English Language Teaching: Problems and Solutions

Abstract

Solutions to the problems related to English Language teaching has been a topic of research and discussion world over which paves way for innovative solutions and novel ways of experimentation. Since language itself is going through changes and adaptations it’s obvious that the process of searching for solutions to effective, innovative and result oriented teaching and learning the language also must be pragmatic and learner centric.

English Language teaching is becoming a challenging task for the teacher especially when the orientation is meant for the students of other languages. What can a language teacher do when there are multitudes of problems to deal with? Well, if you have thought this question at any point of time during your teaching career, you are a part of the solution! Since identifying the problem is the first step towards solving them. Once we identify all the stumbling blocks in achieving our target of making the students learn English, a brain storming for problem solving is going to bring out a number of solutions. At least it will keep you going – though it may not solve all issues at once. (If your ‘bad’ result becomes a ‘not so bad’ result, and a sign of relief appears on the face of both the teacher and the learner still it’s an achievement!)

Key words: motivation, needs and wants, fear factor, exposure, activities

 

Problem # 1. Students’ Lack of interest.

Solution: Inspire your students!

‘Success brings more success’

Since people are interested to do what is beneficial to them show the learners the benefits of learning English. Similarly show them the problems attached to the lack of effective communication skills – of course in English. Show them the examples of successful people with a lot of confidence and communication skills. Show them live example – videos, recorded speeches, photographs of smart people. On the other hand discuss issues where lack of English language skills could possibly be a stumbling block in one’s higher studies and career.

Needs and wants:Necessity is the mother of inventions.(Plato, The Republic, Book II). So is the importance of learning English language as it is a key of necessity that opens many doors of knowledge and career options. It is the duty of the teacher to link the needs and wants of the students – career growth, economic benefits, social status, need to have easy communication with the outside world, leadership skills, easy access to the world of literature, easy access to science and technology etc., in order to motivate the learners for facing the challenges of learning the language.

 

 ‘The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires’ (William Arthur Ward – American scholar, author and teacher). It is hence the prerequisite of a teacher to inspire the students and ignite the passion for learning English – by making them aware how important it is for them – for their own academic, social, career and technological advancement.

 

Motivate through ‘need based’ activities and exercises:

One key to increasing motivation is to use activities matched to the personalities, learning styles and characteristics of the learners as often as practically possible.’

 ‘Actions speak louder than words.’ Similarly actions and activities have the hidden power to influence and motivate the learners – without any words of encouragement and motivation.  Nothing can be more powerful when it comes to motivation than the self realization of the learner that he is unable to do a particular task – which he is expected to do for his own personal benefits. Such a realization by the learner that ‘I must learn English at any cost’ can do wonders in acquiring the LSRW skills by taking all necessary and effective steps.

However the teacher must observe and ensure that these tools and activities should not ‘de-motivate’ the leaner –  which is possible to happen if not encouraged and pacified whenever the learner faces any difficulty in achieving a target or when he compares his language skills with that of others who have done the activities more successfully.

Personalize goals: Encourage the learners to set career goals and make the learners realize the importance of English language which is going to play a very crucial role in their attaining their dream career. As it is said ‘your talent can get you a job but it’s your communication skills that will get you a promotion and make you a leader.’ Let the students realize that getting the job depends not only on their subject knowledge but also their communication skills. The realization that the communication skills are going to be the deciding factor in getting them successfully through the interviews and group discussions can motivate them in working hard to improve their English language skills.

Prepare activities related to their personal needs, learning styles and individual requirements. Writing an attractive resume, preparing an eye catchy objective as per the requirement of the job profile, writing an impressive application for a job, preparing an appealing personal profile, a letter of self introduction etc., are just examples that need to have personal touch and are need based which is also practically required for the learner during his study years and career search thereafter. How about introducing activities that make the learner write these requirements on their own? How about helping them identify their mistakes and improving their writing skills? How about teaching them sentence construction and basic grammatical rules?  How about conducting a Classroom Action Research (CAR) to identify the additional requirements of the learners? Now the time is ripe to motivate them because learning English is now a part of their need.

