Kathrina Bautista, Online English teacher and Material Trainer at Acadsoc, Ltd.
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The main goal of Acadsoc, or actually the main goal for most online English courses is to help students with their spoken English. Not everyone can speak English fluently, even for Chinese students who have spent a long time and huge amount of money in English. Interestingly when I was in university, sometimes a classmate with a lower English level may perform better in oral English than those with higher English test scores.
Many Chinese students wrongfully understand the requirement of fluency when speaking English. Some of them may worry too much about their accent/tone while others may think really hard to find an uncommon word to express their ideas.
As I have mentioned to all the students attending my class and teachers attending my training, please do not use English in your daily life as you used it in a test, especially the English tests in China. Being practical means to let other English speakers (native/non-native) get what you mean in the quickest way and unlike written English, people usually don’t have that time and patience to carefully think about your sentence word for word. However, if your student is going to take a test (IELTS/TOEFL), you may refer to suggestions for IELTS preparation.
And here are several tips or suggestions I have for my students/trainees, you may share yours as well in the comment. I will be glad to see our teachers joining this discussion.
This suggestion sounds perfect but tricky for many students, as I observed. Some of them may have learned English for years and hit really good scores in English exams in School. However, with maybe a larger vocabulary base and more accurate grammar awareness than I have, they still speak English in a Chinese way. It largely depends on the characteristics, educational backgrounds and many other factors besides the current English level of the student. I remember I had a student who majored in coding and IT in university with a very poor English level at the beginning.
However, he learned to think in an English way, especially the way of critical thinking and reasoning really fast, thanks to his major and courses in the school. As we all know, all major coding systems are written and programming is in pure English, and it will not allow any mistakes in logic and reasoning to make your codes work as expected. Well, I still have to admit that he still had a hard time memorizing new vocabularies, grammar points, etc. But what makes me really surprised is the clear logic and reasoning structure shown in his sentences in the first few classes with very simple and common words and expressions.
Using the same example here, why coding and programming can help English learning? Obviously, you have to use English every day and fully understand the meaning of those English words in your codes.
Practice makes perfect, especially the real-world practices. In the past, it may be difficult for Chinese students to find a chance to use English frequently. However, nowadays, with the rapid development of internet and online education, it makes everything different.
I encouraged my students to visit foreign sites and forums to express their ideas in English, instead of learning English as a mission to accomplish for you. Famous Q&A forums and discussion websites such as Quora, TEDEd, and BigThink are the top 3 recommendation for my students.
When talking English face to face with a teacher, the student may feel shy. However, on the internet, no one will know and care who you are and where you are from. If you dare to make your voice in written in English, you are very close to bravely tell me your thoughts in speaking.
It sounds easy, right? But it may be a big challenge for many of my Chinese students. To watch a BBC/CNN video without English-Chinese subtitle and dictionary, to read an article in NY Times without any dictionary or translator in their computer…They may feel helpless and lost when doing so without any help.
Stepping out of your comfort zone is always the quickest way for you to learn something like swimming.
My student came to me, “Teacher, I can barely understand any word of the article/news report”, “I am dying without a dictionary”, “Can you tell me why I should insist doing that if I cannot understand anything?”.
Well, I have different answers for students with different English levels.
For Beginners: Can you tell me the most frequently used sentence structures/ words in this article and why? How many words can you understand in this article/news report? If you know some frequently used words in the article, can you make a guess/assumption on what topic this article/journal is for? Can you find any grammar point/ new vocabulary we just learned yesterday in your reading?…
For intermediate students: What is the tone of the article/ news report you have been through? Can you make a guess on the emotion that the author/reporter is trying to express? Negative? Positive? What has been put at the very first and last paragraph of the article and why they structured their report in this way?…
For advanced students: Can you tell me the keywords of paragraph 1, 2, 3, 4…? What is the reasoning structure/ two sides of views you can find in the article/report?…
In my opinion, the purpose of reading English articles is not to comprehend exactly what it means for every single word, but to start thinking and guessing as much as they can. Even the thinking is irrelevant to the topic, but it is always good to make yourself active and engaged in English.
If you have any other ideas or better tips, please feel free to leave a comment here! See you next time!