Interview with IELTS Expert, Don Oliver from IDP

In the fourth segment of the interview, Don shares his experience teaching in Oman and Vietnam. The interview then leads to the importance of designing a lesson geared towards student’s interest in their certain field and not centering too much on language itself for language learning.

4.Teaching experience in Oman and Vietnam

Interviewer: Thank you for your answer. Our next question…From the experience of teaching IELTS preparation courses in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, did you find any differences in the approach of English acquisition from such countries compared to Japan?

Don: Yeah, I must admit I have never taught English in Japan. I have examined a lot of  Japanese students and I get a feeling for what happens in Japan, but in terms of my teaching experience, the Middle East was a very interesting experience because I was in Oman, which is in the Gulf, one of the Gulf countries, and it has only really, relatively recently developed its education sector. For a long time, they didn’t have universities and not many schools and things. So, there’s not that culture, an academic culture, culture of study and learning. So that was probably one of the big things, the big issues in that part of the world. You know, we had to sort of encourage that, I guess, academic curiosity and all that sort of stuff. Plus, there was a big divide between male and female behavior. Women would be much better students than the men because their lives were rather more restricted. The women are not going out, having coffee with their friends and doing stuff like that, so they’re at home. Therefore they were more studious, they did more studying. My other experience teaching overseas was in Vietnam, in Hanoi. And they’re very admirable people, the Vietnamese, they’re very strongly committed to learning. And you go to a country like that, who have had universities for 1,000 years. And there is a strong culture of learning there and people are very keen to learn, but of course the Vietnamese language is a very different language to English, so they have a lot of problems with pronouncing English and there are some problems for Japanese people with pronunciation, too. A few, you know, the L’s and the R’s, and wanting to add a syllable at the end of a word and things like that. But I feel all of these problems can be overcome. And it’s a matter of just taking a sort of a systematic, serious approach, you know, learning the sounds of a language, learning the grammar of a language, you know, and practicing it as much as you can. And you would know that, Ken, you’re an expert at teaching English to Japanese students! You speak English beautifully, so you know what it takes to learn a language.

Interviewer: [Laughs] I guess it goes back to what you’ve mentioned in the first question. I think it’s about being interested in a certain field itself rather than having interest in the language that’s most important. It’s not really about focusing on the language itself. I guess it’s more of a natural approach. When you think about yourself when you were a child, you don’t really have a purpose of absorbing a language, you just sit there and let the language sink into you. I think that’s the most important part; having a subconscious way of processing. If you think too consciously of a certain thing, then that becomes data and that is not what language is supposed to be.

Don: And you also had the advantage of being in an English-speaking country, correct?

Interviewer: Well, yes, that is true!

Don: I mean, you were forced to listen to it every day, every minute and produce something in English.

Interviewer: That is true!

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←you’re here
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
13: Important factors for mid-level learners of English
14: Important factors for advanced-level learners of English