Problem # 2. Fear of making mistakes:

 Solution: Create an atmosphere where mistakes are welcome!

                                    “Full many a gem of purest ray serene,

The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:

Full many a flow’r is born to blush unseen,

And waste its sweetness on the desert air”

                                                – Thomas Grey, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

 

Not having an atmosphere where one can speak without being afraid of making mistakes, not having an opportunity where the learner is supported and encouraged by the co-learners and teachers, many students have lost their confidence and eventually given up English language learning. It’s a fact where examples are numerous.

The fear of making mistakes in front of friends, colleagues or peer learners stops many students from talking in English. Success is thus delayed in the process of protecting once (false) ‘prestige’ or (social) ‘image’ in front of others.

 

A learner who doesn’t care about ‘what others are going to think of me if I make a mistake’ can surely learn things better and reach success faster. The learner must get rid of this self created ‘false prestige’ and ‘what others will think’ type of attitude. One must realize that in the long run people around you – may it be your peer learners, friends, colleagues, teachers etc., will move on. So is your valuable time. The faster the learner realize this fact and the teacher enlighten the students and create a conducive atmosphere where all can speak without being worried about ‘what others are going to think’ and make them realize that ‘making mistake is not a mistake when it comes to learning’ is going to be a turning point which can change the classroom atmosphere positive enough for all learners.

 

Identify the levels of learners: The teacher as well as the learner must identify and be aware of the presence of the different levels of learners. An English class room may include advanced learners, quick learners and the beginners as well.  In such a mixed group there is possibility that the beginners and not so quick learners may start thinking negatively about their ability to learn.  On the other hand the quick and advanced learners can get into the trap of “I am better than everyone” type of overconfidence.

A classroom with students having mixed levels of learning has certain merits as well as demerits. If the beginners and not so fast learners feel comfortable to interact and clarify their doubts with the advanced level learners and if the advanced learners are willing to support and guide the beginners, such an atmosphere is going to be ideal. In case the interaction is not possible due to any reason, such a mixed group can damage the confidence level of the not so fast learners and that of the beginners.

 

Make the best use of a mixed group – Divide teams under the care of the advanced learners: Dividing the teams that include both advanced level learners and slow learners could be a solution to deal with the possible problems that may arise from a mixed group. This is going to provide a buffer for the beginners since they are guided by someone who is better than them. A small group is again a better platform for easy interaction and correction. Activities conducted in small groups give more opportunity for every participant to air their views and ideas.

 

The grammar fear factor: This can be another possible reason that makes English learning difficult and complicated. Different reasons like lack of proper foundation, lack of support from co-learners and from teachers, inefficient teachers etc., can make English learning a nightmare. The solution is to simplify grammar – step by step. Give priority to functional grammar than theoretical grammar teaching. Appreciate the effort of the learner in spite of the mistakes he make. Some steps like simplification of grammar teaching, interactive doubt clarification sessions, not dumping too much of grammar rules at a time can gradually make the fear factor disappear from the minds of the learner.

 

Problem # 3. Lack of exposure:

 Solution: Create an English speaking atmosphere

 

The prerequisite of creating an atmosphere where everyone can confidently communicate in English – without the fear of making mistakes – is to implement the first two steps discussed above.

Creating an English speaking atmosphere is a complicated step which needs a good coordination and understanding among the learners and between the learner and the teacher. Speaking English should not be forced upon the learner instead the learner must feel the importance of speaking in English on his own. In this aspect the main role in the beginning days is to be played by the teacher.

Start with stories and interesting topics: To grab the attention of the students and to create an atmosphere of English communication there is no better way than telling interesting stories or discussing general topics that interest the learners. To make the session interactive the teacher or the group leader must ask questions – easy to answer type – to the listeners very frequently while narrating the story or discussing the issues. In case of group discussion the teacher/group leader can ask the opinion of all participants in order to make sure that everyone gets a chance to express his views.

