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Guide to Teaching Refugees: Top 5 Tips for Teaching English to Refugees

Navigating the cultural shifts and challenges of relocating to a foreign country is daunting enough without the added hurdle of mastering a new language. That's why facilitating language acquisition for refugees and migrants is crucial. Proficiency in the local language aids integration into society, enhances access to employment and education, and fosters overall adaptation.


Whether you opt to volunteer with an organization or commit to it as a full-time career, teaching English to refugees offers a profound opportunity to make a tangible difference in their lives. If you're considering or already engaged in this endeavor, here are some tips to enhance your effectiveness in teaching English as a second language to refugees. 


How Can We Overcome Language Barriers to Refugees?

First thing’s first, what options are there to help migrants and refugees overcome language barriers? In addition to the opportunities refugees may have to learn English through daily interactions and teaching organizations, one fantastic option is to consider professional language interpreters to support them. This can be especially helpful with any situations or processes related to legal, health, administrative, education, employment, and more. 


At Equity, we provide quality foreign language interpretation and translation to the members of immigrant and refugee communities in the US. Our mission is to help them to be hopeful by helping them achieve their goals and meet their expectations. Book a consultation call with us to discuss how we can best support you or your organization.


Do I Need to Get TEFL Certified to Teach Refugees?

Yes, it is pretty much essential for most jobs to get a TEFL certification if you want to teach English to refugees. Whether you choose to volunteer or pursue a full-time job as a teacher, the industry standard is 120 hours to receive the certification. You also may want to consider an Advanced TEFL course if you plan to help students prepare for exams that they'll need to demonstrate their English level for jobs and visa processes.


5 Ways to Teach English to Refugees and Migrants

Now that we've gone over some basic information on teaching refugees and migrants, here are our top 5 tips that can give you more confidence for teaching English as a second language.


  1. Get to know your students First thing's first: Take some time to actually get to know your class on a personal level. If adapting to a completely new country isn't enough, they may have also experienced some traumatic events depending on their situation. Invest some time in bonding with them and forming that trust on a personal level. This will also be key in creating an overall safe, welcoming environment for your students.

  2. Make your lessons practical Rather than focusing on grammar rules, it may be best to help your students get to a point in which they can navigate real-life, day-to-day situations. Depending on their English level, many of your students may not know any English at all or have a very basic level. In that case, knowing how to checkout at a grocery store will be much more important than perfecting English grammar. Consider engaging in authentic, real-life dialogue with your students, as well as doing some role playing and incorporating reading and writing in an integrated way.

  3. Explore different cultures in your lessons Culture is such a major aspect of learning a new language. By incorporating cultural learning into your lessons, you'll not only help your students feel more connected to their new home, but you'll also make the lessons more fun and meaningful. Talk about cultural values and norms, movies, and TV shows. And be sure to ask questions about their culture as well. By focusing the lessons around their favorite movies or books from their country, you can help them feel more engaged in your classes.

  4. Take advantage of online resources When it comes to the actual structure of your lessons, it's important to do your homework and come prepared. The good news is that if you're stuck on how to conduct your lessons or how to put together a good lesson plan, there are so many online resources that can help you. From free printable worksheets to flashcards, apps, and board games, you can get plenty of inspiration online. You can even access complete less plans, complete with guides and worksheets to help both you and your students get the most out of class.

  5. Be mindful Last but not least, always remember to be mindful and considerate of who is in the room with you. When teaching refugees and migrants, it's important to keep yourself informed on where they are from and what's going on in their home country. Depending on their unique situation, they may or may not be dealing with certain trauma that you are unaware of. Try to keep things light and fun and avoid topics that might be too heavy or controversial. This will also help create a safe, comfortable environment for everyone to learn and have fun.


Get the Most Out of Teaching English to Refugees

There you have it: Our top tips to teach English as a second language to refugees and migrants. Whether you've been at this for a while now or you're just starting to consider a path towards teaching, this is an amazing way to give back and support an incredible community. Try these tips in your lessons and never hesitate to reach out to others for resources or support. There are plenty of organizations out there with a massive group of people who share in this mission to support our refugee and migrant community.

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