Sunday, May 6, 2012

Factors That Hinder A Student's Progress in Learning English




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-Factors That Hinder A Student's Progress in Learning English


"... English... is the dominant language or in some instances even the required international language of communications, science, information technology, business, seafaring,aviation, entertainment, radio and diplomacy." --Wikipedia

Concise Oxford ENGLISH Dictionary defines language as the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way.


          Imagine this: A young man packed his suitcase. He double-checked the amount of money in his bank account. It's his hard earned money and he had been saving it for his future. He hailed a taxi to the airport, got on the plane and soon, the plane was soaring in the air, taking him to a country he had never visited before. On the plane, he checked his guidebook and memorized the address of the English school he was going to attend  for six months. He was excited and nervous at the same time. And why not? He would be learning English. He would be a fluent English speaker, he would get a high TOEIC score, and many companies would be interested in having him work for them. He would make his dreams come true and  his parents would be very proud of him. His future would be brighter.

          When he got to the school, he was made to memorize words he had known since he was seven years old: pen, book, table, chair, bag, carrots, eggs, and the like. What he needed was Business English. He then approached the head of the school and talked to him about the matter. The following day he was made to attend a class which required him to learn and memorize all the grammar rules and memorize and repeat words and sentences from books and magazines, words whose meanings and usage he didn't perfectly understand.  The poor young man was both sad and disappointed.  Were his dreams collapsing in his very hands? 

          When students enroll in an English Language school, they are so full of hope. It is then quite disheartening to see students  having difficulty conveying a simple idea in English despite having spent a lot of time, money and effort in learning the international language. Why? Because unfortunately, a lot of English students today are just made to memorize words from a text, and they are rarely given a chance to think and speak in English.  Such is not the correct way to learn a language. Memorization is good but only to a certain extent, and that is, only if the student is at ground zero. 

         What's more,  a lot of questions answerable by Yes or No can be answered with a Yes or a No without actually saying Yes or No.  

          To prove my point, let’s consider the following examples.

 Conventional Method

A: Can you submit the report by noon?
B: Yes, I can submit the report by noon. 
OR
B: No, I can't submit the report by noon.

A: Do I really need to photocopy the financial report now? 
B: Yes, you really have to photocopy the financial report now.

OR
B: No you don't really need to photocopy the financial report now.

In real-life conversations, some YES-NO questions are answered this way:


A: Can you submit the report by noon?
B: Definitely. (YES)

A: Can you submit the report by noon?
B: I really wish I could.  (NO) 

A: Do I really need to photocopy the financial report now?
B: The boss needs it now. (YES)

A: Would  you like me to photocopy the financial report now?
B:  Just let Eriko take care of it. (NO)



       It is possible  to know what a person is thinking of based on the words he uses. This is called inference. In many business books, business letters and TOEIC exams, inference is often used. The ability to discern the unspoken, the ability to read between, above and below the lines, are therefore an essential part of written and spoken communication.   This ability is possessed only by those who are trained to learn and speak English as their own and not just to memorize grammar rules and tons of words just to pass exams.



          When students are asked to memorize sentences, the speed of their teachers is a lot slower than the speed in a real-life conversation, not to mention that the sentences they are asked to memorize are so oversimplified and one-sided. Also, what the teachers say are customized, or sometimes scripted, so that the student responds using the word or expression taught.    As a result, when the student is exposed to real-life conversations, he is completely lost.  In real-life situations, conversations are not scripted. Ideas, opinions, feelings, suggestions and the like are in the air, waiting to be voiced-out any moment. Situations like this require an on-the-spot, quick, logical and accurate response from the part of the person spoken to.  If a student isn't trained to use English in any given situation, can he really survive in the demanding workplace?

   








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