Activities to make the students speak:

  1. Read aloud. To begin with encourage the students to read stories, news articles etc., loudly in the class room. At the end they can add why they have selected that particular story or news item.
  2. Make the students speak about one’s childhood or school days. (These kinds of topics are easy for the beginners.)
  3. Speak about one’s favourite movie, book, place, friends, sport etc.,
  4. Retell a story if possible with a different ending.
  5. Recite a poem or sing a song in English.
  6. Ask the listeners to solve a puzzle.
  7. Explain a proverb or anecdote.
  8. Express one’s opinion about any topic of social relevance and ask the opinion of the listeners.
  9. Give a topic for group discussion and ask the group leaders to collect opinion from everyone in the group then share it in the class.
  10. Give a puzzle or ask the group to find solutions to a serious problem.
  11. Conduct a speech on topics given one day in advance. (allow the students to choose from a number of topics)
  12. ‘Just a minute’ talk on interesting topics – decided by the teacher or peer learners.
  13. ‘Volte – face’ talk on topics decided by the teacher or peer learners.
  14. Ask students to share a jock, a memorable incident etc.
  15. Conduct a debate on topics that are easy and interesting to discuss.

 

It is always better to give a number of topics to the students from where they can select one that they like to speak. It is also important that the teacher or peer learners should not point out any mistake in syntax and choice of vocabulary.

 

REFERENCES

 

  1. Ward, W.A. (1970). Fountains of Faith. Droke House publications.
  2. Kim,Y. (2011). Current Trends in ELT. A Triannual Publication on the Study of English

Language Teaching Vol.1 Feb2011.

  1. Patil, Z.N. (2012). Innovations in English Language Teaching: Voices from the

Indian Classroom. Hyderabad. Orient Black Swan

  1. Lynch, L.M. (2008). http://bettereflteacher.blogspot.in. 15-5-2015.
  2. Grey, T. (2000). http://www.thomasgray.org 10-7-2015.

WHAT ARE SOFT SKILLS ALL ABOUT?

“If you want to go fast go alone. But if you want to go long, go with people.”

(Ratan Tata).

Down the lane twenty five years ego, getting an engineering job for that matter any job in India, required qualification was to have the technical knowledge. But ten years later the scenario started changing when there was more number of qualified job seekers available  the preference then was given to people who had work experience and were certified in that particular area. In the nineties technical skills has weighed heavily than the attitude and soft skills. But in the last one decade the picture has changed dramatically. Now a- days employers are not hiring people just because they have technical skills and work experience. Words like positive attitude, perception, communication skills and so on are discussed more often than the technical expertise. Soft skills are the turbo engine for anybody’s fast track growth in the life at large.

What do Soft Skills mean?

Soft skills is a term often associated with a person’s “EQ” (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, interpersonal skills, managing people, leadership, etc. that characterize relationships with other people. Soft skills contrast hard skills, which are generally easily quantifiable and measurable. (e.g. software knowledge, plumbing skills, mechanical skills) (Wikipedia 2016).

Though soft skills have so much of importance today, for almost all the people, acquiring soft skills are harder than acquiring a hard skill. The phrase ‘soft skills’ is generally described to the ability of people how they handle relationships which include the people at work place, clients or customers and even one’s personal relations. It also analyses one’s attitude and perspective. Soft skills are also referred as people’s skills, interpersonal skills and social skills.

Hard Skills Vs Soft skills:

Hard skills are all teachable abilities or skills that are easy to acquire. They are job specific skills or professional skills like engineering, legal expertise etc. It can be acquired in colleges and can be confirmed with a certificate.  Hard skills are necessary for anyone to acquire a specific job. However, success and career growth are not at all totally dependent on the hard skills alone. Usually, how one is able to work in teams at work place determines his or her success and career growth. This is more applicable and relevant today because success of an organization cannot be achieved by a single man alone.

Generally the first thought everybody gets in their mind when we speak about soft skills is communication skill. Is ‘soft skills’ all about communication skills? Not exactly! Communication skills are only the outcome of one’s attitude and behavioral pattern. Albert  Mehrabian (1981) A professor of university at  California, Los Angeles found that 93 % of what we communicate is through tone of voice and body  language. According to him,

  • Seven percent of communication is done through the words that are spoken (based on the meaning of words)
  • Thirty –eight percent of communication is based on paralinguistic (means the way the words are said) and
  • Fifty – Five percent of communication is done  through the facial expressions.

