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Teach English in Huarong Zhen - Ezhou Shi
Living in China for some years now has left me disenchanted. I first thought I could just learn vocabularies, use them in daily live and progress from there. Unfortunately there weren’t as many conversation as needed to prove that idea right. Instead my listening skills slowly improved and I obtained a basic understanding of the language. To get really into it I’d have to join a club, meet more natives. Didn’t work out for me either. Additionally, what does it help to speak a little mandarin but not being able to read a menu or the schedule at a train station. Learning to read seems the only really long term solution. This is supported by Alan Maley* who says: “There is no way any learner will meet new language enough times to learn it in (...) class. The only reliable way (...) is through massive and repeated exposure to it in context: precisely what excessive reading provides.“ In my two years of teaching english to kinder-garden students in China I was therefore mainly focusing on reading and writing. There was no syllabus dictated by the principle so I was free to experiment. It became clear quickly that understanding the ABC and phonics were key milestones. While many grammar school students were still memorizing page after page of their school books, my oldest students, starting grammar school during their final year with me, just read the content. They even told their parents how easy english was at school. Simply by giving them the ability to read. Of course grammar schools do teach reading and writing, however very slowly and without intensiv drilling. Thus many kids do still have a huge deficit at the beginning of middle school. According to Maley* reading often isn‘t emphasized in schools due to “missing conformity to syllabi and textbooks“ and teachers not being trained in „how to let learning take place“. An ever increasing issue in times of the “‘non-reader’ internet culture”. Ultimately reading can be regarded the most effective skill to learn as it has a significant influence on the others. Maley* again says: “There is a spread of effect from reading (.) to other language skills - writing, speaking and control over syntax.“ A student reading loudly practices pronunciation and fluency. Giving kids confidents in answering verbal questions. Having two boys of two and five years of age who grow up trilingual (English, Chinese and German), the need for means to improve all the languages apart from listing to their parents and TV shows is becoming more apparent the older they get. Although there are benefits to watching children friendly shows at a young age, the obtainable input is rather restricted in comparison to books. What is even more limited is the interaction arising from listening to and watching a continuous story. While a book allows for breaks and Q&A, the TV won’t. Thus adding explanations and checking for understanding is pretty much zero. Aggravating is added as foreign language TV shows are hard to obtain, but books are widely available from online stores. A great disadvantage of TV and Apps is the quick addiction kids develop towards it. The gain in language acquisition from watching and listening is underwhelming compared to reading. What you don’t understand, you cannot look up if you don’t know how to write it. And who likes to stop a movie repeatedly to check a dictionary? The benefits of reading regard any age. Unfortunately the digital entertainment industry with its Apps and shows has taken over most of the information sourcing, taking away chunks of imagination. It’s up to us teachers to remember and emphasize the foundation of education: reading. So what’s the next book you have in mind? * http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/extensive-reading-why-it-good-our-students…-us