Written by Lyre Y.Yan
From Foreign Language College, Guangxi University
English is the widest language in the world. To deal with the political issue and do business in the world, we have to learn English. But, are non-English-oriented speaker; it is hard for us to handle English as well as native speakers. “How to learn English well?” is a considered question. This research focus on four aspects: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Through some facts, we find out that we should foster our English interests, then improve the four aspects and combine them tightly, through that way; we can make our English perfect.
The Importance of English
As we know, English is an international language, and it could be used all over the world. However, Spanish is the language that most people speak in the world, but why English can be used in any country, any city, or even any town? Let’s take a look at a few countries that use English as a second language, for instance, Malaysia and Japan. All students in these countries have to take English classes, just like they have to learn Mandarin, Malaysian and Japanese. This shows how much their education stresses the importance of the English language. In fact, most other countries in the world have the same point of view. This is also the reason why English is useful tool for traveling. Last year I went to Japan, and since I don't speak Japanese, I had to communicate with the native people in English. From the above instance we know, English is very important when you're in another country, and don't know how to speak their native language. (Zhu Ni, 2008)
The Way to Learn English
Albert Einstein once said: “interest is the best teacher.” Interest can give you motivation, it plays an important role in your study, and it makes your work more efficiently.
The differential success of second/foreign language learners suggests a need to examine in detail what strategies successful language learners employ. An indication is given of what these strategies might consist of and a list of several widely recognized good learner strategies is given. In addition to the need for research of this topic, it is suggested that teachers can already begin to help their less successful students improve their performance by paying more attention to learner strategies already seen as productive. (Joan Rubin, 1975)
There are 4 key skills when you learn a language: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. (English Club)But, the question is how to learn English efficiently? What is the best method to learn English?
Traditionally, primacy has been given to written English over its spoken forms in educational contexts. This bias may stem from a focus on learning grammar, since grammar only explains how to write correctly (Malmberg 1993:164). Learners of English sometimes notice that they speak more correctly than native speakers do, since they have learnt to use complete sentences instead of authentic spoken English. A native language that is spoken is often fragmented, yet perfectly intelligible to its speakers. However, over the last thirty years, the way of learning spoken English has started to evolve into a more authentic way (Malmberg 1993:166-7).The emphasis has shifted into a more communicative teaching of foreign languages (Stoltz 2005:193). Today, it is important that communication help people participate in the social world around them. It is also central to learn how to develop the established contact with another speaker. One significant factor is the listener’s willingness to understand the information that is being exchanged. Here, both word choice and body language are vital for the communication (Savignon 1997:10), something that is important for the teacher to have in mind. Most pupils are interested in learning to speak a foreign language, since they understand the importance of being able to communicate with people from other countries, for example, when travelling or in their future professions (Ur 1991: 120). This skill has become increasingly important in today’s globalised society, where English as a lingua franca plays a key role (Crystal: 2003).
In order to investigate spoken English in the classroom and attitudes towards the same, three types of data were collected. To examine pupils’ attitudes a questionnaire was designed and distributed, and to investigate the actual speaking situation in the classroom, lessons were filmed. Furthermore, the English teacher of the two classes was interviewed in order to get her views on spoken English in the classroom.
Source from: Lovisa Skold, Spoken English in the EFL classroom A study of Swedish pupils’ attitudes towards spoken English.2008
Listening comprehension is one of the most difficult tasks of language learners. According to Conaway’s (1982) findings, poor listening skills were a main factor in college failure than the other factors, such as poor reading skills or low academic aptitude. Oxford (1993) also claimed that listening is the most fundamental skill to develop the other three (speaking, reading, and writing) skills. Listening is really important in English, especially when we take the CET4/6 or TEM4 tests. It is a big part of the exams. (Qiu Bie, 1995)
We could design and develop a set of practicable listening teaching strategies based on accredited learning theories and previous research studies on ESL listening to address these problems. (Ying Li & Hongxin Yang, 2006)
l Interview with a former trainee
Leon has been studying in Concordia University for one year. He recollected that when he first entered university, he could only understand about 40% of the lecture content. Now his listening comprehension has been improved to 70%. He revealed that the major obstacles to his academic listening comprehension were vocabulary, background knowledge and the speaker’s accent. When asked about whether his situation was typical of Chinese students there, he nodded agreement and responded that excluding those having had their high school education in North America, first year and second year Chinese students generally have difficulties in lecture comprehension.
l Interview with a listening teacher
Paul is an English listening teacher who has been teaching in CE for two years. Like the administer, he also attributed Chinese students’ poor listening skills to their reading and writing oriented English learning experience back in China.