Hence, one needs to understand that communication skills are not only verbal but also nonverbal. This means the soft skills training has to be elevated to the optimum potential in all the industries and organizations for its own benefits.

One’s behavior, ability to stay calm, decision making skill, problem solving skills, ability to handle stress, leadership skills are all expressions of one’s personality. Since it is multi faceted, it is not something that we can prepare a syllabus and be taught in the class room. Even though it is not something that can be taught so easily like a subject, it is possible to develop the people’s skills through interaction and better understanding of human behavioral pattern and modifying one’s attitudes and inter personal relationships.

 What do the employers want?

Many surveys are conducted at global level to identify the most important soft skills that employers are looking for from their employees irrespective of the domain they are working.

An online poll of 895 North American senior leaders and human resources (HR) professionals, conducted between 9 February and 9 March 2010, by Portland-based HR expert Lori Kocon has identified ten most important soft skills as given below.

  1. Strong work ethic— This means whether the employees have the sincerity and dedication to do the job with their best of abilities.
  1. Positive attitude — Whether they are optimistic and willing to look at the bright side of things. Do they create the same positive energy in their work place?
  2. Good communication skills— How much good they are in verbal and non verbal communication? Are they good listeners too at the same time?
  3. Time management abilities— Are they able to complete their work as per priorities and in time? Are they able to utilize their time wisely?
  4. Problem-solving skills— Are they able to solve problems creatively?
  5. Being a team player— Are they able to work in a team? Are they ready to take up leadership role when it is necessary?
  6. Self-confidence — Do they believe in their own abilities and spread the same confidence in others too?
  7. Ability to accept and learn from criticism — Are  they ready to accept criticism with a positive spirit? Are they open to learning?
  8. Flexibility/adaptability — Are they willing to adapt themselves to new situations? Are they ready to accept changes and challenges?
  9. Working well under pressure — Are they capable of handling stress and able to meet deadlines?

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) job outlook survey 2015, which was conducted among 260 U.S. employers including companies like Microsoft, the top skills that are expected by the employers from their employees are as follows.

  1. Leadership and ability to work on a team
  2. Written communication skills
  3. Problem-solving skills
  4. Strong work ethic : Analytical/quantitative skills
  5. Technical skills
  6. Verbal communication skills
  7. Initiative
  8. Computer skills
  9. Flexibility/adaptability
  10. Time management

 

The findings of NACE 2015 survey clearly showed that 47% of preference is given to soft skills whereas hard skills were preferred only 23%.  The growth in the career ladder again clearly depends on one’s soft skills.

Basic soft skills

Though the quiver of soft skills has many skill sets, the major attributes one should have to improve their learning curve can be quantified into six basic skills.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is important not only at the higher level of decision making, but at the entry level where an employee has to deal with a tricky situation with a colleague or to deal with a tough client.  Knowing how to deal with people clearly differentiate the winners from the losers in the corporate world.

Ownership

Taking ownership is the main attribute employers are looking for from their employees. It makes the employee more responsible and least controlled that leads to creativity and efficiency in work. That means the employee is not just executing a series of activities assigned by someone else; he is involving into the whole activity with some personal interest to bring the output in the best way possible.

Staying Calm

The value of the calmness will be realized when the there is an ambiguity in the organizational culture and in organizational communication. People who are calm will not spread rumors which cause any damage to the other employees or even to organization. Such an employee is always respected both by peers and higher authorities. Calmness gives a manager more power over the employees working under him. Usually people who are calm work with more cooperation and will not create unconstructive interpersonal conflict with others.

Openness to Feedback

Feedback works as a double edged sword, it has to be well communicated and well received otherwise it reduces the productivity. However openness to feedback helps to identify the opportunities. But if the person gets defensive at suggestions he loses the battle before it started.  The importance of receiving positive feedback grows along with the hierarchy. To manage well, the manager has to be more open to take criticism and suggestions which are very vital for his own growth.

