Speaking English – the greatest challenge

Speak English

The greatest challenge for most English Second Language learners is that they can’t communicate in English normally. Most English learners can read and write English fairly well. But when it comes to talking in English they struggle.

Most non-native English learners get stuck in the middle of sentences. They struggle to pronounce certain sounds and understand idioms and slang used by native English speakers.

Talking in English can’t be mastered through grammar lessons! What amount of time have you spent in past English classes learning advanced grammar? Subject/verb understandings, Prepositions, Irregular verbs, Singular plural things and so on and so forth. What amount of grammar rules do you recollect now? Probably not a lot? Remembering grammar rules is an inefficient method for mastering speaking in English.

However, still most English schools focus on grammar as a key learning method as opposed to concentrating on communicating in English consistently in class.

The best way to learn and master talking in English is by continuously practicing English speaking. Extensive conversational practice is the best way to learn natural English.

Our tried and tested solutions:

1. Focus is on communication not correctness. As a rule of thumb teachers insist on students communicating in English during the lessons. Students are assured that grammatical errors are a minor concern in our daily interactions. What matters is if classmates understand them and they can respond accordingly. Remediation is done at an appropriate time.

2. Providing stimulus for speech through presentations. Students participate in the choice and research of speaking topics they are familiar or comfortable with then present them to the class. In lower levels pictures and video clips can be used to invite students to make comments on what they see.

3. Frequent use of instructional resources and media. Listening cds and videos are constantly used to acquaint students with English usage in context.

4. The sense of having a reason to speak is what makes language real. Students are given a platform to learn sentences they can use for a purpose. Real situations like ‘Checking in at the Airport’ or ‘Ordering a meal in a restaurant’ are created and practised in and out of the classroom.

5. Translations are avoided as much as possible. Teacher student interaction is encouraged to be done in English to improve communicative skills and to aid students to understand and think in English.

6. Small group or pair work activities are part and parcel of daily lessons. This allows for maximum interaction under minimum pressure. Shy students are able to communicate more freely in small groups or pairs where they receive sympathy from classmates. These groups are rotated to minimise over dependence on particular students and to encourage team work.

Good luck to our students and all English language learners!
Peter Hungwe
Senior Lecturer

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