Most recently a ninth-grader at Godeok Middle School in Seoul wrote about the near impossible state of affairs concerning English language education in Korea. Her concern was that the present "Korean-style English education focused much more on grammar and reading instead of listening and speaking." In clear truth there is an imbalance in teaching the major systems of English in most classrooms today. Listening and speaking are decisive overriding factors for communication and have a higher and more useful value than reading and writing in the general public sphere. Should one wish to be an editor, writer, reporter, or English Education major, then grammar and reading has importance and usefulness.

I remember well those childhood days of how I learned to speak English. That would be the same way you learned your native tongue in the phasic period prior to beginning schooldays. Once arriving in first grade you already understood and spoke Korean quite well. Listening comprehension feeds the speaking skills and that reservoir in turn feeds the reading and writing skills. Thus, listening and speaking are of the first order and all other efforts derive from them.

In the beginning, we learned from mother and father, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors and other relatives. All were teachers that engineered our competence and forwarded us to primary school. At home, children's books and stories having natural and simple everyday conversations were read to us. There were children's songs and games and cartoons as well.

In my case (English is my native language) stories like "Cinderella," "Little Red Riding Hood," "The Ugly Duckling," "The Three Little Pigs," and the usual children's books were tools and methods for me to gain initial English-speaking ability going beyond baby-first-words of mimic/imitation and echoic practices. The grammar of it all was spot-on and acquired naturally and secondarily with ease. Now, I use the aforementioned ordinary speech read-it-again Scholastic booklet titles in my ESL (English as a Second Language) classes with translation. The students enjoy them very much. The repeat lines and repeat words are the keys to effective retention from short-term memory to long-term memory.

English or any second language acquisition is a gradual learning process in the classroom as well as outside the classroom. One excellent strategy for speaking proficiency is open conversations and practices. One very longtime South Korean resident, Gunther Breaux, has hit the nail on the head when it comes to speaking English. Please google ConversationBasedLearning.com; you will be impressed forcibly through unexpectedness. He also has a YouTube presence. Gunther’s strategic method improves the extramural tests of TOEIC, TOEFL, and IELTS scores by 20%.

The primary goal of learning any language is speaking. If you fixate on grammar, you will miss out on timely staying power of speaking the target language. If you read back-and-forth prose dialogues you will gain correct grammar without the comprehensive and nuanced grammarian rules. I always tell my students: ‘What you hear and what you read affects what you think. What you think, you can speak. What you speak, you can write.’

The author (wrjones@vsu.edu) published the novella “Beyond Harvard” and teaches English as a second language.

QOSHE - Engage in conversation - William R. Jones
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Engage in conversation

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13.05.2024

Most recently a ninth-grader at Godeok Middle School in Seoul wrote about the near impossible state of affairs concerning English language education in Korea. Her concern was that the present "Korean-style English education focused much more on grammar and reading instead of listening and speaking." In clear truth there is an imbalance in teaching the major systems of English in most classrooms today. Listening and speaking are decisive overriding factors for communication and have a higher and more useful value than reading and writing in the general public sphere. Should one wish to be an editor, writer, reporter, or English Education major, then grammar and reading has importance and usefulness.

I remember well those childhood days of how I learned to speak English. That would be the same way you learned your native tongue in........

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