Polite Assertiveness

Polite assertiveness is nothing but speaking up when things are not going right. It is always better to bring the problem faced or problematic situation into the notice of the concerned authority rather than suffering with it. And the person should not shy away from difficult or awkward conversations. One should not feel fear to express the new ideas because ideas are the actual investment for any organization.

Decency

Decency appears to be very simple but it differentiates the task manger from great leaders.  This is also very important because at work every day we deal with disagreement in day to day basis. In order to handle the tough situations in a civilized way we have to be decent. Organizations with great culture clearly understand that the employees are humans with lives and families other than work. This is very important at the time of appraisal and feedback while dealing with an uncomfortable situation.
How soft skills are checked during interviews

Many employers prefer to check the EQ and people’s skills of their employees at the time of interview itself. It is very essential because it helps the employer to understand whether the individual is suitable for their culture and the particular role. The best way to check people’s skills can be done by asking open ended questions about inter personal skills. For example, describe an unusual person or situation they come across and why it is unusual for them. Another popular question asked during interviews to analyze one’s ability to work in teams is to discuss a major project which was not successful and how it was handled. The communication skill can be understood by the way they dealt an angry frustrated customer.

Likewise there are many questions which generally give’s the interviewer a basic idea about the interviewee.

Conclusion Remarks

This paper deals with the general view of what soft skills are all about and how much important they are for an employee and even for an employer. It has dealt with different sets of soft skills which are considered very important for the individuals to perform better and to grow in an organization. This paper also focuses on areas which are vital for the improvement of soft skills and how they are tested in the interviews. It also emphasizes on behavioral traits such as  good manners, optimistic attitude, situational awareness, common sense, and the ability to co operate and negotiate which are also considered as important soft skills.

 

Reference

  1. http://www.skillsyouneed.com/general/soft-skills.html#ixzz43FQ75ukf
  2. http://www.jobsearch.about.com/od/skills/qt/hard-softskills.html
  3. http://m.isaca.org/journal/archives/2011/volume-1

4.http://www.naceweb.org/surveys/job-oulook.aspx

5.http:/en.m.wikipedia.org

6.http:/www.dailyworth.com/posts

  1. http://www.aol.com/article/2009/01/26/top-10-soft-skills-for-job-hunters

Life goes on

Relations are stronger than life

Stronger than death

We can’t let them go

We wait for the silver line

In the darkest of the clouds

Watching the seasons change

Waiting for the spring

I sat alone for ages

I never knew when the spring set in

Flowers bloomed

The skylarks sang all night

I never heard

Though I had kept the windows open

I waited through the seasons

For a life of dreams

Now I know… its winter

Flowers withered, dreams frozen

Now I stay behind the windows

Closed.

Don’t pretend to be true

Don’t cry when I die, try to laugh with me now

Live for those who are alive, let them not die uncared

Don’t keep your love for display after death

What do you want to pretend?

Who cares your rituals after death?

Don’t remind me rituals of stone-age

Life is a journey forward, look ahead

Don’t conclude ‘this was the way it was done before’

Earth is no more the center!

The Sun is no more revolving around the earth!

Awake!

All truths around are censored

Don’t be fooled by the preachers

Learn from the nature on your own

Question the “truths,” rewrite the history

Come what may, Rules are made to be broken

From time to time

Be Free

You are not here to live someone’s dreams

You are not here to follow someone’s way of life

Keep away from advice on how to live and how not to

You are not here to wait eagerly in the morning

Waiting for the ‘thoughts for the day’ –

Someone’s thoughts!

Nor are you here

To search for the good time to act on and the bad time not to act

Keep off people who say theirs is wisdom and theirs alone – beware!

Keep off who discourages you as ignorant, unwise, uncountable

Though they accept your donations – that are countable.

You are not here to live someone’s dreams

Follow your heart, your thoughts, listen none

Care not who says ‘you are wrong.. this is not the way,’

Choose to be free as you are born to be.

