Focus on the Learner Essay
Focus on the Learner
The students attending the pre-intermediate course are mostly Czech nationals (except one Polish student) and are in their early thirties to sixties.
They all have a good level of motivation and their reasons for learning English include personal development, relocating to an English speaking country, obtaining a better job, travelling, teaching English at a higher level, and communicating with native speakers or family members living abroad.
Most of them have learnt the language at school and/or university for at least 4 years (often with long breaks) and were taught by teachers who used both Czech and English in the classroom. The lessons were teacher-centred and focused on grammar, dictation and homework, leaving few opportunities for speaking practice. One student has also been attending English course offered by her employer, and also learns English independently. Two of the students are multilingual (they speak either German or French).
A number of them have attended English lessons at Akcent IH in the past, which they enjoyed because they were exposed to various accents of native speakers. They prefer lessons where only English is spoken and are very receptive to CELTA teaching strategies. Students are happy to work in pairs or groups, though some would like to be corrected more often and feel they learn more when talking to the teacher.
They enjoy a mixture of speaking practice and grammar work, which most perceive as difficult, but easier than listening or speaking “because grammar can be learned”. They are all eager to communicate effectively with native English speakers, develop their listening skills (difficult because of accents/talking speeds) and speaking skills (fluency, improving their accents). The students also want to broaden their vocabulary and improve their writing skills.
All students are passionate about travelling, music, dancing and sports, and actively pursue these hobbies.
Description of error
Not using the correct proper noun when referring to a particular country It is the same in Britain or in French.
It is the same in Britain or in France.
Most likely a slip, though possibly student doesn’t know the right word for the country or hasn’t had enough practice using it. Omitting “-s” in the present simple 3rd person singular
She drink a lot of coffee.
She drinks a lot of coffee.
SS are aware of the rule but haven’t internalized it yet. Probably confusing for them because the verb form only changes in the 3rd person sg.
Using the wrong adjective (meaning)
L1 interference: hard and heavy are the same in Czech (tezky) Using wrong verb (collocation: you ride a bike, but drive a car) Do you know how to ride cars?
Do you know how to drive a car?
Drive in Czech (ridit) is similar to ride. Student learned the meanings of drive/ride in the past but mixes them up.
Student hasn’t had enough practice using the sound /w/, which does not exist in Czech, and uses the sound /v/ instead. Wrong sounds + incorrect word stress
L1 interference: in Czech, word stress is always on the first syllable. Student would also benefit from drilling pronunciation to correct the vowel sounds.
Skill 1: Listening
The students handle listening for gist and specific information well if the context is very clear from the start, tasks are graded to their level and the activity is engaging (as was the case when listening to a song). Essential vocabulary must be clarified before the listening task. Because they are not exposed to spoken English outside the classroom very much and have had little listening practice in their previous learning experience, they sometimes struggle with the different accents of English speakers (natives who speak quickly are particularly difficult to understand).
Skill 2: Speaking
Speaking tasks work well with the group, especially if the topic is something the students can relate to (like New Year’s traditions, or their hobbies: travelling and holidays were particularly stimulating themes) and have/are taught the necessary vocabulary. Free speaking tasks work best when preceded by guided practice. At times, the speaking tasks progress slowly and students are hesitant to talk. They often stop to think about the accuracy of what they are going to say and always benefit from discussing their ideas in pairs before engaging in the activity. This has to do with their previous English learning experiences, in which skills development was neglected – they were not encouraged to share their ideas or develop fluency.
Activity 1: /v/ vs. /w/
Aim: To clarify and practice the pronunciation of the sounds /v/ and /w/ in commonly encountered words.
Rationale: Students have trouble pronouncing the sound /w/. Often they say /vi:kend/ instead of /wi:kend/ or /ver/ instead of /w?r/. The sound /w/ does not exist in their native language, so they use the closest sound in Czech: /v/. I found that this error is widespread amongst the students. The activity I have chosen is suitable because, apart from drilling the pronunciation of /w/ and /v/, it encourages students to identify rules as to which of sound to use in which words. I’ve adapted the task to include some of the words they had trouble with in class.
Activity 2: Summer camp
Aim: To give students practice using the correct form of the present simple 3rd person singular in the context of organizing a summer camp. Rationale: Students are already familiar with the rule for forming the present tense for the 3rd person singular. However, especially during speaking tasks, they omit the “-s” at the end of the verb and use the bare infinitive form. The activity I have chosen is a speaking task, because I believe that students will benefit from practice to avoid making this kind of error in a productive task and it will encourage fluency.
Millin, S. (2011, June 18) – Pronunciation problems for Czech speakers of English Retrieved from http://sandymillin.wordpress.com/2011/06/18/pronunciation-problems-for-czech-speakers-of-english/