Friday, November 04, 2005

EFL - Anti-TOEIC rant / 反TOEIC

The TOEIC test...

Does it help learners gain confidence in using English?
Does it help them lower their anxiety and relax?
Does it motivate learners in a positive and constructive way?

Does it help them relate to the language, making the content of their learning relevent and interesting?
Does it cater to all learning styles and provide a good variety of input material?
Does it raise interest in the language, people, cultures, and in learning?

Does it improve cultural awareness or socio-pragmatic skills?
Does it help learners build an understanding of which words and phrases are appropiate in given contexts?
Does it enable learners to deduce the meaning of new words from a clear context?
Does it allow them to learn words related to their own needs and interests, so they can use it to communicate on these topics?
Does it give them practice of negotiating meaning, or of conversation strategies?

Does the over-enunciated speech (free from background noise) in the listening section help learners understand real, unscripted speech at a natural speed?
Does this emotionless speech improve their recognition of tone of voice and thereby the feelings of the speaker?
Does it help them understand and produce nuances of intonation?

Does it help learners express themselves in the language?

As far as I can tell, the TOEIC doesn't measure any of the above skills, thus there is logically no reason for teachers to cover them in a TOEIC class or for learners to try to learn them while studying for the test. However, these skills are ones the average Korean language learner is desperately missing - in my opinion, largely due to very limited knowledge of modern teaching methods and the persistance (and widespread misuse) of godawful tests such as the TOEIC.

I would suggest that for the vast majority of Koreans this test is simply a huge waste of time, money and effort, and any serious language learner would do well to avoid it like the proverbial plague.

The people I've met with the highest TOEIC scores almost invariably speak a stilted and completely unnatural variety of English which in real-life may be an obstacle to effective communication. They also tend to have either low self-confidence or an over-inflated sense of their English ability.

In the short-term, TOEIC might get you a job but, as bad language and learning habits from it become fossilised, it may damage your chances of aquiring a good level of natural and useable English.

My other article on the TOEIC is here.


AJ said...

I absolutely agree. Sheer madness.

EFL Geek said...

I concur except for the part about fossilization - I don't believe in it.

Adam said...

Geek: Think of it then as bad habits. Though not impossible, it can be hard to unlearn the learning style and strange vocabulary of the test when you've been using them for a while.