A new approach to English
When I arrived at class 8, the teacher was teaching the lesson "Present
Indefinite tense". She wrote the structure of the tense on the black board and
also wrote it in Urdu and explained the meaning. She then asked students to
write Urdu sentences and then translate them into English. One important feature
of the class was that the whole lecture was conducted in Urdu.
Mar, 2009: Eesar Khan writes on the need to change the way English is taught so
that when a child graduates from school, he/she can actually speak and
understand the language
Once I had to visit a secondary school in my
vicinity to observe a few English secondary level classes. It was a part of my
research work on the topic of teaching English grammar at the secondary level.
moved on to the class ten lecture where "Passive Voice" was being taught. The
teacher asked a student to give her a sentence to change into passive voice. The
student said "wo aam khati hay" (she eats a mango). The teacher repeated the
Urdu sentence twice and then wrote the same on the board saying "Yes and the
passive voice is mango is eaten by her, aam khaye jaatey hain ussay"!!! I don't
know how I managed to spend the remaining 30 minutes in that class. I was
stunned at that sentence…
This experience taught me that although English
is taught in secondary schools of as a subject from class one, when a student
graduates, he/she is still unable to speak and understand the English language.
There are a few schools where a primary class student is able to communicate
easily with anyone in English. But such elite schools are hardly affordable for
everyone, even not for the upper middle class.
Many weaknesses can be
attributed to this problem, including old syllabus, untrained faculty, lack of
environment, lack of practice, overcrowded classrooms, inappropriate strategy,
deficiency in motivation etc. But one weakness is the Grammar Translation Method
(GTM). In most of the schools across the country English is taught via GTM, of
which one glimpse has been aforementioned.
Grammar translation method is
considered the oldest method used for teaching any foreign language. The
emphasis is mainly given to the grammatical system and the reading and
translation of literary texts in the targeted language. However, the purpose of
learning a language is obviously to communicate in that language, for which one
has got to be good at listening and speaking skills.
However, GTM is
still being practiced in secondary schools in the country for the same purpose.
We are giving crutches in the hand of our young generation to walk by teaching
English language through GTM which can be used effectively at the early stages
of primary education but not beyond. For instance, in class two if a student
asks the meaning of mountain, instead of making an attempt to explain it in a
targeted language, one can easily save the time by translating it into mother
But teaching English at secondary level through GTM is damaging
the cognitive level of students, which will certainly be playing with his or her
career; both academic and professional.
Some school teachers have taken
the influence of Urdu language in English teaching onto a totally new paradigm.
They teach articles "An" by guiding students that the word offers the sound of
Urdu alphabet "ALIF" that is followed by the article "AN".
A teacher from
the same school of thought was also observed translating the Urdu expression,
"ham nay apnay aangan mein dou phool khilaye hain" into "we have blossomed two
flowers in our courtyard".
The better choice to teach English in schools
at secondary levels is not from "Forms"(grammar) to "Functions"(usages) but from
"The Forms" to "The Functions". This leads us to a more communicative and
purposeful method of language teaching as compare to GTM. It is followed in many
of language learning centers and well-established schools. An environment is
always a key factor in learning a language which is maintained only in language
learning canters and the standard schools.
To achieve high levels of
education in the long-term we need highly trained teachers, stimulus, purpose,
controllable strength of students in a classroom and above all the environment.
But in the short-term, we need to change our method of teaching English. By
doing so we will make students competent in English by the time they finish
school and they may not need to pay extra amount and time to learn the same
afterwards from different places. Primarily we will save them from that
embarrassment and regret that they usually come across in their daily academics
matter and in professional life. This can also help to reduce the social class
differences in education.
All in all, GTM can not help a learner of a
foreign language like English to communicate. Therefore it is suggested to avoid
teaching English at secondary school level and use a communicative approach so
that our students may also get competence over speaking and understanding
English to enlighten their future, not only in further studies but also in their
professional careers. Dawn
"It is true. We do not use GTM to teach our children it makes the child confused."
Name: Saira khan
City, Country: Karachi, Pakistan
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