“Lion is grazing in the field.” Does the sentence seem strange? Does it look impossible? It is the actual challenge while teaching English. If the potential of human brain is to be compared then the best thing it can be compared with is the vast potential of a black hole. Such a powerful supercomputer, our brain, faces various challenges while learning a new language. Pedagogic methods, the traditional ideology and thinking within the box make it more challenging.
English, the language of technology, is also the language of business and being a link language it bridges nations and cultures around the world. English is fashion of the day in urban India and a matter of pride in rural India. The language has a well explained and intricate system of phonetics, its ignorance provides rustics a chance to entertain people ridiculing ch->chair ch->chemistry. If Indians are one of the best speakers of English, then there are also areas, where English is still considered a foreign language, as difficult as Mandarin. The learners get haunted by the subject. Teaching of the language at times proves to be very challenging, due to various factors.
The Placebo like Effect
As per Wikipedia, A placebo is a substance or treatment with no active therapeutic effect. A placebo may be given to a person in order to deceive the recipient into thinking that it is an active treatment. In drug testing and medical research, a placebo can be made to resemble an active medication or therapy so that it functions as a control; this is to prevent the recipient(s) and/or others from knowing (with their consent) whether a treatment is active or inactive, as expectations about efficacy can influence results. This psychological phenomenon, in which the recipient perceives an improvement in condition due to personal expectations, rather than the treatment itself, is known as the placebo effect or placebo response. Research about the effect is ongoing. This effect is quite similar to the hegemony of English, that make people think differently. In teaching of English various skills such as listening, reading, and writing are covered. An English Teacher tries to cover maximum. The teacher works on the reading, writing, speaking and listening skills. In addition to it, English teacher takes care of vocabulary, Grammar, word-meanings, Pronunciation, accent and most important the style as well because a certain style is expected from the students of an English medium school. If one uses English, it is good, in case one uses words which seems difficult to others, then the speaker gets established as a better speaker. People with American or British Accent get a unique place among their counterparts. Parents consider teaching of English limited to the teaching of few literature poems and chapters, but, the expectation is that their child will start speaking flawless English in a month. The linguistic environment of the family is not considered at all. Grammar proves to be a pain area. It is either too much emphasized or is completely ignored. It is also wrong to emphasis grammar too much. The technical aspect of the grammar deepens the fear towards the language. Traditionally all the English speaking courses start from the introduction of tenses. They do not emphasis the need of speaking. Students pay so much attention towards sciences and Mathematics, that the subject does not get its ample time. Over confident students think that there is nothing much to do in the subject. They do not practice any writing skills and prove to be average performers in exams. Lack of confidence makes learners get classified as false learners. False learners are the people who have the potential of using English flawlessly. They cannot use it with great agility, because they feel that they aren’t good at it and will stumble or will make grammatical mistakes. All this happens just because of lack of confidence. In case, such a false learner encounters a person using bombarding words, he gets demotivated and depressed. Any false learner just needs lots of practice. However the beauty of the language lies in its simplicity. Reading and writing are not emphasized much. The rural learners find it difficult due to overall linguistic environment prevailing around them. At times parents feel reading to be a waste of time. Writing skill is being overshadowed because of advent of technology. A news that is making waves now days ,says, ‘The UK’s prestigious Cambridge University is mulling scrapping an over 800-year-old practice of handwritten exams in favour of using laptops or iPads due to the deterioration in students’ handwriting. A growing reliance on laptops has led to students’ writing becoming increasingly illegible, academics said.’ Handwriting is also considered inseparable part of language teaching. However with the advent of handwriting as a science, the services of handwriting experts can be taken to improve the handwriting of the students. In the era of emblematic language where ‘you’ is represented as ‘U’, ‘tea’ is represented as‘t’, it is obvious for the students to face difficulties in writing skills. However better results can be achieved and overall expression of the students can be improved if innovative and passionate methods are adopted.
A Tug of War
A tug of war has always been there between academic and interactive aspects of the subject. Parental expectations at times are also unrealistic if a child can speak English they expect the child to score above 90% in academic part and vice versa if the child scores above 90% then they expect the child to be a flawless speaker. The concept of spellings, grammatical errors can be understood by the parents but ‘expression and fluency’ remains beyond their comprehension. The well conversant students feel that if they are well acquainted with the storyline of the chapter then they can answer any question. Moreover the long reading text or extended reading is not read at all. Credit goes to the state of the art publishers who have introduced the summary and easy notes of each chapter. The probable questions and the answers to each and every probable question are also printed. The students read such summaries only. No one bothers to dive into the unfathomable depth of the novel. Students do not get acquainted with the actual writing style of the author. It has to be made clear that the original writing provide glimpses of various dimensions of the language prevalent in other parts of the world in some particular period. Thus the whole purpose of introducing extended reading gets defeated. The analysis shows that there is a drastic difference between the English being taught in classrooms and the one being tested at different competitive levels. CAT, SAT, ACT and rest all the tests test the language but at a completely different level. Language teaching includes literature, vocabulary, GRAMMAR, reading skills, listening skills, speaking skills, accent and lot more.
Solution is the most interesting part of any problem. It is like the detective which unravels the whole mystery woven around. One such solution is mentioned ahead. All they have to do is that, they have to identify their ideal writer and then they have to start copying any part of his books regularly. The same exercise is to be done every day at the same time of the day for at least six months. After spending six months on one writer they can jump to the next writer and repeat the procedure. The process will lay foundation of various writing styles in child’s mind and will help him identify his own forte in different writing styles and genres.Creativity and imagination do not get their due space in modern classrooms.
Creativity needs to be fostered in the classrooms. It is not the four walls of the classrooms that needs renovation but the mind-set that needs overhauling. We need to convey the fact to the students that, they have to look at the problem from different angles. Students should always keep in mind that, ‘If there is a solution to the problem, why to worry and if there is no solution to the problem then why to worry.’ If students practise looking at any challenge from different angle, then their imagination will increase, expression will get better and thinking faculty shall get widened. All that a teacher is supposed to do is to instruct the students to guess what they see. For example: Draw the following figure on chalkboard and ask students to guess what is it. Tell them that Accuracy is not being tested here and there may be many correct answers to this questions.
The most probable answers are ‘Letter E’, ‘Number-2’, ‘Number-5’ ‘Buildings’, ‘Parking Lot’, ,Rope’, ‘Bricks’ Etc. When such habits are inculcated among students they feel free to think and express. They feel like flying in the immense sky.
At times teachers have their own notions as well. In a question of sentence construction if a student has to make a sentence using the word ‘graze’ ->in case the student writes – ‘lion is grazing in the field’ then, there is a group of teachers who would penalize the student for using the noun ‘lion’ in the sentence. The teacher expects the noun ‘cow’. The reason behind it is traditional and to the point teaching which forbids creativity and considers imagination and fantasy as taboo words. However, the student might have created a whole lot of utopian world before making this sentence. He might have thought of a world where, “Fish is flying, Bird is swimming and Lion is grazing.’