Believe none, follow none

Don’t live the life of a slave

Be free, as free as the breeze in the sea.

Autumn

The days are not so long

You can’t just hang on and move on.

Like the leaves so tender turn green

And await the spring, full of dreams

When the autumn falls in, alas, its time..

The leaves give up the sap sans hope

Then withers into oblivion who knows –

How many winters we go through

How many sunsets we see

How many we ignore without seeing

How many a dream blooms and how many shrivels

One day when the vermilion at the distant isles turns gray

Will you smile or pretend

Against the dying of the light?

 

UNSTRUCTURED ENGLISH LANGUAGE ACQUISITION

Language acquisition can basically be divided into two ways; structured and unstructured. What goes on in our class rooms – the structured language teaching and learning –is the most discussed about topic. However, the importance and beneficial effect of unstructured language acquisition is not much studied and researched. Which of the above two methods help the learners learn better? It’s a question that needs to be discussed in detail.

Unstructured second language acquisition is usually the result of spontaneous communication in social situation. On the other hand the structured language teaching and learning which is guided, tutored and is formal is the class room teaching method implemented in schools and colleges all over. (Krashen 1981,1985)

 

Key phrases: unstructured language acquisition, task based language teaching

 

Structured language acquisition Vs Unstructured language acquisition

“Language is acquired when the student is motivated by the task, feels low or zero anxiety, and has had his or her self esteem protected or enhanced. If such conditions prevail, and the input is comprehensible, interesting and relevant, then language acquisition is easily possible.” (Krashen 1985)

Krashen, rules out the possibility of instruction intervening in the acquisition process. According to him the only kind of Second Language Acquisition (SLA) that deserves the attention of the researcher is uninstructed SLA. The reason why he is not in favour of structured SLA is that ‘it contaminates the language learning by intervention and control exerted by the classroom.’ This observation is emphasized and supported by L.W.Filllmore: “What happens in school has very little to do with language learning. Language can’t be taught. It can only be learned. People learn language in spite of what goes on in the classroom” (Wong Fillmore 1989).

Structured, Semi-structured and Unstructured

Teaching learning activity falls either in one of these categories – structured, semi-structured or unstructured. Most of the structured methodsare dominated by the teacher where the learners are mostly passive learners. They learn the vocabulary and grammar just by listening to the teacher and taking notes. Repeated reading and drilling are encouraged by the teachers for making the students learn language. Structured methods have a clear beginning, middle and end.They follow a defined pattern from which there won’t be any variation.

Semi-structured learning includes guided discussion among students. In this method there is interaction between the teacher and the students. Though text books and materials are used for teaching learning, they are just used as tools for guided discussion. Conducting a test on vocabulary (dictation), asking the students to memorize an attractive language expression or poem, reading aloud a text etc., can be included in this category.

Unstructured teaching learning method is completely learner centeredand the students should feel free to involve, discuss and interact with one another.They are open ended and are not guided or limited by rules. Here the learners are given the freedom to explore the possibilities and engage themselves with different activities to support their own learning.Open ended activities like group discussions, situational conversations, watching films and videos, listening to music, reading or listening to stories etc., provide the much needed exposure to the learners to come across various vocabularies and language expressions which lead to gradual language acquisition.(Lewis Marilyn, ReindersHayo,2008)

Though all the three methods have its own merits and demerits, we can’t categorize a particular method as the most suitable for various groups. In many cases, it’s more suggestible to start with the structured activities like vocabulary drilling and pronunciation practice. Then gradually we can shift to semi-structured activities for further practice for language assimilation. Once all students are able to participate and reach certain level of understanding over the topic we can introduce more unstructured activities. At this level the teacher must give preference to activities that all students enjoy and involve. Activities need not be entertaining always; instead it can also be something that put some challenges to the learners.  At any point of time the learning activity must not be teacher centric.

Online supported activities for unstructured learning

Internet provides a lot of activities for unstructured learning. Online reading, sharing of knowledge, solving cross word puzzles, multiple choice questions and other language oriented exercises support the students learn without stress and pressure. Since the online resources give the freedom of choice to the learners, they will not feel the compulsion of doing something mandatory. Making use of these resources help the teachers choose the most suitable and innovative activities for the students.

