Teach English in Chenqiao Zhen - Huai'an Shi

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Since the rise of globalization, most schools impose the acquisition of a second language on students in almost all parts of the world. The second language classes are often teacher driven, meaning that it is the teacher that selects the content and directs the classes, thus finding a one-size-fits-all learning method intended to drive most of the students to the acquisition of the language. However, not every learner integrates information the same way, as shown by the grade gap separating the strongest student and the weakest. In these situations, reading in a foreign language as a personal complement to learn the language more effectively can be regarded as a very effective method to better acquire comprehensive skills. This is due to the fact that this is an activity that is self driven, and the fact that the reading material will be authentic, as opposed to fabricated material for students that are learning. This method does however present a number of shortcomings such as the lack of speech practice and that it calls for actual student motivation. These shortcomings thus prevent reading from being a stand-alone foreign language learning method, and require other types of activities for the learning to be complete. Reading in addition to traditional language classes can be an excellent way to provide a better handle on the language. This is partly due to the fact that it is self driven, as this activity takes place in the learner’s own leisure time. Consequently, the reader is likely to choose a work that seems appealing to them, as opposed to reading a text the teacher chose that is less likely to interest them and involve them in the work. Indeed, enjoying the plot or the ideas in the literature they have chosen, the learner is more likely to feel eager to understand the text on a deeper level. The fact that reading is self-driven is also beneficial in the sense that the pace is set by the reader himself, and not the class or teacher. This freedom allows the reader to go back to a sentence or a paragraph he didn’t fully understand, consult a dictionary or take a break if needed, whereas in a class setting, some students are inevitably left behind, as the class is moving at too fast a pace for their rhythm, resulting in an overall loss of motivation from these students. Reading, by its autonomous nature, allows the learner to be fully invested into the work they are reading, and allows them to read more complex literature as their grasp of the language evolves. Reading is also beneficial to a learning regime in the sense that it provides the reader with authentic material, identical to what a native speaker would be reading. In this situation, the reader can observe the language and the words used in their context, learning the language in an immersive way. Even though the level might be a little above the reader’s capabilities, ‘throwing them into the deep end’ usually results in faster, more effective learning. The reader is supplied with a constant flow of new vocabulary words, grammar and structure that they will be able to use as a basis or an example for their own spoken work, resulting in a higher confidence during speech practice. Reading cannot however be considered a complete language acquisition method as it displays limitations, like for instance the lack of actual speech practice in the reading activity. Even though reading in a foreign language inevitably strengthens the learner’s comprehensive skills, whether it be reading or listening, and even the productive skill of writing (as reading is an effective way to learn accuracy) the issue of fluency isn’t tackled in this type of activity. Language fluency can only be achieved through verbal practice, which isn’t present in the passive activity of reading. Furthermore, the passiveness of this activity limits the amount and type of stimuli associated with the language for the reader. Activities such as interaction, production (whether written, spoken, drawn, etc) allow the integration of the language to be more complete. Another shortcoming can be pointed out in the fact that it very much depends on the reader’s motivation to learn the language. In class settings involving children and teenagers whose main goal might not be to learn another language, and are only in the class because of the school’s curriculum, actually motivating the student to read in a foreign language might present difficulties. The autonomous nature of reading, that can be very beneficial to a student with motivation to learn, can be detrimental to a student without motivation, as a student cannot be forced to read something they do not want to read. To conclude, reading in a foreign language can be an outstanding way to acquire new vocabulary and new examples for structuring sentences. It’s particularly effective because reading (given the reader chooses their own literature) is more personalized and more attractive. In this manner, the reader can chose to expand on vocabulary and topics that are interesting to them. The influence of reading on language acquisition is however limited, as it cannot include activities like speaking, that are essential to learning a language fluently and is dependent on the student’s level of motivation, that can sometimes be insufficient. As effective as reading can be in the acquisition of comprehensive skills, it can only serve as a complement to a course in order for the learning acquisition to be complete, with regard to fluency through speech practice. Although reading is a mostly student-driven activity, the teacher can play an important role by offering a curated selection of literature tailored to the students’ language level, age and interests. For this reason, an effective language teacher should always recommend reading as a supplement to class work, and offer themselves as a resource for literature choice.