Due to the inevitable phenomenon of globalization, a lot of people around the world continuously improve their craft in different arenas. But before anything else, they must first know how to communicate with people in a language understood by the majority.
English as Second Language (ESL) studies became the hype for the past 20 years. This branch of learning was developed to aid transition due to globalization. Teaching English to non-native speakers of the language enables them to communicate for a variety of purposes: business, networking, inter-racial friendships, and studying abroad. In line with this ideology, this paper will discuss the issues surrounding ESL learning and teaching and how non-native speakers are best approached when it comes to teaching ESL. This paper will have a specific reference to the Chinese. Most of the Chinese people speak either Mandarin or Cantonese, but we will delimit this study to those who speak Mandarin. This is because of the differences in the language structure of these two languages and that Mandarin if China’s official language.
Significant Issues Regarding ESL Teaching
Obviously, there is a wide array of difficulties encountered by non native English learners. Among the most common difficulty is the difference between the phonemes and pronunciation of these two languages. Assimilating the language rules of a language being studies is especially hard to do if the sentence construction and word pronunciation are not similar. While this might be considered as a competency issue, culture also plays part in this particular issue. Without the culture reinforcing the value and predominance of your own language then it could have been easier for everyone to just learn another language.
Another thing that is worthy to be discussed in this paper is about the Language Acquisition Device (LAD) of second language learners. This is part of Noam Chomsky’s hypothesis that people, specifically children, have the innate ability to learn any language he or she chooses. However, there is an ongoing debate on whether or not LAD is only applicable to a specific age group.
And lastly, the third issue that will be discussed in this paper is about the method of teaching English to Mandarin speakers. The author of this paper will offer suggestions on what are more effective ways to make students learn the English language.
Let us divide this discussion into two separate categories: the spoken and the written language. Since most languages have unique rules on how to write and speak their language, this demarcation will help us discuss the differences in full detail.
On this first issue, there are differences between speaking Mandarin and speaking English. These two languages vary in: the way words are being stressed to emphasize a phoneme, intonation, noun patterns, and more (Tardif, Gelman, & Xu, 1990). Chinese people find it hard to formulate their own sentences because the sentence pattern is different. Therefore, the only way that we will be able to make these students learn the language is to point out the differences in the structure and other aspects of a language.
On the argument about the LAD, the society are inclined to believe that everyone has the capacity to learn a new language if he has the will to study it closely. In fact, we are not negating the existence of the LAD. But Noam Chomsky himself believes that LAD stops functioning at a certain age level. At what age level it is, we do not know. The thing that experts know for sure is that children learn language more easily than their adult counterparts.
Lastly, the third issue concerns the medium by which we send the message. The way we teach second language learners play a very important role in determining how much knowledge they are able to imbibe. Obviously, we cannot prescribe a one-fits-all solution for language teaching. What language instructors must do is to take a proactive stance in determining in which medium a particular student will learn most.
Stratified Teaching Strategy
For example, people who are visual learners are fully adept in absorbing lessons using lots of visual aids (Hamilton, 2000). They would like to be taught in way that they see what they are doing. Thus, for visual learners, language coaches must utilize workbooks, story boards, and material examples. Also, for visual learners, one-on-one tutorials are perfect. The language coach/teacher is in the best position to utilize visual elements. And these are not only limited to the materials for class discussion but also includes facial expression, gestures, proxemics, and more. And this will also be very encouraging to a visual learner because his visual faculty is fully utilized during these tutorial sessions.
For auditory learners, the keyword phrase is “learning through hearing.” These learners prefer that their teachers/tutors will speak more often than show something. They would also want to speak most of the time and are likely to refuse doing exercises on language manuals. Discussions are the best way to conduct a lesson with them. Encourage responses by building rapport. Make it to a point to praise them if they did something wrong. Telling them outright phrases such as “very good” or “that’s an excellent job on reading” will most likely appeal better to them than tokens of appreciation for a wonderful effort on doing something Oral feedback in their attempts at communicating is best appreciated rather than written feedback.
Another thing, for these types of learners, it is not necessary to be physically present. As long as the channel by which they communicate with each other (via phone or VOIP) is clear then there is nothing wrong with virtual presence teaching. When intercontinental English language teaching was introduced, the bulk of those who enrolled were auditory learners. Although there were visual and kinesthetic learners who also signed up for the program, they did not learn as much as those who were innately auditory learners.
In the issues that we have discussed for this paper, not one of them are based on the level of competency of a person. Neither the students’ IQ levels nor their background knowledge about the language were not taken into consideration in this paper. More important than competencies, the author believes that culture plays a primary role on teaching people a foreign language. While there are outliers who will eventually break this culture hypothesis, this is still applicable to a majority of people. Creating pedagogy for Mandarin-speaking TESOL students requires not only your basic understanding of their English speaking ability but also their learning styles, cultural background, and social upbringing. While this might seem secondary to the competence level of the students and to the proficiency of the teacher in coaching the students, these factors are in fact very influential. All of these and more factors contribute to successfully teaching English to non-native speakers.
Hamilton, K. (2000). Presenting to Different Types of Learners . Retrieved August 26, 2010, from http://webhome.idirect.com/~kehamilt/spklearn.html
Tardif, T., Gelman, S., & Xu, F. (1990). Putting the Noun Bias in Context: A Comparison of English and Mandarin. Child Development , 620-635.