#60, Article: ‘Teaching Spoken English for Non-native Students: Problems, Solutions and Techniques’ by A. RAMESH BABU
by Tarun Patel
How an English teacher would teaches spoken English for the regional medium students? Teaching English in India as a second language is difficult or easy? There is no way students can become fluent faster unless they are exposed to the language they are to learn. This paper aims to provide English Language teachers with a range of techniques to encourage students to speak in English in the language classroom. Teaching spoken English to the non-native students is a Herculean task. The paper gives not only the full details how to provide other facilities which will help to students to speak in English and provides guidance them towards learning including grammar and speaking but also some suggestions and techniques that help the students in learning a language.
It is not so easy job to teach spoken English for non-native speakers. Most of the students habituated to speak in their regional languages because they learn many words in their home while they are in home. In urban areas there are babies who learn English at home besides other languages. However the majority are usually fluent in their mother tongue alone. The learners feel that it is very comfortable language to speak. English medium background students use English for writing examinations, but they, most of the times, use their mother tongue for speaking. Some students are unwilling to speak English in the classroom. Lack of motivation throws the students from the school. The rural medium background students are not motivated by the teachers towards the communication in English and in most of the cases, they are trying to finish the syllabus. The theoretical education in India is the main reason for this and it does not allow the students to speak in English. It is completely different from the text teaching to spoken English. Unlike the other classes, while teaching spoken English, the teachers should talk less and listen more from the students then only the students might participate actively. The teacher must step back and observe, sometimes acting as referee or monitor. The students do most of the speaking, and frequently the scene of a classroom during a communicative exercise is active, with students leaving their seats to complete a task.
Motivating students towards speaking in English is a half success. Many students in India are good at English grammar and writing part, but some of them do not show confidence to speak in language. Mother tongue language indirectly interferes while they speak. That’s where spoken English classes come into their rescue. What is done is to
make them to speak as much as they can in English. This is done using various techniques such as discussions, debates, prepared speeches and presentations, participating in situational dialogues, and many more exercises. This improves their confidence levels and spoken English.
When a teacher first begins teaching spoken English, he may not have the clue what he is doing. Some of the teachers are still between the devil and the deep sea what to teach whether grammar or written English for spoken English. Though grammar is important for a language, it is not necessary thing to speak in any other language. The learner may divert his concentration to grammar if the teacher teaches it. Before going to start the lessons, teacher should have a perfect plan for teaching spoken English. The teacher should assist students to get to know each other early in the course. Students will feel more confident and more able to take risks if they know the group and feel comfortable with them. Student motivation is important in acquiring any knowledge or skills. The teacher has to motivate them to speak in English. The motivation will make the students become confident in learning a language.
There are many methods to teach spoken English. Especially the grammar based method and communicative method. Which method does an English teacher follow to teach spoken English? “Any method good or bad, links up the teacher and the pupil into an organic relationship with constant mutual interaction….Every teacher and the Educationalist knows that even the best curriculum and the most perfect syllabus remain dead unless quickened into life by the right method of teaching and the right kind of teachers” (J.C. Aggarwal, 1984: 113-114). To teach spoken English, it is better to teach through the direct method. Dialogues cover a wide range of everyday situations. Through the dialogues, the learners can improve their language much. While making requests, asking questions, permission, agreeing, disagreeing, and inviting, it is important to consider who the participants and what their relationship is. The teacher must observe whether the situation is formal or informal. Let the learners’ by heart or remember it. They have to repeat the same statements many times in the spoken English class. Then only teacher gets success.
There are many problems that the learners are facing while learning a language. Here I am going to give some important points that will help the teachers to eradicate the problems.
Creation of Environment for Learning:
Most of the students do not get the opportunity to speak in English because their environment brings them to speak in the local language so the teacher should support them to speak in English. They have to provide the atmosphere and make spoken English classroom environment as a speaking box. More opportunities for speaking English outside the class can also be created. Group activities encourage the students to speak and their speech should be recorded which helps them in learning language. They may also be asked to carry out and record interviews with foreigners who are visiting or living around. But here the teacher should be very careful about the group work because the students may use their mother tongue. In group interaction as a teacher, you have to introduce yourself and ask all students to introduce themselves. “When organizing pair work and group work, make sure that every student’s participation is necessary for the task to be completed. It is best if each participant has “unique, essential information” or distinctive role to play” (Nation, 1997). Provide the group with a list, with pronunciation guides and preferred names. Make the effort to learn the names of all students in your tutorial groups – even if you have to get everyone to wear name-tags for the first few sessions. The teacher should also provide handout to the students that set out clear expectations about how they need to participate and what outcomes are sought from the session. He should provide early and frequent formative feedback to all students on their understanding of the subject matter and in relation to their communication and interpersonal skills. This will help students to learn each others names too.