This paper discusses a few language teaching and learning tools which are unstructured and yet very powerful and effective in second language acquisition.

Learn through videos and movies

Language is also related to culture. That’s why learning English as a second language by reading books or attending class room discussion usually do not make the learner proficient in a language as best as the native speaker. The native like proficiency can be acquired if one is able to interact with the native speakers or at least have the opportunity or listening to them or watching them discuss through audio and visual media. The colloquial expressions can be understood only when the learner is familiar with the culture. For a non native learner of English, watching the English movies and videos provide the opportunity to become familiar with the culture and colloquial expressions.  While watching movies we learn the words by contest. It helps us to identify which word suites which contest. On the other hand when we learn the vocabulary from a book we know not only the meaning butalso ‘when’ and ‘how’ the words are used along with its possible meanings in different contexts. However, one must be careful in selecting interesting movies with easy to understand type language and currently used vocabulary and expressions rather than the old English.

Films are excellent tools for teaching and learning language for different reasons. First of all they are interesting and enjoyable and thus motivating.Watching movies also help the learner to overcome the accent problem to a large extend. Watching movies help you learn the ‘native English’ not the ‘text-book English.’

One big advantage of listening to a native speaker even though it is through a film is that we can learn the actual pronunciation of words. English language learners learn words and meaning from books. But how to pronounce the words correctly is equally important as learning the spelling and grammar. One big defect of learning English based on textbooks is that the second language learners pronounce words differently which is influenced by their mother tongue. Once someone learns a wrong pronunciation, it will be very difficult to change the pronunciation later. However, when you are in the midst of native speakers, whose pronunciation is different from that of you, they may not understand what you mean. Nor will you be able to understand what they mean. Hence it’s must that language learners listen to words, phrases and sentences in the learning stage itself. This includes phonetics, silent letters, word stress and sentence stress. Listening to audios, watching films and videos provide the possibility of observing and learning the pronunciation.

 

Videos and audios also provide the opportunity to be acquainted with the native pronunciation. Listening to a native speaker for ESL learners will set right the accent problems of ESL learners.

There are web sites that provide you with videos that are ideal for English learners. Repeatedly playing these selected videos will help the learners to become familiar with contextual vocabulary and topics for language expressions and open discussions.

Learn through music

Songs are very effective tools in learning a language. Listening to music or watching music videos will be entertaining as well as educative. Songs contain a lot of useful vocabulary which are also up to date and generally usedvocabulary. Lyrics also help the listener to become familiar with grammar and language expressions. It also helps one to understand the sound of English, its pronunciation and tone. Since it is easy to memories songs one can easily remember words and phrases used in the songs.

While selecting songs one should avoid songs that use difficult language that are not used commonly. It’s also better to avoid fast tracks. Songs to which lyrics are available is more useful for better understanding of language. Select songs that are enjoyable which entices you to listen to it repeatedly. Songs that tells stories, especially those that are meant for children are better for the beginners.

A few websites to start with:

http://www.gyanjosh.com,

http://www.ihbristol.com, http://www.myenglishpages.com/site_php_files/lyrics_and_songs.php,http://www.agendaweb.org/songs/learn_english_through_songs.html, http://www.esolcourses.com/topics/learn-english-with-songs.html,

http://www.fluentu.com/english/blog/learn-english-through-songs-music,

http://www. Lyrics.com, http://www.smartlyrics.com

 

Learnthrough stories

Research concludes that: – Hearing stories results in significant vocabulary development. Children acquire the meanings of unfamiliar words when they hear them in stories. – Hearing stories frequently develops the ability to understand difficult grammatical constructions. – Hearing stories help children develop a sense of how stories are constructed; they acquire knowledge of “story grammar.” (Krashen S D, 2015)

There is nothing more enticing to the students than listening to stories. Reading stories is also equally enjoyable. These are very effective tools to teach and learn the language. An interesting story encourages the listener or reader to pay more attention and continue listening and reading. The excitement comes from the curiosity to know what happens next. The feelings of happiness, sadness, fear, curiosity, anger, frustration and all take the medium of words to find expressions. In that process the reader or listener comes across an enriching vocabulary of current and daily expressions. These words, dialogues and expressions can easily be copied and imitated by the learnersin situational conversations. It is easier to remember words and expressions of a story when compared to that of general topics. The story itself catches the attention of our brain and our imagination works out to involve in the story and the listener tries to become a part of the story.

