Nevertheless, the English language subject is not given much emphasis by most school students as it is not compulsory to pass the paper in major examinations.
To a large extent, emphasis is given to the reading and written form of the language because of the examination-oriented education system.
Thus, the spoken form gets neglected as the hours used to teach English language in primary and secondary schools are between 200 and 400 minutes per week.
To enhance the teaching and learning process, teachers should base their classroom practice on sound theories of language learning.
Students can learn through rote learning and meaningful learning.
The weak students may need to have lots of drills, repetitions and memorisation of the language structures while the average and above average students can resort to learning the same structures through meaningful context.
Students can also learn through discovery learning where the activities are more learner-centred with the teacher acting only as a facilitator.
Learning and teaching also takes place if the rapport between the teacher and students is good. The learning and teaching process occurs only if the learning environment is conducive, and the learners have a positive attitude towards learning.
Teachers should create a conducive, non-threatening atmosphere where students feel safe and comfortable so that they can freely use the language.
The size of the classroom has to be conducive so that more activity-based teaching could be carried out such as group work, language games and online activities.
For a language classroom, the number of students should not be too large so that the teacher can monitor the ability of individual students to a certain extent.
The interior setting of the classroom should have enough chairs and desks, fans, good ventilation and a comfortable atmosphere to promote learning.
When the physical condition of the classroom is not conducive, for example, when the weather is hot or the class is late in the afternoon, teachers can incorporate games to make the class more lively to avoid students from feeling sleepy.
It is good that students are not bound to the classroom environment only but learn language in a more interesting and exciting environment such as language laboratories, English resource rooms or in the open air, for example, under a tree, which I personally found very effective in my own teaching experience.
There are many other external factors affecting a student’s learning ability such as parents’ background, socio-economic status, location of school, peer group influence and a teachers’ role.
Students whose parents are non-English speakers are generally weak, this is because there is no input in English apart from the English classroom to practise the language.
Those from English speaking homes have a better command of the language compared to the other students.
In such a case, teachers will have to assimilate and adapt the materials for teaching according to the language ability of their students.
Peer group influence is another factor that affects their language learning ability.
When they meet their friends outside the classroom, they do not use English but Bahasa Melayu or their mother tongue which they are more comfortable with.
A teacher’s role affects a student’s language learning ability.
Students find English classes boring due to the approach used which is not humanistic enough.
These approaches frequently fail to treat students as individuals who possess different strengths and weaknesses in terms of studies and abilities.
The materials used are not “down-to-earth” in the sense that they are neither realistic nor authentic, and fail to relate to the students’ real life situations.
Language teachers are important agents in bringing about success in English learning. The personality, attitude and teaching style of a teacher can increase or decrease students interest in learning the language.
Teaching approaches and techniques should be more realistic, interesting and challenging enough for the students.
Similarly the materials used must be authentic and communicative as well.
The relevance of the materials and teaching activities will depend on the overall factors affecting a student’s learning ability.
Teachers cannot adopt only one method or approach in teaching the language.
They have to be eclectic when teaching language.
In some cases, teachers may have to use different materials and approaches to teach the same class full of students with mixed abilities, so as to cater for all levels of students.
In my 30 years of teaching, I found that these external factors, to a large extent, have affected the language learning process of my students.
The process of teaching and learning is constantly evolving, therefore, as teachers we need to be always prepared to adopt and adapt to the changes.
Academy of Language Studies
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