Teach English in Sijia Zhen - Nantong Shi

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Learning a language outside its spoken environment often causes different problems to learners depending on where they live. Common problems that English learners face in Kazakhstan are the absence of a language environment and difficulty in gaining fluency. While this is considered typical learner problems in many parts of the world, students from Kazakhstan and former USSR countries have more struggles in maintaining language practice. As Kazakhstan is a bilingual country where people mainly speak Kazakh and Russian, it is almost impossible to practice English outside educational establishments. Consequently, total absence of language atmosphere also creates some obstacles to English teachers in developing students’ speech and helping students overcome communicative barrier. Usually, Kazakhstani people learn English either at language centers or educational institutions as part of their school curriculum. In recent years, demand for the English language has been very high and therefore today there are a significant number of private schools that offer a range of different English courses. People’s choices can vary from taking General English classes, attending speaking clubs to preparing for international exams like IELTS, TOEFL and studying Business English in the evening sessions. Courses differ in cost and duration, quality and intensity, there are always numerous options to choose from. Although school students have mandatory English lessons as part of their school curriculum and the same stands true for university students, adult learners are deprived of such amenities and need a longer time to break the communicative barrier and attain language fluency. This is why teaching speaking is one of the most challenging and time-consuming aspects of ELT for teachers in Kazakhstan. However, constant improvements made in the field of ELT give teachers a variety of ideas, techniques, and materials that can be successfully used in teaching speaking to both adult and young learners. Because speaking is mainly gained through the practice of new vocabulary and frequent classroom discussions, it is essential for a teacher to be selective when it comes to choosing speaking activities. They should be engaging, motivating, related to recently acquired vocabulary, grammar topics and appropriate to students’ level. Often teachers use fluency based activities such as class discussions to boost speaking in Pre-Intermediate groups and higher. Groups with lower levels are given accuracy based and yet productive tasks. Usually, they are asked to create short dialogues, do role-plays and answer general questions on the most common topics. Parallel to this, students are often required to do writing as part of their home task. Writing can be another effective way to keep students’ vocabulary and grammar active. That’s why students are given essay tasks in accordance with their interests based on their age and level. As a language teacher myself, I always make sure that my students practice the language of their interest in both spoken and written form and are capable of talking on general topics as daily activities, hobbies, family, friends, entertainment, etc. In addition to this, students are often advised to do more entertaining type of listening and reading at home when there is free time. In terms of listening, general recommendations are watching movies, TV series and interviews in English or listening to English songs, books, and podcasts. This helps learners both keep English vocabulary active and develop right and more natural pronunciation. Regarding reading advice, it is often recommended to read adapted books and different articles in the scope of learners’ interest, study or work. Even if doing the writing, listening and reading is not directly connected to teaching speaking, it still plays an essential role in keeping students’ knowledge used and practiced. Sometimes, this is the only way to help learners improve their English; gain confidence when using the language, overcome communicative barrier, and become fluent. Whereas the development of fluency in English and overcoming the language barrier are common problems for learners in Kazakhstan, it is still relevant in many other non-English speaking countries as well, and therefore should be tackled with appropriate approach and cooperation from both learners and teachers.