Playing the audio of a story along with its narration gives multiple advantages than the teacher narrating a story or the learner reading the story. Listening to a story through an audio is highly recommendable especially for the beginners because it helps the listener learn the actual pronunciation of words along with its intonation and rhythm. There are many websites that provide stories and novels in the audio form. You can listen to these audios and read the narration at the same time. Selecting the audio read by a native speaker is more advantageous than those narrated by non native speakers. One should also be careful to select a story and genre that is interesting. Some audio novels are very lengthy. However, the total time duration need not be a constraint while selecting an interesting novel or story. Since all novels are written chapter wise the listener can listen to one chapter at a time. Even if the listener has enough time to listen to more than one chapter at a time, it’s better to avoid the temptation of listening to more than one chapter at one go. Instead, repeating the same chapter two to three times helps the learner become more familiar with the words, sentence construction and intonation.

In case the teacher reads or narrates a story, care must be taken to repeat the important words and expressions. Asking questions to the students while narrating the story helps the students to be more vigilant. This also makes the session interactive and gives a change to the students to speak and interact. Certain challenging questions based on the story can be put forward for open discussions. Narrating a story with very simple vocabulary, asking questions frequently and encouraging the students to speak out is a wonderful method to make the learners speak out in English. This also removes their shyness and fear of speaking in front of others. This is also a wonderful confident building method especially for the beginners who are otherwise hesitated to speak in front of others. Asking very simple questions that can be understood by everyone and can be answered easily doesn’t frighten the beginners. Such questions and conversation can boost the confidence of the beginners and encourages them to involve in the interaction.

Reading stories help the learners to become familiar with the vocabulary, sentence construction and language expressions. Since reading can be done at the convenience of the reader, this is one of the very effective methods of learning the language. The more voracious a reader is the faster he can master the language. Encouraging reading habits is an easy way to increase the speed of learning and acquiring language skills. Readers especially the beginners must select articles and books written in simple and easy to understand vocabulary.  Stories must also be exciting enough to motivate the learners to read them continuously and repeatedly.

When it comes to understanding the contextual meaning of vocabulary, it is not advisable to check dictionary very often. Instead, readers should train themselves to guess meaning in the given context. Guess the unknown meaning with the help of the known vocabulary.  Reading to stories also creates the opportunity to narrate the story in the class. Teachers can also ask the students to write their own short stories which will again enhance the vocabulary and language expressions of the students. There is no better way of engaging the students than telling

 

A few websites for audio stories and novels:

http://english7levels.blogspot.in

http://esl-bits.net/ESL.English.Learning.Audiobooks

http://www.teachersfirst.com/spectopics/audiobookswithtext.cfm

http://www.openculture.com/freeaudiobooks

Stories for the beginners:

http://www.storyfun.com,

http://www.cambridgeenglish.org/learning-english,

http://www.really-learn-english.com/english-short-stories.html,

http://www.manythings.org/voa/stories,

 

Reference:

  1. Lewis Marilyn, ReindersHayo, ‘Using student centred methods with teacher centered students, Pippin publishing, Ontario, 2008.
  2. http://www.sdkrashen.com/content/articles/2015_reading_aloud_what_to_do
  3. http://hubpages.com/education
  4. http://momitforward.com/structured-vs-unstructured-learning-activities
  5. https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/teaching-teens/resources/activities
  6. http://www.gyanjosh.com
  7. http://www.ihbristol.com
  8. http://www.esolcourses.com
  9. http://www.fluentu.com/english
  10. http://film-english.com/blog