that’s exciting. And the more words you learn, then the more confident you feel. And of course, that goes up to a point where, you know, you learn an extra word and it doesn’t really change very much at all. So, I would always suggest that an elementary learner to not be too ambitious. They’re not going to be able to read an English language newspaper or to listen to a radio and understand it, for example, in English. So, they need to look at things that are a little bit more simplified and, you know, readers, simple readers and things like that. But again, going back to the first idea of being systematic, starting their own vocabulary list, you know, and keep revising it. And then, as they get a bit more confident, then challenge themselves. Maybe then start to read, try and read a part of a newspaper, try and listen to a real movie in English and get a little bit more out of it. So that would be what I would say.

Interviewer: I totally agree with what you mentioned that very, very beginners should emphasize not making the stakes too high. I was also a teacher, but a lot of students I had read articles or books that were way too hard for their understanding. And if that’s the case, then they won’t really absorb the English language as much as they can. And that’s what makes them lose their confidence, and you know, it’s pretty much a negative spiral. So, thank you for addressing that!

About Don
1: Why did you become an IELTS Expert?
2: The tasks of an IELTS Expert
3: The tasks done for IDP
4: Teaching experience in Oman and Vietnam
5: The factors that helped IELTS establish its worldwide trust
6: Test design process for IELTS
7: The linguistic studies and observations used for IELTS
8: About IELTS’ scoring system
9: The importance of IELTS’ Speaking Task
10: The drastic changes in the history of IELTS
About second language acquisition
11: Important factors for second language acquisition
12: Important factors for beginner-level learners of English←you’re here
13: Important factors for mid-level learners of English
14: Important factors for advanced-level learners of English