Teach English in Wang'aizhao Zhen - E'erduosi Shi — Ordos

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There is a very real problem with teaching English in South Africa – both to adults and to learners at school or when tutoring them to help with their school syllabus. The problem is an extremely a complex one and much research has been published on the subject. Hundreds of pages would be needed to explain the problem properly, so this essay will merely touch on some of the problems in a superficial manner. Two of the biggest problems were reported by Davids i.e.: . South Africa is a multi-lingual society with 11 official language (Davids, 2019). In this regard, it should be noted that first-language English is the home language of only 8.1% of people in South Africa (Head, 2019). . Limited exposure to correct first-language English (Davids, 2019). This leads to the adoption of variations of second-language English and third-language English that is heard on the streets, on the radio, at church, etc. There is also a serious problem with literacy, and we must remember that, initially, learners learn to read, but later they read to learn. So, if they cannot read, they cannot learn – whether they are trying to learn English or History or anything else. Farber (2017) reports that, in South Africa, “eight out of 10 Grade 4 pupils ‘still cannot read at an appropriate level’.” Furthermore, in a global study done on 320 000 children: South Africa placed last in the ranking of the 50 countries included in the study; South Africa “has shown no improvement in reading scores since 2011”. Davids (2019) provides additional support in this regard, stating that, in terms of the literacy problem, “78% of children in Grade 2 still can’t read for meaning.” One of the underlying problems is that the huge majority of learners in South Africa are not first-language English learners and, “Some of the major African languages have some literature – mainly folktales – but no huge amount of literature. In fact, teachers sometimes have to write their own passages for comprehension tests” (Bloch, 2013). This relates to the problem of sub-Saharan African languages being spoken languages, but not written languages, and to there being little to no history of writing in these languages - and therefore a dearth of reading material. This evidences as a deeply ingrained culture of not reading, which, in turn, leads to a problem of not being able to write (and not being able to read or learn). The problem is compounded by the “lack of access to reading material and the lack of textbooks” (Davids, 2019), which relates to the problem of funding education in South Africa and the widespread poverty in the country, with very few learners having access to reading material at home. There is also a serious problem i.t.o. teachers, as explained by the head of the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit, Dr Nick Taylor: “It is quite clear that most of our teachers can’t teach reading and pupils are not taught to read independently because most teachers do not know how to teach these skills” (Bloch, 2013). This could relate to the previous problem explained. Another problem in this regard is that South Africa has a severe shortage of teachers who are specifically trained to teach subjects such as English, Maths, Science and IT; therefore, teachers with other specialities (e.g. Religion, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Sotho, etc.) are required to teach English – regardless of their proficiency or ability and what their home language is. Bloch (2013) further quotes Dr Taylor as stating: “Many teachers don’t know how to teach English as a subject, nor can they speak well enough to be effective role models of the language”. So, the cycle of one problem affecting another problem or leading to another problem can be seen. The result is teaching defective English and variations of English, which is being perpetuated and re-taught to students, family members, friends and colleagues. An interesting study on the problem of teaching English in South Africa is the dissertation of Sarah Monyai, published in 2010. This should be obligatory reading for anyone studying the problem of teaching English in South Africa, as the study is thorough and provides many appropriate examples of the problems. In this essay, we will look at one of her many examples only. It involves “Grade 1 learners who were expected to write down words and simple sentences that the teacher dictated” (Monyai, 2010), i.e.: . lad, had, bad, mad, pad, dad, sad, is, the, this . The lad is bad. . Dad is sad.” This was the response of a Xhosa-speaking learner: “_; ant; pha; mph; _; pta; sh; nra; nea; nat; hat; idr, and _; --" (Monyai, 2010). Monyai (2010) commented as follows: “All were incorrect and it was clear that the learner was not able to recognize the dictated words. He wrote – mph instead of mad; and idr instead of this. His spelling skills were patently nonexistent and he could not recognize the initial sounds. For example, he wrote “– ant instead of had. His letter-formation skills further needs attention as he is not clear about the difference between, for example, n and h.” (Monyai, 2010) This example clearly supports the issue of poor literacy, explained by Davids (2019) and the problem of not being exposed to first-language English. In this regard, it should also be noted that the accent used by many of the second and third-language English speakers is very difficult to understand and the pronunciation may be far from standard English. This means that the learners are hearing words that do not sound like the English word, e.g. bad may be pronounced baaad or bat or bbet, and it is often difficult for a first-language English speaker who has lived in the country for fifty years to understand what is being said. It is also interesting to note the problems with written English seen in a Master’s degree thesis in South Africa, and please note the quotations are as per the published thesis and that the English errors were not created by the writer of this essay. (Word count: 1010) References: Bloch, C. 18 November 2013. “South Africa’s mother tongue education problem”. Brand South Africa. https://www.brandsouthafrica.com/governance/education/south-africa-s-mother-tongue-education-problem. Accessed 9 January 2020. Davids, N. 11 January 2019. “Solving SA’s literacy crisis”. University of Cape Town. Available online at https://www.news.uct.ac.za/article/-2019-01-11-solving-sas-literacy-crisis. Accessed 9 January 2020. Farber, T. 6 December 2017. “Read it and weep – SA kids struggle with literacy”. TimesLive. Available online at https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/south-africa/2017-12-06-read-it-and-weep-sa-kids-struggle-with-literacy/. Accessed 9 January 2020. Head, T. 28 May 2019. “Ranked: New data reveals the most popular South African languages. The South African. Available at https://www.thesouthafrican.com/lifestyle/most-popular-south-african-languages/. Accessed 9 January 2020. Monyai, S.C. November 2010. “Meeting the challenges of Black English second language South African learners in ex-Model C primary schools”. University of Pretoria. Available online at https://repository.up.ac.za/bitstream/handle/2263/24289/dissertation.pdf?sequence=1. Accessed 9 January 2020.