Change Students’ Negative Beliefs and Attitudes towards Mistakes and Boost Students’ Self-confidence:
Whenever the students do mistakes, it is the teacher’s duty to give suggestion to them and have to change their negative beliefs and attitudes towards the mistakes that done by them. Teachers can discuss with ‘students the value of language use even if it is not fluent and accurate’ (Nation, 1997). When students are rewarded for successfully conveying a message, they will gradually change their perceptions about mistakes and language use. When the students learn the language, they can be awarded. But in spoken English class, the teacher must encourage them to speak and try to kill their shyness and stage fear. By boosting their self confidence, the teacher can easily get success.
Encourage the Equal Support in the Classroom:
Many times the students who have speaking skills get the choice of speaking. Teachers have to encourage all the learners equally. Indeed the teacher has to give the choice to the non-native speakers. When a non-native speaker speaks in English fluently, the class can be called a good class. A.B.M. Tsui (1996:160) suggests that “allowing students to check their answers with their peers before offering them to the whole class also encourages students to speak up.”
Attend to Individual Students’ Needs and Ability:
All the students’ knowledge is not same so that they may not perform as teacher expects, so the teacher should not expect every student to perform at the same level. Different kinds of tasks can be devised to suite different levels. Alternatively, task demands can be adjusted according to individual levels of oral competence. It is thought that once a student has a learning problem, it is best to allow the student to try to solve the problem on their own in the first place. When the problem is too challenging for the student to solve, support can be provided. The above list is made with the amount of support increasing from the first to the last solution.
Like other classes, there should be a good interaction between teacher and students in spoken English classes. Firstly teacher can make his participants to come out and speak whatever they can irrespective of the grammatical errors. “It is essential to concentrate on classroom interaction that goes on between and among teachers and students in order to gain insights and increase our understanding of classroom learning and teaching. Examples include how teachers ask questions and correct errors, what effect the type of task might have on learning, and whether reading aloud or silent reading in class results in more learning” (R. Allwright and Bailey, 1991). Here the teacher has to explain the answers in oral form. If it is in form of written form, there is, perchance, the learners may forget some structures in spoken form.
Use Simple Language:
Communication is a two way process. If the speaker speaks with difficult language, the opponent may not understand it so teacher should avoid using long convoluted sentences which may work in written text where the reader can review the sentence several times to decode its meaning. However, this is not an option with spoken language and therefore it is difficult for students to review meaning.
Lower Students’ Anxiety in the Classroom:
It is very important aspect in spoken English. The students’ shyness and stage fear should be overcome. According to D. J. Young (1991), teachers can start with finding out what students are anxious about. Then teachers can help them ease some of their irrational fears and teach them strategies such as self-talks and doing relaxation exercises to deal with fears.
More time Allotment for the Students:
In most of the time, because of heavy work load, the teacher can not concentrate on all the students but it is better to allot more time for the students. This can be done by giving students more preparation time. Alternatively, allow them to perform oral tasks without time pressure (R. Ellis, 2005) by giving them enough time to plan for and perform a task at the same time. When the students participate in language classes actively, they indirectly get self confidence from it. Larsen-Freeman says that “students are more responsible managers of their own learning” (D. Larsen-Freeman, 1986). If the learners have the pressure, they can not participate actively in langauge classes. Widdowson says that “When learners write under pressure, they may call upon systematic resources from their native language for the achievement and synthesis of meaning” (H. Widdowson, 1990).
This paper has focused on the problem of students who face the problems when they are learning English. It also focuses on how the teachers have to provide the facilities to the students to learn English. Some useful suggestions and techniques are also given. Teachers need to use the techniques in spoken English classes.
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D. J. Young, Creating a low-anxiety classroom environment: What does language anxiety research suggest? The Modern Language Journal, 75 (1991): 426-439.
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