Tutor profile: Sumitra C.
Subject: English as a Second Language
What are the challenges ESL learners face while communicating in the English language?
Students encounter various difficulties in terms of conversation skill or showing their proficiency in using the English language to speak at length. In my opinion, a sense of reluctance accompanied with fear is the main cause that hinders ESL learners from attaining fluency and coherence while communicating in English. They are often found to repeat phrases while searching for words which reflects insufficient knowledge and lack of awareness to make use of synonyms. Many learners have a tendency to compose simple sentences and hardly they tend to use idioms, collocations, connectors and conversation fillers which results in communicating with long pauses. In terms of lexical sophistication and diversity, ESL learners are often distinguished from responses with low quality of vocabulary. Learners generally fail to understand when , why and in what ways they should produce the language.as they tend to translate from their mother tongue. Grammatical accuracy is considered to be essential for the language to become automatic. Students mostly struggle in using the correct tense form while framing complex sentences. Moreover, there may also be incorrect use of verb forms ,subject verb agreement prepositions and also in construction of passive voice sentences. While pronunciation is an integrated part of second/foreign language learning, non native speakers of English, generally have a sharp influence of their mother tongue in articulating English words with little or no attention paid to to sound pattern, stress, rhythm and intonation system of the English language.
Why English is a strange language?
Linguist researchers have probed into several theories on the world’s weirdest languages and English is one of them. The main reason is that English has 1,100 different ways to spell its 44 phonemes, with a record of the largest number of words than any other language. From its bizarre spelling rules, confusing grammatical structures, to its unpredictable pronunciation of words, English has confused learners to a considerable extent. There are thousands of words that spell different with different grammatical form but sound similar (practice, practise). Again words contain letters that are not at all pronounced (pneumonia, knife, campaign ) while in other cases words do not follow rules and must be memorized separately (necessary, coffee, eerie). The obscure grammar rules can sometimes be seriously perplexing. The use of pronouns like “ Me and I”. For example: Me and Ruchi dined in a restaurant would be grammatically incorrect and rather stand as Ruchi and I dined in a restaurant. Adding to the list are the vague plurals (deer, sheep, bison), insertion and omission of prepositions, (“My teacher entered the class” not “My teacher entered to the class”) and (“ I reached the top of the hill” not “ I reached to the top of the hill ) and the painstaking uses of apostrophes on words ending in S (Texas’ weather, for goodness’ sake). Moreover, adjectives in English absolutely have to follow this order: opinion, size, age, shape, colour, origin, material purpose. English is a stress timed language with the sentence pattern goes as Sub+ verb + object, in sharp contrast to world’s other major languages (South Asian languages, French, Italian, Spanish, Chinese ) which are syllable timed Yet, English uses different word order in framing questions. In English, the words are stressed at regular intervals with shortened unstressed syllables to fit the rhythm. Therefore, it becomes relatively difficult for non native speakers of English to pronounce words with the correct stress, contractions and elision of letters in connected speech as almost every word is stressed in syllable timed languages. However, with proper guidance and variation in activities, learners can recognize , practice and make use of these features of the English language.
How to encourage learners to communicate effectively in English?
Motivation is probably the best suited answer in order to encourage learners to speak in English. Today the learning of English is the difference between success and failure. Everybody wants to be successful and motivation, whether intrinsic or extrinsic, plays a vital role in achieving success in life. It is on part of the teacher to engage students in conversation, with special attention to hesitant speakers. The students’ talking time must be maintained in every class irrespective of the skills. Another measure is reinforcing active listening skill which includes listening to well spoken verses, listening repeatedly and listening for improvement. It is also important to incorporate pair work and group work activities to allow learners to brainstorm their ideas and opinion through critical thinking and reasoning. Teaching collocations, conversation fillers and cognates can equally boost up learners’ confidence to speak at length. Finally, every speaking activity like debate, group discussion, suggestive conversation or interview questionnaire sessions should be followed up by feedback and error correction.
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