Silence – The Key to teaching ESL

Many years ago when I was studying music, I read that it is not the notes that count, but the silence. It made sense. The silent pauses between notes adds drama, tension, suspense, etc. Silence can also be a great tool when teaching English as a second language or for teaching any subject.

Imagine the following scenario. A teacher asks a student a question. The student doesn’t respond so after a few seconds the teacher will rephrase the question assuming the student doesn’t understand the question. This is common. Many people find silence to be uncomfortable. However, silence is a great tool for teaching and also for negotiating. Wait ten seconds or more before helping the student. Watch the student’s face for visual signs. Often the student will speak. The student’s silence does not necessary mean that he or she does not understand the question. The student may be translating the question, trying to figure out what was said. The student may also be searching for the English words for his or her answer. Give the student some silent time to respond or in some cases to force them to think. If you respond quickly after a short period of silence, the student learns that if I don’t know the answer or don’t want to answer, the teacher will give me the answer.

Using silence is also valuable for business. First, listen to the other person before responding. Give them the chance to say everything that they want to say. Remember, information is valuable. Then, take some time before responding. The other party may feel that you don’t like their offer. If they are uncomfortable with silence, they may begin to change their offer to a more favorable one before you even respond to the original offer. Yes, silence can be golden.


About acohen843

I am a writer and ESL teacher who enjoys the challenge of starting businesses. Currently, I am a JuicePlus distributor ( who is using this business opportunity as the foundation of a social entrepreneurship project.
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One Response to Silence – The Key to teaching ESL

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