While talking about the listening activities he organized in class, he emphasized practices that help establish connections between sounds and meaning. He tried to implement such strategies both with vocabulary teaching and listening practice. One of the effective ways of enhancing associations between sounds and meaning, he pointed out, was repeating after the speaker. Another strategy he employed as a compliment to repetition is summarizing; that is, representing the ideas using students’ own words after listening to a passage. Besides, practicing pronunciation and finding keywords are also important.
In recent years, research on the reading strategies of first and second language readers has become quite sophisticated thanks to the work of a number of researchers (e.g., Block, 1986, 1992; Carrell,1984; Ericsson & Simon, 1993; Garner, 1987; Kletzien, 1991; Olshavsky, 1976 - 1977; Pressley & Afflerbach, 1995) who have found that the strategies which readers use when they interact with printed information play an important role in reading comprehension in both first and second language reading. These researchers and practitioners have concluded that successful readers are strategic readers and that non-successful readers often seem to be unaware of how and when to best use strategies when they read. There is also some consensus among the above researchers that different text types require different strategies and that efficient reading strategies are not acquired simply by reading, but that they should be learned through direct, formal instruction. (Xiwu Feng, 1998)
ELT in the university is to further cultivate students’ ability in listening, speaking, reading, writing as well as translation, so that they could effectively perform communication in English. Among the five, reading is now giving his chair to speaking: the circle is giving more and more emphasis on the capability of face-to-face communication. More than that, reading is seldom cared by students except for the sake of intensive reading class and reading comprehension in CET. (Wang Lixin, Wang Yang & Yang Muyun) yes, students should pay more attention to listening.
English texts include every type of writing, all kinds of subjects, such as politics, economy, history, religion, customs, social sciences and the arts, which are different from Chinese ones and tend to form a block in the student’s understanding of the texts. So cultural explanations wherever are necessary will help students understand the target culture, master the language and arouse their interest of English study.
Awareness of the above-mentioned Chinese-English differences in writing style can help students improve their writing skills as well as their reading skills. In this way, students can write an English article of both linguistic and social appropriateness. (WANG Jian-kun, 2007)
Writing ability should foster when we are children because it is much easier to master a language. However, does training in 'formal grammar' improve a child's ability to write? At one time it was taken for granted that the answer was yes, so children were taught grammatical analysis as part of the effort to improve their writing. However when educational researchers sought evidence for the expected effects, the results were negative; for example, one of the classic experiments concluded: "It seems safe to infer that the study of English grammar had a negligible or even harmful effect upon the correctness of children's writing in the early part of the five secondary schools." (Harris 1962) A number of studies in the 60s and 70s have since been accepted as 'classic' support for the view that grammar teaching does nothing for children's writing. By the late 60s the dominant view in both the UK and the USA, and possibly throughout the English-speaking world, was that "most children cannot learn grammar and ... even to those who can it is of little value." (Thompson 1969) No doubt this view fitted the spirit of the times both in English teaching (where grammar was seen as a shackle on children's imagination) and in linguistics (where Chomsky was arguing that grammatical competence develops 'naturally'0 according to an innate programmer, so teaching is simply irrelevant). (Richard Hudson, 2001)
Writing is very important for us, especially for university students. As we know, graduate essays are a vital part before you graduate from campus. So, it is very important to know how to improve our writing skill. So does English.
Academic Writing for Graduate Students is targeted at students whose first language is not English, and who need to write academic papers of various kinds in English as part of their post-graduate studies. In this, it is evidently directed first and foremost towards students such as those whom Swales and Feak themselves teach at the University of Michigan, but is also useful to those of us working on English-medium or bilingual postgraduate programs in the European context. (John Swales and Christine Feak, 2004)
Through comparing with the four fundamental elements of English learning, we can see that each of the fact has its special advantage to improve our English level. But, if we isolate them and just use one of them, then the effect will not reach the perfect expection. The best way to improve our English is to combine the four things, and make good use of their each unique method to improve all aspects of our English.