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Focus on the Learner Essay

Task a: Learner’s Background

For the purpose of this assignment I chose Feruza, an Eritrean high school graduate. She was born and raised in Eritrea and came to live in Jeddah only five years ago. She studied English in an elementary school in Eritrea and continued studying it in an Eritrean International High School. She is not happy at all with what she has learnt during those years. She explained that during her elementary school years her teachers heavily focused on writing while neglecting speaking. When she continued her learning process here in Jeddah, her high school teachers focused only on speaking but not at the level she was expecting. After completing high school her learning was interrupted and there was little or no opportunity to read or speak in English. Currently, she is attending an intermediate level English course which allows her to connect with other learners of the English language. Feruza says that learning English is her number one priority in life.

Because, as she says: “English is an international language. If you speak English well you don’t want to learn other languages…”. She has also indicated that she needs to learn English in order to gain employment. One of her dreams is to study abroad, but her financial situation is preventing her from doing so. As she says: “Saudi universities and colleges are free only for Saudis and for others very expensive”. Feruza’s desire to learn English is fueled by outside factors such as the wish to live and study abroad. According to Jeremy Harmer (Harmer 2001:51) extrinsic motivation is “caused by any number of outside factors, for example, the need to pass an exam, the hope of financial reward, or the possibility of future travel.” Feruza believes that without a sound knowledge of English her desires have little or no chance of materializing.

As a learner, Feruza is a shy and quiet girl. During class she never engages in any discussion and refuses to answer questions even when asked to do so. When provided with an opportunity to speak with me in private and answer some questions, she asked if she could answer them in the written form. The reason for such behaviour could be attributed to her educational experience in her home country where, according to Feruza, her teachers explained everything in their native language. Therefore she was not presented with an opportunity to express herself in English and this could have greatly contributed to her lack of confidence when it comes to speaking. If one examines Gardner’s seven intelligences in a class program Feruza’s learning style would make her an Interpersonal Learner who likes to “work alone and pursue her own interests…(and is good at)understanding self, focusing inward on feeling/dreams following instincts, pursuing interests/goals, being original….(learns best by) working alone, individualized projects, self-paced instructions, having own space…”

Task b: Identifying errors

Writing: Capitalization

In her writing Feruza has made many capitalization and punctuation errors. She makes most of her capitalization errors by beginning a sentence with a lower case letter. She also fails to use capital letters with proper nouns. This problem is probably there due to the writing system in Arabic language, where there are no uppercase and lowercase letters. Here is just a small sample of a problem in using capital letters: “And I wish to live in Europe Country specially sweden or london”. To solve the problem of proper capitalization she would have to learn the rules. In addition, she should devote more time to reading. Reading newspaper articles and circling or underlining the capital letters is also something that would benefit her greatly. I will provide the rules of capitalization and an activity at the end of this assignment.

The rules of capitalization would be a great help to her along with the activity I have designed which will allow her, as a visual learner, to see the concepts in action and to figure them out on her own. The first activity I provided for her is a list of sentences where no capitalization was used. She would need to write the sentences using proper capitalization rules that I also provided for her. When she finishes the activity she can compare it to the answer key (also provided) and see if her answers were correct. By approaching this problem in such a fashion she will hopefully be able to see the difference and understand the rules of capitalization.

Tenses: Meaning

Aside from writing, Feruza’s is struggling with the correct verb form usage. When referring to events in her writing that occurred in the past she only uses the simple past tense and oftentimes she even uses the Present Simple Tense when referring to a completed action in the past:

“she get merried before I come to Jeddah one year ago.” Feruza uses the right verbs but uses the wrong form of the verbs, as in the example provided above. Here is one more example: “I finish my high school last year……”

Although she had a chance of getting familiar with the timeline during the course at the British Council, I would suggest that she gets reacquainted with it, so she can better understand the different tenses and when to use them. That is the easiest way for her to get over this obstacle. I will provide a timeline showing and explaining the basic tenses that she is most likely to use in her everyday life. Also, I will provide a set of activities for different forms of the verbs for her to practice. I will put the time expressions in bold in these activities so she can remind herself which time expressions are common with which tenses.


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