Wednesday, May 18, 2005

EFL - Language Anxiety / 언어걱정

A lot of very motivated students here in Korea exhibit language anxiety. By that I mean many are nervous or hesitant about speaking in front of others. Others admit to simply lose all confidence when speaking in other languages. (In general they seem worried about speaking in 'ungrammatical' English. To what extent am I allowed to blame the TOEIC and the Korean education system?)

한국에 있는 동기가 주어진 많은 학생들은 언어걱정이 있는 것 같다. 즉, 많은 이들이 긴장되거나 남 앞에 말하기가 어려워하다. 다른 학생들은 외국어를 말할 땐 자심감이 없어 버린다.

According to many teachers here, students who are above average at other languages are generally ostracized. (An odd occurance in a society that holds education in such high regard.)

많은 교수는 평균 이상의 학생들이 왕따 받다. (교육을 정말 존경하는 이 사회엔 이 사실은 너무 이상하잖다.)

Options for overcoming it (at adult level): (성인 레벨에 가능한 해결)

Obviously, everyone knows an open and tolerant group environment (tolerant of other opinions and of mistakes) is the best possible classroom environment for encouranging language use. [열리고 포용력 있는 그룹]

Not correcting them individually. Instead noting down problem areas or things that could be more natually communicated in a different way, and going through them later in the lesson, so everyone can benefit. [개성적으로 잘못을 고치지 않기]

Making classes as fun/ enjoyable as possible. Let them talk about topics of interest/ relevence. Perhaps present them with a list of possible topics to discuss and let them (in groups, in pairs, as a class) chose. [재밌게 하기 / 재미있는 화제를 쓰기]

Also, the minimal grammar approach helps - focussing on communication (and giving more natural ways of saying what they want to say) and teaching "chunks" of language rather than formal and complicated grammar. (eg. Chunks for replying to 'Thank you.': You're welcome. It's my pleasure. Don't mention it. Any time. No problem. etc.) [최소량의 문법 쓰기 / 통신에 초점을 맞추기 / 언어 청크(덩어리?)를 가르치기]

It seems that a little coaxing helps - calling on them by name to give their opinion to show them their views will be listened to. This can help link the experience of having their say with positive emotions. Creating a 'positive feedback loop'. [달래어 말하게 하기]

Eliminate the fear of the unknown. Much of this fear of speaking may result from learners being unsure of how the group will react to them speaking, giving an unpopular opinion, whether or not they will be laughed at for making a mistake, etc. Give them a chance to try. A positive experience will encourage quiet learners to get involved. (Also, letting weaker learners know what will be discussed in up-coming lessons will give them longer to think about what they'd like to say.) [미지의 것의 공포를 없애기 / 다가오는 수업의 개관]

Play around with the group dynamics. (ie. Mix the groups around.) Sometimes pairing quieter students with quiet students, so they can support and help each other and experience communicating at 'their' level; sometimes pairing a confident student with a weak one, so the weaker student can learn and the confident student can play a supportive role. [그룹의 상호 작용을 바꾸기]

Some speak too fast or have awkward pronunciation. How about encouraging them to slow down, calm down, or simply lighten up? [학행들의 걱정을 가라앉히기]

With quiet classes, putting them in pairs and getting them to talk diagonally across another group introduces an amount of 'noise' (similar to most conversational situations outside the classroom) and so forces them to speak up. (For example, imagine four students, one at each corner of a square, top right talks with bottom left and top left with bottom right.) A slightly more drastic version of this is to get students (let's assume all student A's are working with B's) A to stand against one wall and students B to stand against the opposite wall and challenge them to have a conversation without moving away from the wall.

Encourage real listening (try the online radio sites on my homepage) - it's a good way to pick up new (and useful!) vocabulary. With practice, it will also get them used to listening to (unscripted) spoken English, more used to the rhythm and intonation of (unscripted) English. [현실 (즉석 대화의) 영어 듣길 고무하기]

Any other ideas? [다른 생각 날까?]


EFL Geek said...

This is a great post with good solid advice for the rookie teacher as well as the veteran.

gordsellar said...

I think there are some good bits of advice here.

I beg to differ on the high value of education here, however. I think there's a high value on demonstrating excellence on aptitude tests, or on any tests in general, because for a long time tests have been the primary form of orocuring gainful employment (a government position).

I do not believe that there's a correspondingly high value on an actual "education", which is neglected in favour of professional training or University Entrance Exam preparations.

While this is not only true in Korea—it's a growing trend worldwide—the kinds of inflexibilities that govern academic systems, a higher tolerance of academic corruption, and general apathy or resignation among most parents towards educational reforms suggest that education itself isn't valued so highly as people would like outsiders to think; or, rather, rather different things are construed as "education" than we might imagine with our long tradition of a "liberal education".

I hear a lot of people complain that the education is sorely in need of reforms. But I have yet to meet more than a couple of people actively working at bringing it about, and even those people are doing so in a very limited way. (Though of course it's a very complicated subject.)

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